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JONATHAN HOBBS: THERE’S a quick turnaround for the Coral Essex Vase tonight as Romford kicks off the 2021 version just a month after Kilmessan Puma won the 2020 running.

A reshuffle of the major 575m races at the London Road venue is therefore an early-season boost for open-race fans – and all the action is live on RPGTV.

The Coral Essex Vase is a £10,000-to-the-winner competition, won by such notables as Derby champion Dolores Rocket, the legendary Ballyregan Bob and the hugely popular Adageo Bob.

It’s one of the most famous races on the GBGB Calendar and, as ever, a strong and oversubscribed entry was received by the Romford racing office

Droopys Addition misses out – replaced by Kevin Boon’s Sheldan – but the Ernie Gaskin camp still has Brighton Belle winner Droopys Aoife and Oaks finalist Newinn Liz to call on and both these top-class bitches are respected, as is the Sharon Thompson-trained Sparta Master.

There is something about the aformentioned Adageo Bob where Sparta Master is concerned.

Bob suffered near-misses and downright bad right before finally winning the 2015 Essex Vase and Sparta Master has also lacked good fortune when it comes to the major Romford 575m races – despite being the track-record holder, of course!

Desperado Dan has two Romford titles to his name – the 2019 Coronation Cup and 2020 Champion Stakes – and Patrick Janssens’ dog is always to be respected, while Smallmead was first-past-the-post in the Champion Stakes and won the St Leger subsequently so also oozes class.

So eyes down for six high-quality Coral Essex Vase heats and, as ever, a strong supporting card – but here’s a look at the main events.

Romford Friday

6.43: Heat one of the Coral Essex Vase and a fast start from Mark Wallis’s Sober Express soon puts these under pressure. He posted 34.71sec when trapping in front in November – and that does the business here. However, anything less than foot-perfect from the boxes then the likes of Desperado Dan and underrated Drumcrow Brent could pounce.

Play: Sober Express

6.58: Heat two is without Droopys Addition, withdrawn this morning, which could clear the way for another Wallis runner Doolin Princess to lead into the bend and kick on. A 35.05 best time in November catches the eye and she did finish fourth in the last Essex Vase just a month ago, so her general C&D form is top notch. Ivy Hill Skyhigh could make it a kennel one-two.

Play: Doolin Princess

7.18: Newinn Liz reached the final of the Oaks unbeaten but failed to dominate in the final, but might here. Ernie Gaskin’s bitch is not the strongest of types, so she needs to front-run which means coping with the speed of improving Popworld next door is key. Respect is also due to the powerful Antigua Rum who this time last year won the Coronation Cup.

Play: Newinn Liz

7.36: Up to heat four now and Smallmead has some cracking C&D form to her name and showed her well being with a decent four-bend trial at Romford. A good break is needed to clear or cope with the speed of Perrys Choice but a handy enough position by halfway surely gives her every chance to reel in likely leader Troy Firebird.

Play: Smallmead

7.56: Sparta Master is the track-record holder for Romford’s six bends so his credentials are rock-solid in this heat five of the Coral Essex Vase. Sharon Thompson’s dog finished third in last month’s running of this event from an unfavourable draw but this trap-four box should suit. A runaway win at Towcester shows he’s in good heart. However this is a good race where only his best will do against Droopys Aoife, Darbys Ranger and Hopes Doggy.

Play: Sparta Master

8.17: The last Vase heat is probably the most open, giving Swift Cope a chance to dominate? Paul Burr’s dog has run some cracking races over C&D, first against Droopys Aoife and then Sparta Master. Both would be just above Antigua Romeo and Seaglass Tiger in the Romford pecking order, so a chance for the Yarmouth dog to return to winning ways?

Play: Swift Cope

Good luck all.


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