JONATHAN HOBBS FRIDAY: Romford kicks off its Category One season with the heats of the Coral Essex Vase over 575m and, once again for one of the track’s six-bend competitions, the quality is high class.

Newly crowned champion trainer Mark Wallis – well, for the 12th time! – has a strong hand as he looks to follow up last year’s success with Antigua Romeo. The most interesting runner from Imperial Kennels is Antigua Princess who runs in heat six. Formerly known as Ballymac Trend, she won the Oaks for Angie Kibble in 2020.

However, topping the market is the Gold Collar champion Warzone Tom who runs for Liz McNair in heat five, against Coolavanny Bani, one of two Essex Vase entries from Angela Harrison. The north east handler also sends down Empress Stakes winner Coolavanny Aunty in heat three.

The Romford card also includes six heats of a maiden 400m event which is a new initiative and complements the main events on a superb 13-race card on RPGTV – but let’s concentrate on the six Essex Vase heats.


7.56: Night Time Danny is the star turn here and is clearly in great heart after a superb 35.16sec comeback trial. However, there is lots of early pace to contend with and, perhaps, the Champion Stakes winner will leave himself too much to do first time back. He will improve, of course. However, might Dapper Rodney get away? The blue-jacketed runner ran amok to win on his 575m bow last month having run so well over four bends for Nathan Hunt in the Eclipse at Nottingham. He could strike first in the opener being drawn the right side of in-form Bettys Book. Nipsey Hustle with a flyer would also pose a threat.

Play: Dapper Rodney

8.17: Heat two of the Essex Vase and probably the most competitive and tricky of the night – Gymstar Elusive gets a narrow vote to escape the pack for John Mullins. He missed the up at Towcester last time but previously led for much of the way before the Derby champion Thorn Falcon swooped. Gymstar Elusive ran well to lead in both the Champion Stakes and Gold Collar finals and will again look to dominate from pillar to post, although it is essential he holds 2020 Derby finalist Smurfs Machine into the turn and onwards.

Play: Gymstar Elusive

8.38: Coolavanny Aunty looks a real contender for outright honours and connections of Angela Harrison’s bitch will be happy enough with her prospects in heat three. The draw is wider than she is used to, but anything like a repeat of a 13.64sec sectional posted in her prep trial should see her turn handily enough – if not lead these a merry dance. She’s proved herself top quality by winning the Empress Stakes and is very much an interesting runner stepped up in trip. The well-drawn Broadstrad Ryan should go well inside.

Play: Coolavanny Aunty

8.54: Droopys Barry has performed with credit in his two UK races and came away with a Harlow win latest. Jamie Kingsley’s runner now takes a step up in class for the Essex Vase but a trial showed great promise and improvement is more likely than not. Key will be coping with the fast-trapping Aayamza Lexie next door, but he showed a strong-running style at Harlow and could turn a handy slot into victory. Ragtime Storm is rarely far away so must be respected here.

Play: Droopys Barry

9.12 Heat five now and Warzone Tom hardly faces a straightforward task on paper but could nevertheless run amok such is his quality. Liz McNair’s Category One champion has trialled back well and, if able to dominate, might be tough to hold. That said any mistakes will be taken advantage of by the likes of Coolavanny Bani and Prince Of Troy either side. Both are big-event players, while Bandicoot Sammy won well over C&D last week.

Play: Warzone Tom

9.28: Another great heat to conclude the Essex Vase first round. Lunar Prince edged out longtime leader Droopys Addition last week and the latter will look to reverse that form with another lead – although getting by Seomra Razl is no given. A slight preference is for the Belinda Green-trained Freeky Pumbaa wh ran well during the Olympic at Hove and, while up in trip, could make them all go if trapping well and pacing up to lead outside – albeit clearing the very capable Sweet Pear will not be easy, but is key.

Play: Freeky Pumbaa

Good luck all.