Cearnsport Springbok 2021 – Central Park 480mH – £5,000
DROOPYS REX completed the set of major jumps triumphs for trainer David Mullins when landing the Cearnsport 2021 Springbok at Central Park on Sunday.
Having won the Grand National with Pottos Storm in 1999 – a famous dead-heat with his mum Linda’s Hello Buttons at Wimbledon in 1999 – and the Champion Hurdle with Stradeen Ouzo in 2006, victory in the novice hurdlers’ championship at Central Park filled a void.
One of two Mullins-trained finalists, it was Droopys Rex’s kennelmate Woodcocks Aero who trapped in front before the early pace of Four Fifty Max saw Jim Reynolds’ runner soon in front and ready to stretch his rivals out, with all bar Droopys Rex involved in first-bend bumping and crowding.
These included hot favourite Meenagh Maverick but he regained his momentum and began to reduce the deficit. However, by this stage, Droopys Rex was in full flight himself and leading the chase behind Four Fifty Max. He hit the front at the third bend and looked set for a comfortable victory.
However, Meenagh Maverick was now making huge ground in behind but bumped with Four Fifty Max at the fourth bend as he looked to go past the Crayford dog. Straightening up, he ran on strongly up the home straight but the advantage was with Droopys Rex who secured the title by a head from Meenagh Maverick in 29.94sec.
So victory in the £5,000 decider went to the June 2017 son of Duke Special and Droopys Start who was landing a sixth straight success over hurdles at Central Park with three trial stakes wins followed by an unbeaten run through the Springbok – with his jumping throughout delighting his trainer, given the Mullins team schooled him themselves.
Julie Mullins, wife of the winning trainer, said: “It wasn’t straightforward at the start, he took a couple of jumps to get it right – he fell a couple of times – but that seemed to sort him out. He just improved each and every time and David said before the event he might not be the fastest in the field but he was probably the best jumper.”
David Mullins added: “He gives himself every chance with his good jumping, especially for a novice. We had an Achilles issue with him after his last trial stakes win and it was touch and go for the heats, but all came good and we’ll now be preparing him for the Grand National after a short rest.
“It’s great to win the Springbok to give us the full set, so thanks and well done to Central Park for staging the competition – it is so important for the future of hurdling – and to my team for their hard work. I’d also like to thank Jeff Sealey and all at Bicester – that’s where we schooled Rex and take so many of our runners.”
Roger Cearns, Central Park promoter, said: “It was a fantastic and thrilling final, with the result in doubt right to the end, so well done David and Julie Mullins and all the team – and to Droopys Rex himself. Hopefully he’ll be back for the second leg of the jumps’ triple crown – the RPGTV Grand National – in a few weeks time.
“I thought this year’s Springbok was a good competition in terms of quality of jumping and competitive races. Given we had no outside sponsor this year it was very much Central Park’s and thanks to all my team in difficult circumstances. They continue to work hard and in the right way for us and greyhound racing.
“But we’re always looking at things and take constructive opinion on board and something that might have improved the final night card even more would have been a Springbok consolation – Seamus Cahill said as such, and he’s right. That would have been another decent race am sure, so we’ll look to introduce one for RPGTV Grand National Final night on May 9.
“We’re also planning to stage Grand National trial stakes each Sunday until the event proper starts. It’s added publicity for the big-race sponsors, in this instance RPGTV, and gives trainers every opportunity to get their hurdlers ready for the big event.”
One trainer likely to be well represented in the RPGTV Grand National is Ricky Holloway, the Springbok runner-up’s trainer, who said: “Congratulations to David and Julie and the team. It was a great race to be part of and I couldn’t have asked for more of ‘Mickey’ (Meenagh Maverick) – he hit the rails and three other dogs at the bend and made up ten lengths. Roll on the Grand National now!”
Central Park racing manager Dan Homewood is also looking forward to the hurdlers’ Classic, which starts at the Kent venue with the heats on Sunday, April 25. The competition closes to entries on Wednesday, April 21.
Homewood said: “I thought on paper it was a very good Springbok final – and it provided us with an exciting race. There were hard-luck stories, for sure, but we had a real quality winner in Droopys Rex, who must be one of the best novice jumpers ever seen round it – he deserves to be Cearnsport 2021 Springbok champion.”