Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
It was looking very unlikely we would have an Oaks final in 2018. The bitches’ classic was first staged at White City, then moved to Harringay (1969-1987) before Wimbledon (1988-2012) and then a move to Belle Vue (2013-2017). The premier race for the fairer sex now makes its debut at Swindon sponsored by leading owner John Turner.
The £15,000 to-the-winner final looks a mightily competitive affair with BetVictor’s odds compilers barely able to separate the top five in the betting. Resembling a Romford BAGS race, they go 11/4, 3/1, 3/1, 4/1 and 4/1. Only Emers Cookie looks out of it, albeit her 10/1 quote is not exactly dismissive.
The fastest of the two semi-final winners, Chubbys Caviar, who represents perennial champion-trainer Mark Wallis and was available at 66/1 at the competition’s outset, is the marginal favourite.
Wallis, speaking to BetVictor, gave us his views on his charge: “It’s amazing to think that only a few weeks ago Chubbys Caviar was running in an A4 at Henlow and now she is in a classic final. We have won the race before with two superstar bitches (Domino Storm and Cashen Maureen), Caviar may not be in the same league but she has done nothing wrong in the competition to date and won her semi-final in great style. It was a career best run.
“It won’t be easy to win and from trap 5, a little wider than I would have liked, in a very open looking final and without doubt she will have to ping out the traps to win. But she is peaking at the right time and on inspection of her career record you do see a real desire to win. In 22 races she has won eight times and been runner up six times with only three starts outside the top-three.
“Bearing in mind she has been brought back to racing after a couple of seasonal breaks, this shows she has real ability. A 28.45sec winner at Towcester a year ago and a recent superb 27.54sec win at Henlow shows a level of improvement of around six lengths over the year and her semi-final win at Swindon in 28.73sec represents a further couple of lengths of progression.
“Our kennel is widely known for bringing second, third and even fourth season dogs forward so a classic title for this likeable April 2016 whelp may not be the surprise many would think.”
Greyhound trainers are entitled to be biased and like jockeys they can be notoriously bad judges but Wallis clearly wouldn’t swap his charge for another whilst oblivious to her being the big-race favourite.
Of the others, Irish raider Jumeirah Charm cannot be accused of being a prolific winner around Dublin’s Shelbourne Park but she invariably mixes it with top company. However, as a tight railer, she looks destined to find trouble from her ‘coffin box’ (trap 4).
Precisely 12 months ago Ballynabee Lucy (trap 3) was making her debut at Crayford in a lowly A8. And while she has shown dramatic improvement since, she is essentially a solid A1 Sittingbourne grader. Beaten by over three lengths in her semi, I cannot see her prevailing without a generous slice of luck.
Kevin Hutton’s Magical Vera also made her debut way down the grading ladder (an A7) but she soon won a Towcester A4 and the rapidly improving two-year-old only has six races in her book. They include a first round and semi-final win in this competition. A lack of experience has to be a concern albeit, at this stage of her career, the world looks her oyster. The only wide-runner in a race which has four railers, she should have no excuses.
Ravenswood Flo, another representing Derby winning handler Kevin Hutton, is also ideally housed donning the red jacket. Vitally, she has shown consistent early speed and could be best positioned to benefit from any opening bend skirmish. She will need to poach a good lead though as the petrol tends to run out and she is suffering from seconditis.
There’s no getting away from the competitive nature of this race and a case can be made for most of the runners. The dog to beat on the clock is Chubbys Caviar and her handler is clearly more than optimistic. But the lightly raced Magical Vera, who is the youngest finalist and has a perfect trap draw, may be open to yet more improvement.
Magical Vera 4/1