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Betfred Eclipse - Nottingham 500m - £8,000

BUBBLY BLUEBIRD, unbeaten in the competition, gained revenge over his Select Stakes conqueror Dorotas Wildcat to land a thrilling £8,000 Betfred Eclipse Final at Nottingham on Tuesday - and set up a likely three-way clash between that pair and close-up Bruisers Bullet in next week’s Star Sports Shootout at Towcester.

In a race billed as the best Eclipse final in a decade, it was the Paul Young-trained flyer who grabbed gold to win his first major competition of 2017 after a number of close calls, last year’s GBGB Newcomer of the Year responding to the cheers of his legion of supporters on the terraces to nose ahead as the line approached.

From the traps it was Droopys Expert and Bubbly Bluebird who broke narrowly in front, but Dorotas Wildcat was soon alongside and the trio went to the bend line abreast, with the last-named Kevin Hutton-trained Select Stakes winner marginally ahead and bravely cutting the bend to take up the running.

It was at this point that All England Cup winner Droopys Expert (Angela Harrison) was squeezed out between Bubbly Bluebird and Dorotas Wildcat, with Bruisers Bullet (Mark Wallis) forced to check his stride in behind also, having paced up behind the front trio. However, it was Wildcat who now stretched out down the far side in front.

Hutton’s dog had edged out Bubbly Bluebird and Droopys Buick in a terrific Select Stakes, but could not shake off the Champagne Club-owned three-year-old who gradually closed the gap, drew alongside up the home-straight and nosed ahead on the line in one of the best ever Eclipse finishes, given Bruisers Bullet was just behind them.

Miriam Young, wife of trainer Paul, said: “He’d been in fantastic form all week, and deserves this. He’s a special dog for myself and Paul and we’re so proud. He’s a nervous dog on parade and at presentations, but has a big heart. It’s a big team effort, so well done everyone at home - the staff, vets and physios. We’re really pleased.”

Trainer Young added: “He did what he had to do and showed he can come from off the pace. Plenty of people have knocked the dog, but he’s silenced a few tonight! It was a great line-up, so to win is special. We’ll go to Towcester now for the Shootout - he won well there on Derby final night so well look forward to that now.”

‘Bubbly Club’ chairman Fluin added: “We always support the dogs win or lose, but we felt he was underestimated tonight. He was the only unbeaten runner, with the best splits, so had every chance. But you always need a slice of luck - but to win from off the pace is fantastic for the dog and for all of us.

“It’s a total privilege to be involved with Bluebird, the Youngs and the members of the club. It also meant a lot to be involved in this race, a brilliant race. Last year was incredible for him and us, and there were people who doubted he could get back up there. To be honest he’s not been that far away.

“He was unlucky in the Derby, but won well on final night. He reached the Yarmouth Derby final, but didn’t get a run, and also finished close-up in the Select Stakes. Last year he had the luck, tonight he’s had the luck which all big-race winners need. It was a fantastic field of great dogs. It doesn’t mean we’re the best - but we were the best tonight.

“As a puppy he won the GBGB Newcomer of the Year - and was pretty much runner-up in the Greyhound of the Year race. In last year’s Eclipse he was beaten by a magnificent greyhound in Droopys Buick, who you saw win tonight. Bluebird’s come back well and there’s still one or two races left for us this year. We’re not done yet.”

A superb supporting card saw notable victories in the sprint for John Lambe’s Affane Party, plus Angela Harrison’s 2016 Betfred Eclipse champion and reigning Greyhound of the Year Droopys Buick who gamely reeled in Knockard Spring. Retirement has been spoken of by connections, with a bid for the upcoming Laurels at Newcastle an alternative.

Mark Pearson, head of media for sponsors Betfred, said: “What a fantastic night it’s been! A great supporting card and a wonderful final - with a close up and another great greyhound racing story in the return of Bubbly Bluebird. But they all played their part, with Wildcat and Bullet also running big, big races.

“It’s been another great Eclipse sponsorship and we’re proud to be associated with two of Nottingham’s major events - the Select Stakes and the Eclipse. The Sky Sports coverage has again been top-notch, and my thanks to the Corden family here, but also to Dave Baldwin, general manager here, who leaves Nottingham tonight for the GBGB.

“We wish Dave all the best in his new role as an area stipendiary steward and thank him for all his hard work and organisational skills!”