CENTRAL PARK has been the home of hurdling for a number of years and stages the 2020 RPGTV Champion Hurdle Final tonight.
Having staged the Springbok earlier this year for novice hurdlers and, with the Grand National in September, this is the middle leg of a triple of crown of major hurdles races in the GBGB Calendar in Kent.
Roger Cearns is Central Park’s promoter and his support of the hurdles scene is well known, being the part-owner with trainer Ricky Holloway of Lenson Wilson who looks to become the first greyhound to regain the Champion Hurdle title tonight.
It was the Cearns family who built Wimbledon Stadium on Plough Lane in south west London, former home of the Greyhound Derby but also where the Springbok, Grand National and Champion Hurdle were all once staged.
The Champion Hurdle is the youngest of the hurdling triple crown events, being first staged at Wimbledon in 1990. Traditionally run alongside the Greyhound Derby, the 2020 running is just the second away from the Classic but retains its summer slot.
“It was staged at Towcester in 2018, but was then without a home when the Derby moved to Nottingham, as they don’t stage hurdles racing, so it could have been lost,” explained Cearns. “Thankfully it now has a home here.”
“We love good hurdles racing and, when they are allowed back in, racegoers love the variety and the excitement of it. It also makes for exciting racing which the RPGTV viewers enjoy - and many thanks to all at RPGTV for their fantastic sponsorship tonight.”
The Champion Hurdle roll of honour features some of the best hurdlers ever from several Grand National winners to prolific-scoring Platinumlancelot (2009) and Razldazl Raidio (2016) and a Greyhound of the Year in Cornamaddy Jumbo, the 2014 hurdling triple crown winner.
In terms of trainers, two handlers can tonight match Tommy Foster’s haul of five Champion Hurdle victories, with both Seamus Cahill and Ricky Holloway eyeing win number five tonight courtesy of Droopys Trawler and Lenson Wilson respectively.
2020 RPGTV CHAMPION HURDLE - PEN PICS
Trap 1 Lenson Wilson
Owners: Ricky Holloway & Roger Cearns
Trainer: Ricky Holloway
Winner in 2018, this veteran performer also made the final 12 months ago - so victory would see him become the only greyhound to regain the Champion Hurdle crown. Lenson Wilson also aims to land trainer Ricky Holloway a fifth Champion Hurdle winner after wins for Soviet Military (2013), Razldazl Raidio (2016), Turnhouse Jet (2019) and, of course, himself in 2018. Lenson Wilson also won the 2018 Springbok and was named GBGB Hurdler of the Year in 2018.
Trap 2 Droopys Trawler
Owner: Tommy Smith
Trainer: Seamus Cahill, Hove
Another who looks to land his trainer a fifth Champion Hurdle after wins for Top Jock (2002), Farloe Browny (2003), Druids Mickey Jo (2005) - all at Wimbledon - and Ballymac Manix (2017) at Towcester. Droopys Trawler is a multiple big-race finalist for Team Cahill having switched to the hurdles after winning the Northern Puppy Derby at Newcastle. Second in the 2018 Springbok, this powerhouse also finished second to Turnhouse Jet in the Kent County Hurdle in December.
Trap 3 Billericay Blue
Owner: Nick Hutt and Billy McMahon
Trainer: Jim Reynolds, Crayford
Crayford’s Billericay Blue first made a splash over hurdles in the heats of the Springbok here in February having opened his account over the jumps on home soil in January. Crowded out of contention after a missed break here in the Bok semis, he followed up an impressive Champion Hurdle heat win with a narrow defeat at the paws of Lenson Wilson in the semi-finals and will again look to lead the charge. His trainer Jim Reynolds won the 2004 Grand National with Four Handed.
Trap 4 Swift Loki (m)
Owners: The Hazard Syndicate
Trainer: James Turner, Crayford
The second of three Crayford-based finalists, Swift Loki was bought out of Barry O’Sullivan’s kennel in October so knows the track well as a former Central Park racer. He actually made his debut at Yarmouth before the switch to O’Sullivan’s Kent kennels where he competed at A1 level on the flat here. An experienced hurdler now, he boasts a sprint jumps win here and that early pace saw him strike in H1 company at Crayford post-lockdown and in the heats here.
Trap 5 Mane Mane (m)
Owner: Tom Mumford
Trainer: Ernie Gaskin, Towcester
Lines up in another major hurdles final at Central Park having made last year’s Springbok, where he started favourite, and the Grand National. A sprint winner on the flat on his UK debut at Hove for his trainer and previous owners, Mane Mane was bought by owner Tom Mumford to go hurdling and has proved a superb jumper. This rates as a fantastic training performance from Team Gaskin given Mane Mane has returned from injury. He was sidelined for seven months last year.
Trap 6 Toughest Test
Owner: Mike Lee
Trainer: Jim Reynolds, Crayford
The second of trainer Jim Reynolds’ finalists and a third Crayford representative, Toughest Test made his UK debut on the flat at the Kent track in January 2019 before winning in A4 and heading up to A2. Boasts six-bend form and wins, stamina which has secured him a place in the biggest race of his career tonight - and his toughest test maybe! However he is improving after a break and will look to reverse form with Swift Loki after their recent H1 clash at Crayford.
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