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William Hill Festival Classic and Grand Prix - Sunderland 450m/640m - £25,000/£15,000

SUNDERLAND hosts one of the most valuable night’s racing of the year on Wednesday (July 19) as the conclusion of the William Hill Festival of Racing sees four major finals as part of a gala card - with eight races live on Sky Sports.


Saturday’s meeting at the north-east venue saw the semi-finals of the feature William Hill Classic and William Hill Grand Prix, as well as the heats of the William Hill Puppy Plate and William Hill Festival Flyer - and they produced some outstanding performances.


The £25,000-to-the-winner Classic final is the showpiece event and a top-class final on Wednesday could not be closer on paper given Droopys Country and Newinn Shadow clocked identical 27.02sec times in winning their semis.


Charlie Lister OBE’s Newinn Shadow maintained his unbeaten record when leading home Robert Gleeson’s talented Irish raider Toolmaker Obama in the third semi-final, the winner breaking well and withstanding a real challenge from the runner-up into the third bend before stretching clear.


That had followed a terrific win from Jim Hayton’s Viking Jimmy (27.33sec) in the first semi, as the son of Ballymac Vic took full advantage of hot favourite Corrin Boyshane finding trouble after missing the start to land a 10-1 surprise for connections when beating Patrick Janssens’ Barricane Jack.


The second semi saw Droopys Country bounce back from defeat in the heats to run amok, winning by nine-and-a-half-lengths from Martin Cutler’s Russelena Planet to underline what a top competition dog he is for the team of Angela Harrison, Jimmy Wright and the Conlon family.


Assistant trainer Wright said: “He’s been a great dog for us when you think he finished second to Bubbly Bluebird in last year’s Puppy Plate final at Sunderland, made the final of the Peterborough Puppy Derby and also reached the finals at Monmore (Gold Cup) and Belle Vue (Laurels).”


Looking ahead to the Sunderland final, Wright said he could have preferred a draw inside fellow wide seed Newinn Shadow. “He needs luck, for sure, between two fast starters but we know given a chance he has got great ability and certainly his record would deserve a big prize.”


Three semi-finals of the Grand Prix kicked off with a fantastic one-two for Sheffield trainer Carl Perry as Geelo Jenga (39.70sec) caught longtime leader Geelo Bullet for a big-priced forecast for connections and, more importantly, two places in Wednesday’s £15,000 final.


Incredibly, just five spots separated the three semi-final winners and fastest heat winner Swift Hansel (39.67sec) produced the goods again in the second semi when breaking fast from the inside to strike gold for Nottingham handler Annaliese Thompson in beating Droopys Tee.


The latter is another from the Robert Gleeson camp, giving the Irish handler two finalists on Wednesday’s card, while Paul Young’s all-the-way winner Glamorous Sharif (39.65sec) and Charlie Lister’s Cloran Paddy (1-5F) filled the last two Grand Prix places in the third semi, the latter gamely qualifying after a slow start and early crowding which looked to have sealed his fate.


Hayley Keightley had suffered the disappointment of having to pull out defending William Hill Classic champion Roxholme Scolari ahead of the semi-finals, but the kennel were cheered by fastest-of-the-night victories for Roxholme Nidge (26.74sec) in the Puppy Plate heats and Roxholme Hat (15.73sec) in the Festival Flyer sprint competition.


The other Festival Flyer heats were won by Gary Bailey’s Make The News (15.84sec) and Debbie Calvert’s Precisely (15.80sec), while Kevin Hutton’s Prize Fighter (27.26sec) and Angela Harrison’s exciting Droopys Expert (26.90sec) completed the set in the Puppy Plate qualifers.


The latter is a rising star in the north-east and is already drawing comparisons with kennelmate Droopys Buick, the reigning Greyhound of the Year for Harrison and Jimmy Wright, and is thrilling connections at their Alnwick kennels, with assistant Wright declaring “he’s the best pup I’ve put a lead on”.


He added “Saturday showed us something else. It was his first race under lights - probably not ideal for pups being so late on the card - but he handled it well and learned from it. He missed his break, was under pressure but came from behind a very nice bitch and then went clear.


“He’s got to break better on Wednesday, but we’ve always thought the world of him ever since Michael Dunphy phoned to say he might have one as good as Buick. That was enough for us. I said send him over, and, with luck, he’ll be aimed at the Puppy Classic at Notts after Sunderland.”


Incidentally, Wright reports that Droopys Buick, an intended runner in the Betfred Select Stakes at Nottingham on July 26, will trial at Newcastle this week in preparation for the valuable one-off, the runners for which are selected by the Greyhound Writers’ Association. “We will take him to Nottingham fresh,” said Wright.



Further information: (@sunderlanddogs) 


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