The Jay & Kay Coach Tours Kent St Leger – Crayford 714m – £7,500
ANTIGUA FIRE led home a Mark Wallis-trained one-two in the final of the Jay & Kay Coach Tours Kent St Leger over 714m at Crayford on Saturday.
Victory in the £7,500-to-the-winner feature, plus the bonus of Brigadier Bullet chasing home his kennelmate, lifted multiple champion trainer Wallis to the top of the GBGB Trainer of the Year race.
Breaking well, the anticipated early surge of Roxholme Dolly soon took Hayley Keightley’s bitch to the front, but the eventual winner was always close enough to strike and hit the front at the three-quarter pole.
Racing clear, Antigua Fire crossed the line four and a half lengths clear of Brigadier Bullet to score in 44.96sec to go one better than he did in the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket Final over C&D when known as Towcester Story for Irish trainer Brendan Matthews.
“We knew he was a good dog when he came into the kennel and he’s raced at the very top right from the start,” said Wallis. “He’s changed his style of running, become stronger as he’s got older, but he managed to trap better in the final.
“It was probably a similar break to what he got in the Golden Jacket final and we know he runs Crayford really well. I’m just delighted Brigadier Bullet has come through and run another solid race. Both will probably go for the Doncaster St Leger now.”
Wallis paid tribute to his owners for their support. “Nic and Amanda have stuck by us, as have the Bruiser Boyz who own Brigadier Bullet. They had a good night with Bumblebee Bullet in the TV Trophy a few weeks back, but we all had quite a slow start to the year.
“The kennel was in transition, a few of our big names had retired, and we were probably just out of form, too,” he added. “This last few weeks with the Kent St Leger, TV Trophy and Champion Stakes has been superb – thanks to everyone who’s made this possible.
“The staff at Imperial Kennels have been great and Ron Mills has worked tirelessly with our runners. Kevin (Ulla) paraded Antigua Fire and my daughter Emily looked after Brigadier Bullet, so it’s been a real team effort at Crayford.”
Winning owner Nic Jeal, who owns the October 2016 son of Vulturi and Precious Story with his wife Amanda, said: “Mark Wallis is a gentleman as well as a fantastic trainer – to get Fire laying up so close early was amazing and set things up fantastically.
“For an eight-bend race it was effectively over at the first bend as long as he avoided trouble. Once he got himself in a position behind Roxholme Dolly who just knew he’d proved too strong.
“I was saying to Amanda how hard Cat One races are to win on the drive up. This is our second – it’s been a while since the first – but as long as Fire was no further back than fourth we had a chance. It was big surprise, albeit a pleasant one, when he came out.
“Many thanks to sponsor Karl Brazier (Jay & Kay Coach Tours) as without him and other sponsors we wouldn’t have these great competitions.
“And Crayford did a magnificent job. We arrived to find a framed photo of the dog on the table and an engraved salver. We’ve never had that before and it was a wonderful gesture by the track.
“Winning the big race was special, but so, too, was seeing Brinkleys Poet win over 540m. He’s a special greyhound to me, so on a night when my daughter and her boyfriend were with us too, it really was a night to remember.”