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JONATHAN HOBBS: It’s Friday night so it must be Romford live on RPGTV – and greyhound fans are in for a real treat with the heats of the Coral Essex Vase.

One of the Essex track’s major six-bend competitions, a host of familiar names go for gold in the 575m showpiece including the last two winners of the Coronation Cup in veteran Shotgun Bullet and Desperado Dan – and both are respected in the outright list.

However, such was the manner of Roxholme Jim’s success over C&D last week that he deservedly heads the ante-post list for the £10,000 prize.


7.03: Headford Ranger is a non-runner here, but Kevin Hutton still has a huge hand in the opening Essex Vase heat. The Derby-winning handler sends out Drive On Hunter, Ballymac Diego and Swansalona Playa – all are very decent types. However Savana Beetle knows how to win round Romford and trainer Frank Gray is getting a good turn out of his runner, who looks well drawn outside. His defeat last week of Aayamza Express was eye-catching and, in the absence of Headford Ranger, stripes gets the nod.

Play: Savana Beetle

7.17: Brinkleys Poet might not have seemed a likely Essex Vase winner early in his career. Well known for his blinding pace as the Crayford 380m track record breaker, plus Gymcrack and Select Stakes winner, Mark Wallis’s dog has become stronger since his comeback from injury and battled well after a missed break to finish close up last week. He’s already a 575m winner at Romford in 35.30sec and a slick start can see him show the speed he’s always been known for. Up-in-trip Droopys Aoife is fancied as the alternative.

Play: Brinkleys Poet

7.33: Ernie Gaskin remains a trainer with a cracking open-race strike-rate and is enjoying a golden spell with his unbeaten sprinter Lambeth Way, especially. He’s represented here by Champion Stakes finalist Newinn Cracker who looks well drawn inside. She’s coming forward after a spell running over four bends in the Brighton Belle and will have improved for a 575m run last week. However keeping Desperado Dan will not be easy. The latter is a big-race winner here at Romford already and rarely runs a bad race.

Play: Newinn Cracker

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7.49: The most competitive and trappy Essex Vase heat sees plenty of chances across the board. Burgess Paradise catches the eye for Derby-winning trainer Danny Riordan given he ran in a final last week over C&D and was moving into contention before being held up, losing momentum. However, he’s a strong-running sort and is still a potential improver after just a handful of races – and even less over six bends. Savana Me Daddy has a favourite’s chance outside here and might be the choice of many.

Play: Burgess Paradise

8.06: Ballymac Osby is a Kevin Hutton-trained dog with plenty of class. He’s competed in the Derby and other major four-bend comps and it’s that speed which should serve him well here. He was running on strongly over 500m at Nottingham and this trip should suit. A decent sprint trial suggests the midfield pitch and the track will suit. Sparta Master is capable and has been running amok at Crayford – he could surprise if handling Romford first time. King Cash looks well drawn outside and is respected.

Play: Ballymac Osby

8.21: Roxholme Jim could be the one to beat outright judged on a fantastic effort on his first sight of Romford last week. Hayley Keightley’s runner will surely improve just recently stepped up in trip and, remember, he was fastest in the heats of the Eclipse at Nottingham – faster than eventual winner Ice On Fire. That’s top form from one of the most consistent runners in training. The rails draw needs handling, but it might actually help at Romford. King Lennon and the evergreen Shotgun Bullet to chase him home?

Play: Roxholme Jim

Good luck everyone.

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