ONLY the Derby and the Oaks have been staged longer than the Grand National as another chapter in one of greyhound racing’s oldest and most famous competitions is written this Friday with the £8,000 John Smith’s-sponsored showpiece due off at 8.32pm.
Dating back to White City in 1927 - when a dog called Bonzo won! - history could be made should Razldazl Raidio jump to glory again with the prolific-winning hurdler aiming to become just the fourth greyhound to win back-to-back Grand Nationals in its 90 years-plus existence.
Blossom Of Annagurra (1949-50), three-time winner Sherrys Prince (1970-72) and Topofthetide (1978-79) are the only greyhounds to have successfully defended their title and Ricky Holloway’s 2016 runner-up aims to strike again in what will be his third Grand National final.
However, Holloway is not the only one of Friday’s trainers to have fielded a Grand National winner, with both Barry O’Sullivan (The Alickadoo) and Mark Wallis (Parkers Dynamite, Swift Dartmoor) sending out previous champions and looking this friday to add to their big-race portfolios.
O’Sullivan trained Dynamic Display to win in 1996 when the competition had moved to Hall Green on the closure of White City, while Wimbedon played host when Wallis’s Lethal Rumble scored in 2005 - and the champion trainer followed up with Cornamaddy Jumbo in 2014.
Cornamaddy Jumbo remains one of the most successful Grand National winners of recent years having won the triple crown of jumps’ races which are made up of the Springbok, Champion Hurdle and Grand National. He swept the board in 2014 - and was named Greyhound of the Year.
Of course, by that stage the Grand National had found a home here at Central Park, having moved in 2012, and promoter Roger Cearns is delighted to be now staging two legs of jumps racing’s triple crown with the novice hurdlers’ championship, the Springbok, run here in February.
Holloway harboured hopes of dominating the trio of big hurdles races with Lenson Wilson, this year's Springbok winner, but after the latter was knocked out in the heats has a more than able deputy in Razldazl Raidio plus Barricane Jack to secure what would be a fourth title for him.
Razldazl Raidio’s now-retired old adversary Ballymac Manix, who beat him to the title of GBGB Hurdler of the Year in 2016, won the Grand National in 2016 to give Seamus Cahill a third Grand National win (Hotdog Jack - 2009, Mash Mad Snowy - 2013) - matching Holloway’s feat.
Since 2000, Tommy Foster is another trainer with three wins in the competition - Tuttles Minister (2000), Ballyvorda Class (2002) and Selby Ben (2003) - and Tommy’s son Jason weighed in with his own success with Kildare Lark at Wimbledon in 2008.
Jason Foster trained one of the best hurdlers the sport has seen in prolific-scoring Platinumlancelot, a Champion Hurdle winner and finalist in the 2009 Grand National. Although he never won the Grand National, he is one of the major stars to have competed in the event.
His strike-rate was matched by 1998 winner El Tenor, while other top-class hurdlers to grace the roll of honour of one of greyhound racing’s most prestigious prizes include Lemon Chip (1989), the extraordinary Kildare Slippy (1992), Gizmo Pasha (1990) and Arfur Daley (1993).
The Grand National even boasts two dead-heats - one of which famously saw mother and son, Linda and David Mullins, failed to be separated after their Hello Buttons and Pottos Storm, respectively, crossed the line together in a terrific finish to the 1999 final at Wimbledon.
Roger Cearns’ family built Wimbledon Stadium and his association with the sport has continued with his role as Central Park promoter. He enjoys hurdles racing and is delighted to be able to host Friday’s final and thus continue a great tradition stretching back to the 1920s.
“Over the years this competition has had everything,” he says. “There is always a story to tell about the winners and staging the Grand National upholds something very special in the sport of greyhound racing. Seeing a top-class hurdler in action is just fantastic, so exciting.”
Trap 1 Young Columbus
Owner: Young At Heart Syndicate - Trainer: Paul Young, Romford
A well-bred racer who is a half-brother to such superstars as Billys Bullet, Droopys Roddick and Touch Tackle - his own litter includes the talented Droopys Dresden. A first Grand National finalist for Paul Young, Young Columbus made the semi-finals of the Romford Puppy Cup in just his third race, and boasts wins on the flat at Henlow and Romford, where he has won over both 400m and 575m. Knocked out in the heats of the Springbok for novice hurdlers, he stayed on in typical style to reach tonight’s final behind The Alickadoo. Gets his preferred draw against the fence here.
Trap 2 Barricane Jack
Owners: Ricky Holloway, Stella Wilson - Trainer: Ricky Holloway, Central Park
Has hurdling in the family given he is a half-brother of former top hurdler Con Te Partiro, but his flat connections are even more impressive given former Wimbledon track-record holder Fiery Splendour and Yorkshire St Leger champion Keplar Nine come from the same line. Barricane Jack has also served the family well, this being his third Category One final appearance having made last year’s Sunderland Classic and Gymcrack deciders. Reached the Springbok semis here in February having won his heat. Eyeing a fourth Grand National win for his trainer.
Trap 3 Parkers Dynamite
Owner: Sarah Parker - Trainer: Mark Wallis, Towcester
The first of two finalists for champion trainer Mark Wallis, who has two Grand National victories to his name with Lethal Rumble (2005) and Cornamaddy Jumbo (2015) - the latter famously being awarded the Greyhound of the Year title for his hurdling exploits. An open-race winner on the flat at Henlow and Romford, Parkers Dynamite was knocked out in the heats of the Springbok here but has improved greatly since with wins over the sticks at Crayford and home track Towcester, and took the notable of scalp of defending champion Razldazl Raidio in the heats.
Trap 4 Swift Dartmoor
Owner: Kevin Gilham - Trainer: Mark Wallis, Towcester
Another Towcester raider, Swift Dartmoor and his kennelmate Parkers Dynamite are looking to continue a fine week for nine-time champion trainer Wallis having won the Trainers’ Championship meeting at Towcester last weekend. Winner of a Springbok Trial Stakes in February, the three-year-old was knocked out of the novice hurdlers’ event in the heats but has upped his game since. Boasts a decent pedigree as a half-brother of TV Trophy and St Leger winner Blonde Reagan and progressed from A7 at Towcester to win races on the flat at his home track, Henlow and Romford.
Trap 5 Razldazl Raidio (w)
Owner: Ricky Holloway, Stella Wilson - Trainer: Ricky Holloway, Central Park
The reigning champion and one of the best hurdlers of recent years, Razldazl Raidio has been the winningmost open-racer for the past two years and aims to become only the fourth dual winner of the jumpers’ Classic. This is a third Grand National final for Razldazl Radio having also run-up in 2016. He is looking to add to Holloway’s victories in the event with Jos Cigar at Wimbledon in 2007, plus Mo’s Bullet (2015) and Raidio last year here at Central Park. A multiple track-record breaker, he looks to confirm semi-final form over his heat conqueror Parkers Dynamite.
Trap 6 The Alickadoo (w)
Owners: Ian Cameron-Taylor, Adam Dicks, Gary Idle, Adam McDonald - Trainer: Barry O’Sullivan
This ex-Poole A1 winner joined the famed O’Sullivan kennels in Kent with Springbok and Grand National campaigns in mind. Barry O’Sullivan trained the winner at Hall Green back in 1996 with Dynamic Display, and has plenty of finalists since, with the Crayford handler and his father Terry renowned for their work with hurdlers, having schooled many a big-race winner over the jumps. Won a Springbok Trial Stakes before going out of that event behind Barricane Jack in the heats. More experienced now, he roared to success in the semis in a decent time too. Improving.
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