WARZONE TOM maintained his unbeaten run at the track with a battling but ultimately impressive victory in the first Ladbrokes Gold Collar (540m) semi-final at Crayford on Saturday.

Although second semi-final winner Gymstar Elusive later clocked a faster time, the Liz McNair-trained Warzone Tom will start favourite for this weekend’s £10,000-to-the-winner final after landing a fourth straight success at the Kent venue.

None too well away and bumped at the first bend, and then when making his challenge down the back, the August 2019 son of Good News and Bogger Bonnie came through strongly to win by three and a quarter lengths from longtime leader Chelms Tornado (John Mullins). The winning time was 33.74sec (+20). Glenvale Tony (Keith Robins) qualified in third here.

Rab McNair, assistant and husband of the winning trainer, said of the winner: “He’s running great and I couldn’t be happier with him. I thought his run in the heats was pretty special. He slipped and looked out of the competition but recovered well and caught a really good dog in front in Ballynabee Lucky.

“Then on Saturday in the semis he’s pretty much done it again. He again didn’t have his box, and this time got a rougher ride, but still came through well.

“We’ve always thought a lot of him but people forget how young he was when he broke the track record at Towcester. He was a pup then and is still a young dog for a stayer. He deserves a clearer run really, but it’s a very good final and you always need that slice of luck.

“It wouldn’t be the longest run to the bend at Crayford but he’s handling the track well enough and I wouldn’t swop him for anything.

“I was asked at the track on Saturday whether I’d be tempted stepping him up for the (Ladbrokes) Golden Jacket over 714m – and I’d say yes at this stage. He’s run a true six bends at Yarmouth and is probably running better now than then, so as long as everything is okay that might well be the plan.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday and well done to Ladbrokes and Crayford for putting two £10K races on and other finals – it looks a top morning’s racing there.”

Gymstar Elusive went quicker than Warzone Tom in the second semi. He enjoyed a smoother path to success, albeit was equally as impressive after a slick exit set up a runaway all-the-way victory for connections.

The John Mullins-trained runner has been in terrific form of late, finishing second in the recent Coral Champion Stakes at Romford, and produced a solid exhibition of front-running off the back of a 12.80sec split to cross the line almost eight lengths clear of Bens Lad (Julie Luckhurst) in 33.57sec (+20). Ballynabee Lucky (Theresa Dornan) qualified in third here.

It means the Mullins team have two Ladbrokes Gold Collar chances in Saturday’s decider on a classy open-race morning which includes not just the Gold Collar Final but the finals of the Ladbrokes Cesarewitch, Ladbrokes Kent Rose Bowl and Ladbrokes Kent National Hurdle.

Results: https://www.gbgb.org.uk/meeting/?meetingId=379515&raceId=792123

Form and trap draw for Saturday’s finals: https://assets.cj1.in/imminent-otter/production/assets/results/Crayford/form-guides/Crayford-Saturday-Morning-27th-November-Competition-Finals-Form.pdf