Category One greyhound racing returns to Kent on Saturday when the 85th running of the Arena Racing Company Cesarewitch begins – and there are high hopes of a local winner.
The county will be represented by three greyhounds out of the 24 declared to run, with David Puddy declaring Rydons Ranger while Tony Collett runs Maree Smasher and Clear Mission.
Veteran trainer Tony – who celebrates 52 years in the sport this summer – is one of only three Kent-based trainers to have won the prize in its 96-year history.
The Harvel handler won it in 2008 with Greyhound of the Year Lenson Joker at Oxford, and now hopes to mark over half-a-century in the sport by following up on that success starting on Saturday night at Central Park Stadium.
“We have some great greyhounds in the kennel for 2024,” said Tony. “There are no concrete competition plans at the moment, that will become more apparent as the year goes on.
“But we have two good-quality entries in the Cesarewitch to start the year at our local track.
“Maree Smasher has some fantastic form behind her at Central Park and will stay further than the 731-metre trip. We think highly of her and we’re hoping she can qualify.
“Clear Mission is a class bitch too and will run the distance all day. She has a tough draw and is up against several outstanding staying greyhounds, which is what you expect at this level.
“Saturday is a step up in class for her, but she’s proven at minor open race level so deserves a chance.”
Also entered in the £12,500 to-the-winner competition are Grand Prix champion Coonough Crow, Monmore Puppy Derby winner Bradys Bullet and recent Challenge Cup runner-up Mad For Sterling.
Regarded as one of UK greyhound racing’s most prestigious events, the Cesarewitch was first held in 1928 with former winners including the legendary Scurlogue Champ and Mick The Millar – a ‘Wembley 100’ inductee to mark a century since the national stadium opened its doors.
Saturday’s card at Central Park is supported by four open races – including heats for the JenningsBet Maiden Trophy - and four graded contests with the first race due off at 6.38pm.
General admission plus trackside packages and restaurant bookings can be made by clicking here. Doors open at 5.30pm.
2024 Arena Racing Company Cesarewitch – Round One:
Heat One: Coonough Crow, Haka Carlo, Bubbly Scorcher, Forest Leo, Gutsy Jet, Alright Gordy.
Heat Two: Ela Maestro, Maree Smasher, Slapdash Tommy, Bellmore Sally, Mad For Sterling, Rydons Ranger.
Heat Three: Garfiney Blaze, Bradys Bullet, Aayamza Dancer, Bubbly Inferno, Tory Bellatrix, Alright Patricia.
Heat Four: Clear Mission, Capel Rose, Ballymac Taylor, Maleficent, Farneys Cooper, Jacktavern Magic.