PREVIEW: Lively Lauren connections exciting for Challenge Cup test

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Category One greyhound racing returns to Oxford Stadium on Friday evening with Round One of the £10,000 bet365 Challenge Cup, and a host of star names are declared to run.

The Cowley venue will crown the ninth Category One champion of the sport’s new era in Oxford on Friday, December 22, with a two-stage qualifying process scheduled beforehand.

Mark Wallis’ New Destiny – owned by the newly-formed MWD Partnership – is favourite to grant her owners an early Christmas present with defending Hunt Cup champion Havana Lover and Ela Maestro among other key contenders.

One greyhound will be running under the name of her owner’s wife, though, with Lively Lauren returning to OX4 for an 18th time since making her racing debut in September 2022.

Owned jointly by Joe Andrews and Andrew Pritchard, Lauren was given her name after Joe’s wife with the pair owning two other greyhounds named after Andrew’s family members – Lively Dee and Lively Savannah.

Lauren has experienced the most success around Oxford of the trio, holding a 52% winning strike rate plus an appearance in the RPGTV Cowley Puppy Collar Grand Final last year which was won by FromPostToPillar.

She lines up in Heat Three of Friday’s opening round and must place in the first three of her respective race to advance to the competition’s semi-finals.

Joe said: “It’s great to be back at Oxford running Lauren over a trip she loves where she has previously held the track record twice.

“This competition has been her target, but it’s seriously competitive and Friday’s race will be no easy task. She won her Trial Stakes race well last week and we have a good draw so everything will be kept crossed for a clean and safe run.”

Competition favourite New Destiny has been drawn in Heat Two in the company of defending Hunt Cup champion Havana Lover while Heat One features track record holder Droopys Creative.

Lively Lauren will go paw-to-paw with Gold Collar finalist King Ezra and strong fancy Aayamza Sydney in Heat Three with Minnie Bullet – priced 12/1 to win the competition outright – appearing in Heat Four.

Round One of the bet365 Challenge Cup begins at 7.07pm on Friday, December 8, at Oxford Stadium with the first of 11 races on the night beginning at 6.17pm. Tickets are available to purchase via the stadium’s website from £10 or will be available on the door.

Bet365 Challenge Cup Round One full draw:

Heat One – Havana Top Note, Maglass Brave, Longacres Nutty, Mad For Sterling, Free Style Sue, Droopys Creative.

Heat Two – Forest Roanna, New Destiny, Ela Maestro, Ettas Dream, Alright Patricia, Havana Lover.

Heat Three – Lively Lauren, Aayamza Sydney, King Ezra, Coppice Warrior, Gagas Merry, Ballymac Johnjo.

Heat Four – Queen Pink, Minnie Bullet, Gutsy Jet, Farneys Willie, Alright Gordy, Teds Dexter.

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