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William Hill All England Cup/ Northern Puppy Derby - Newcastle 480m - £10,000/ £8,000


ANGELA HARRISON moved into seventh place in the Trainer of the Year standings after an incredible big-race double at the conclusion of the William Hill Festival at Newcastle on Thursday - the locals treated to ‘home’ wins in three of the four deciders, topped off by the brilliant Droopys Expert in the All England Cup Final (480m).



The ‘North East Derby’ looked a match on paper between kennelmates Droopys Expert and Droopys Buick, with Jimmy Wright, partner and assistant to Harrison, hoping the pair would avoid each other in the run to the bend. Truth is, they didn’t, but Droopys Expert was strong enough to force his way through.



Droopys Buick had trapped smartly and immediately headed across to the rails, a position occupied by his younger - and lighter - kennelmate at Harrison’s Tommy Minty Cottage kennels. But Expert was strong, held his line and paced up to draw alongside fast-starting Farlor Thor at the bend, before sweeping round.



Soon clear and in full stride, Droopys Expert stopped the clock in 28.10sec from Farloe Thor and Dorotas Vic to claim the £10,000 prize for owners Neil and Kath Conlon and family - and give Wright, especially, taste of a first All England Cup victory after a number of near-misses in the prestigious annual as a trainer and assistant trainer.



Future plans for Droopys Expert and Greyhound of the Year Droopys Buick, not to mention the kennel’s third finalist Caislean Fifi, could include events such as the Eclipse at Nottingham and the Olympic at Hove, both of which were won by Buick last year on his way to landing the sport’s top honour at the GBGB Awards.



The younger Droopys Zephyr will be kept to puppy events in all probability for the time being although, like Droopys Expert, the raw April 2016 whelp will have Classic aspirations next year after he made all in the £8,000 William Hill Northern Puppy Derby Final - taking the scalp of hotpot Roxholme Nidge in the process.



While the winner paced up into the lead, 4-7 favourite Nidge was about to turn in his slipstream before being forced wide by Stole My Baby at the bend, thus losing all chance behind Angela Harrison’s dog who kept up the gallop well to cross the line three and three-quarter lengths clear in 28.50sec for the 480m.



Harrison had earlier sent out the popular Shellam Delano (40.59sec, 670m) to win the £3,000 William Hill Great North Run and the near-senior will have a crack at eight bends in the TV Trophy at Towcester next month, after fully deserving his first major title in a career which has seen him win 31 times in 62 starts.



Summing up the night, Harrison said: “It’s been fantastic. All the dogs have run great, and to win the All England Cup for the first time is extra special. It’s our Derby,” while Wright added: “It’s all down to Angela and the team at the kennels. It’s a seven-day-a-week operation and nights like this make it worthwhile.



“The key for all greyhounds is to keep them sound and healthy. We’ll look at all the big events, and work out what’s best for them. It wasn't Buick’s night tonight, but if Expert hadn’t been in the race he’d have gone round in front. He’s a dog who’ll always be in our hearts for the competitions he’s won.



“It’s just that Expert has awesome pace. I wasn’t absolutely sure he’d handle trap one, but he did - so he’s shown us something else again. He didn’t come away, but just has incredible gears. He’s clocked some incredible times already and certainly gives us plenty to look forward to.”



Winning owner Neil Conlon paid tribute to the Harrison/Wright kennel, to the sponsors William Hill and to the Newcastle management: “It’s been a great night and incredible to win both the feature races. Expert really is something else. He’s the sort of dog who we could take to Ireland and compete with the best there at some stage.”



Sheffield trainer Carl Perry prevented a clean sweep in the four major finals for the home trainers with victory for Geelo Zip in the William Hill Angel of the North Oaks Final, the two-year-old pacing up and always in pole position as she went clear to win by four lengths from trackmate Ballymac Deirdre in 28.42sec.


Ian Walton, general manager at Newcastle, said Thursday’s gala card underlined the fact that the All England Cup festival “is going from strength to strength each year”, adding: “We had a top-class winner of the main event with Droopys Expert, and Droopys Zephyr winning the Northern Puppy Derby capped a great night for connections.


“Well done to Angela Harrison and Jimmy Wright, and to the Conlon family. It’s clear they have a number of greyhounds with the Droopys prefix to follow in 2018! Thanks to William Hill’s fantastic and much-appreciated sponsorship, and to all the owners and trainers who supported the event - Thursday in front of a good crowd here was the perfect platform for them.”