MARK WALLIS took the training honours at Crayford on Saturday as the boss of Imperial Kennels landed a near 23-1 treble in the heats of the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket.

The 11-time champion trainer struck with Coronation Cup winner Antigua Rum (45.26sec +30), last year’s runner-up Antigua Fire (44.95sec +30) and St Leger finalist Avastorm (45.31sec +30) to take a grip on the £17,500-to-the-winner competition heading into the semi-finals on Saturday.

The other heats went to 2018 champion Shotgun Bullet (Derek Knight) who struck in 45.34sec (+30) in his last big-race campaign having also made the final last year, the Hayley Keightley-trained Roxholme Poppy (45.22sec +30) and Kevin Boon’s Sheldan (45.34sec +30).

Fastest therefore was the St Leger runner-up and Kent St Leger champion Antigua Fire who, as Towcester Story for Irish trainer Brendan Matthews 12 months previously, pushed Heather Dimmock’s Stardom close. The pair clashed again on Saturday.

Unfortunately the reigning champion finished sore behind Antigua Fire in this heat when eliminated, although there was a boost for the kennel around the same time as Make No Apologie and Volcanic Reef made the Coral Winter Derby Final at Hove.

Danny Rayment, Crayford racing manager, said: “Antigua Fire’s victory was certainly the standout performance of the round. Not only was it the fastest of the night, it came in the red-hot fifth heat – a race which many believe would have done credit to the final!

“The manner of Antigua Fire’s win and the time he clocked should make him clear favourite now to go one better than last year – and add the Jacket to his Kent St Leger victory over the same course and distance.

“The efforts of Mark (Wallis) and his team also produced the training performance of the round with a stunning treble, although mention should be made of Patrick Janssens who qualified all four of his runners from just two heats.

“I’m probably speaking on behalf of all greyhound fans when I say it was particularly pleasing to see the superb performances of both Shotgun Bullet (Derek Knight) and Goldies Hotspur (Patrick Janssens) in their heats, in what looks like career swansongs for both of them.

“They have lit up Crayford for the past few years and are still performing at the top of their game well into veteran status. It would be fantastic if they could both make the final again – and Shotgun Bullet’s heat success was especially brilliant to watch.

“I was also impressed with Desperado Dan’s effort against Roxholme Poppy. Once she had turned so handy the writing was on the wall perhaps because Poppy is so strong, but Dan stuck to his task really well against a top-class bitch.

“Indeed Poppy will be very hard to beat if up with the pace early throughout the rest of the competition, although I think overall heading into the semis it’s still a very competitive and classy Ladbrokes Golden Jacket this year.

“It was also nice to see a couple of local stars qualify for the semi-finals with both Sizzling Diva (Belinda Green) and Beechgrove Bell (Tom Levers) comfortably qualifying and both are certainly capable of making the decider.”