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ECC Timber Puppy Derby - Towcester 500m - £20,000


ROXHOLME POPPY and Magical Bale delighted connections with their respective victories in the semi-finals of the ECC Timber Puppy Derby (500m) at Towcester on Saturday - two races which have paved the way for the final of the richest puppy race in the GBGB Calendar, live on Sky Sports on Wednesday.

Roxholme Poppy was first up, as the March 2016 daughter of Aero Majestic and Pookies Sophie came from last to first to catch long-time leader Headford Kev (Kevin Hutton) and Lightfoot King (Elaine Parker) in 29.81sec, the slower time reflecting the crowded nature of the race with the winner having to overcome a bump as first-bend trouble involved most of the field including favourite Sporting Dave.

“She’s done it well, especially considering the position she was in early,” said trainer Hayley Keightley afterwards, “but she stays well and certainly has something about her. She’s a big baby still, of course, but had clocked some good times in trials and we always felt she’d go well here - it’s just she’s struggled with the first bend here.”


Mark Keightley, husband of the trainer, added: “Hopefully she’ll get it right on Wednesday, or certainly improve - which we’re hopeful she will. She’s young, of course, but we might think about the Oaks with her. It’s a race we won last year with Forest Twilight. She doesn’t have the experience of Forest Twilight but has lots of talent.”


Keightley, who will be at Towcester on Wednesday not just to prepare Roxholme Poppy’s ECC Puppy Derby bid but also collect, with connections, Roxholme Nidge’s GBGB/GWA Greyhound of the Month trophy for September, confirmed that kennelmate Roxholme Magic will be entered for the Colossus Bets TV Trophy which starts at the Northamptonshire venue on Saturday.


Magical Bale, a kennelmate of fellow qualifier Headford Kev, ensured Kevin Hutton will be doubly represented in Wednesday’s £20,000 decider when impressively landing an all-the-way victory for his team of owners in the second semi-final in a fast 29.24sec, leading home Affleck Bolt (Patrick Janssens) and Irish raider Innocent Times (Brendan Matthews) in what was just his third race.


“He was bought as a good dog, but it was still a big ask for an unraced pup in such a big competition as this. He’s already given us plenty of fun, but he’s also one for next year and the Derby, of course. There are 11 of us involved in him, and I’m pretty sure all will be here on Wednesday!


“Obviously how he handles the quick runs will be key. It’s not something he’s ever had to do before, but it’s great to have two in the final here at Towcester. Headford Kev is the more experienced of our pair and is showing great pace to lead up. He needs to get away from them again, but has continued his Romford Puppy Cup form well.”


Wednesday’s final forms part of a busy period for the GBGB’s newest venue with Tuesday seeing heats of the Servoca Nursing & Care British Bred Derby, and Saturday seeing the Colossus Bets TV Trophy heats. The finals of both of these competitions, plus the £5,000-to-the-winner three-runner Star Sports Shootout, take place live on Sky on Wednesday, November 29.


In trials before racing on Saturday, TV Trophy contender Shellam Delano (Angela Harrison) impressed with 28.03sec (normal) return for 480m in a two-dog workout. He recently landed the Great North Run over six bends at Newcastle and will be stepping up in trip for the two-run £8,000-to-the-winner competition. Another TV Trophy-bound runner Slick Strauss (Patrick Janssens) clocked 41.55sec for the 686m distance.

Wendesday’s Puppy Derby final draw: 1 Lightfoot King, 2 Magical Bale (m), 3 Affleck Bolt (m), 4 Roxholme Poppy (w), 5 Innocent Times (w), 6 Headford Kev (w).