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Coral Coronation Cup- Romford 575m- £5,000

CHAMPION trainer Mark Wallis made the perfect start to 2019 with a Coral Coronation Cup heat treble at Romford on Friday.

Wins for Garryglass Champ (35.58sec -15), Oaks finalist Chubbys Caviar (35.40sec -15) and Saleen Ash (35.64sec -15) gave Wallis an early grip on the first major competition of the year and a strong hand in Friday’s semi-finals.

However, it was Patrick Janssens’ Barricane Carina (35.26sec -15) who set the standard on the night with the fastest time over the 575m trip, while Derek Knight’s defending champ Shotgun Bullet (35.75sec -15) also started his campaign in the best possible style.

Clash (35.40sec -15) was the other heat winner on the night as last year’s Champion Stakes runner-up over C&D struck for June Harvey, but it was the Imperial Kennels boss who left the Essex venue with the biggest smile.

“It was a great night, especially with four winners on the night from eight runners in all,” he said. “We had the three heat winners, but getting all five of our runners through is satisfying, although the competition looks top class and will take some winning.

“We were thinking about retiring Garryglass Champ, but the old boy is so well we put it on hold - and he looked like a pup the way he smashed out the boxes and wasn’t going to get caught once he led.

“I made Chubbys Caviar my bitch to follow in 2019 when guesting on RPGTV on Tuesday and she didn’t disappoint, holding off the classy Desperado Dan to win her heat and, in a hot heat five, we had our fingers crossed for two of our big guns.

“Thankfully, Brigadier Bullet and Saleen Ash both qualified and, more than that, we won the heat. Saleen Ash stayed on really well to win the heat and looks to be coming back to some of his best form - and does run Romford particularly well.

“Our other winner on the night was over 400m with Running Senor, so overall it’s been nice to prove those who think our kennel might not be the force it was wrong. There’s a long way to go, but I hear people saying we’ll struggle to finish top six this year.

“Yes we’re certainly lacking in potential open-race stars in some departments, but we are still strong in the stayers division and need to do well in the first two big competitions of the year - the Coronation Cup and Golden Jacket - or we could be in trouble.

“We’ll need to find some quality standard-type dogs to have a chance of retaining our Trainer of the Year crown, but talk of our possible demise only spurs us on! As ever, of course, it’s down to our staff and loyal team of owners.

“I have tremendous loyalty from many of our owners like the Bruiser Boyz and Mike Davis which I’m enormously grateful for and have a team of staff at Imperial Kennels that I wouldn’t swap for anything. The backing of my family is also so important.

“It’s a tough game, but we’re going to enjoy everything about it this year. I don’t plan to put too much pressure on myself, but with the fabulous news of a £100,000 package from RPGTV for the major open-race competitions and also Kevin Boothby’s enthusiasm to stage as much top-class racing at Henlow as possible, it’s my job to make our kennel competitive! I love it and can’t wait for next Friday!”

Mark Arkell, overseeing his first Coral Coronation Cup as Romford racing manager, said: “It was a good start to the competition with the races running to form. Most of the fancied greyhounds went through to make some interesting semi-finals.

“Special mention should go to last year’s winner Shotgun Bullet who won the final heat of the night as he looks to defend his title.”

Friday’s Coral Coronation Cup semis:-

First semi: 1 Swithins Bird, 2 Pink Osteria, 3 Clash (m), 4 Chubbys Caviar (m), 5 Shrewd Honcho (w), 6 Maysthistlecrack (w).

Second semi: 1 Desperado Dan, 2 Headford Johnny (m), 3 Headford Maurice (m), 4 Emers Mist, 5 Barricane Carina (w), 6 Saleen Ash (w).

Third semi: 1 Romeo Mandate, 2 Garyglass Champ (m), 3 Antigua Flash (m), 4 Shotgun Bullet (m), 5 Itsur Mate (w), 6 Brigadier Bullet (w).