VELVET JULIET set the standard in Saturday’s heats of the The English Oaks at Swindon as the Sunderland Classic winner began her campaign with an impressive all-the-way victory in 27.99sec (-20) for the 476m trip.

The Angela Harrison-trained runner, favourite for heat seven of the bitches’ Classic, made no mistake and made all the running to score by a length and three-quarters from Bull Run Byte (Kevin Hutton) in a calculated time inside the track record.

The aforementioned Hutton kennel, which sent out last year’s Oaks winner in Ravenswood Flo, were on the mark in heat four with Slaneyside Izzy (28.35sec) scoring ahead of Emers Cookie (Paul Meek), a finalist in 2018, and the winner’s kennelmate Lassies Gift.

Numerically, Liz McNair was the most successful trainer on the night as her Derby semi-finalist Queen Beyonce (28.45sec) and kennelmate Queen Tammy (28.47sec) both scored in trap-to-line fashion.

Other winners were Kevin Boon’s Sheldan (28.25sec), Kim Billingham’s Ballymac Saga (28.36sec), David Mullins’ Shrewd Honcho (28.53sec), Lisa Stephenson’s Burgess Pixie (28.59sec), Philip Chatfield’s Ashbank Grace (28.99sec), Jo Burridge’s Beaming Brae (28.77sec), Carol Grasso’s Jet Stream Proof (28.61sec) and Chris Akers’ Sonic Spur (28.16sec).

Kiaran O’Brien, deputy racing manager at the Blunsdon venue, said: “In general it was a good night’s racing with few hard luck stories – and some impressive efforts, topped off by Velvet Juliet’s.

“I thought she showed the benefit of a recent trial here to score comfortably from dual C&D winner Bull Run Byte and Brighton Belle heroine Galloping Moon. It was a particularly strong heat so was certainly a fine effort.

“It was a good night for the McNair team who saw all four of their runners qualify, including victories for Queen Beyonce and Queen Tammy, while it was also good to see Kevin Boon’s Sheldan kick off things in the opening heat.

“She’s better known for her exploits over longer trips, but was well supported and Sonic Spur, another with form over a lot further, caught the eye in the last of the 12 heats for Chris Akers. She sent favourite backers home happy!

“Lisa Stephenson had a winner on the night in Burgess Pixie but also qualified her other entry (Piemans Cougar), while Kim Billingham sent three runners down and qualified all of her’s, including sending out a winner in Ballymac Saga.

“There was also a nice double for Poole trainers Philip Chatfield and Jo Burridge and for the track’s supporters because both Ashbank Grace and Beaming Brae were decent prices!

“Looking head to Wednesday’s second round, I thought one who impressed in defeat was Witton Derecho who ran on strongly to qualify in second behind Queen Tammy and should go well.”

Trap draw and form for second round:—swindon-adv1.pdf