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Lowther Stakes and TGW Graded Derby - Towcester 500/480m

TOWCESTER is the youngest of the GBGB licensed tracks and on Saturday showed how it continues to innovate, when it staged the semi-finals of the Lowther Stakes, plus the quarter-finals of the TGW Graded Derby - both events worth £10,000 to the winner.


In the Category One Lowther Stakes it was again the Matt Dartnall camp which took centre-stage with a brilliant double courtesy of Droopys Polly, who was fastest in the heats last week, and Away Shelly.


Away Shelly was first to go in winning the opening semi-final for Andrea Wylie and golfer Lee Westwood as this progressive bitch made all from Pat Cowdrill’s Image Carranna in 29.36sec for the 500m.


Defending champion Crossfield Molly narrowly missed out here, failing by a head to catch the runner-up, who finished four and a half lengths behind the winner, who has now won six of her last seven starts.


Another local trainer Kevin Hutton struck in the second semi-final as Office Flirt caught fast-starting Geelo Sapphire down the back to grab gold in 29.49sec, winning by two and a quarter lengths.


The winner, a Brighton Belle finalist last year, is owned by George and Mike Burton, and made full use of her rails slot to strike from the runner-up, who is already this year a winner of the 3 Steps To Victory title at Sheffield for Carl Perry.


The third semi-final saw the Dartnall double landed as the Mid Summer Racing syndicate-owned Droopys Polly continued her fine run of form as she trapped in front and made every post a winner.


In again clocking the fastest time of the round (29.33sec), the three-year-old led home the Derek Law-trained Tibet by three lengths, the latter thus providing big-race sponsor Mark Lowther with a finalist in next week’s decider.


The Towcester Greyhound Welfare Graded Derby is now down to the last-12 stage after Saturday’s four quarter-finals and this unique competition, solely for graded greyhounds at the Northamptonshire venue, remains hugely competitive.


The quartet of races were won by Jane Houfton’s Dunham Orlando (28.78sec), Mark Wallis’s Swift Kaylee (29.01sec), Kevin Hutton’s standard-setting Skinny Love (28.67sec) and Richard Yeates’s Chantilly Lass (28.78sec).


The event now moves on to the semi-finals which support the Lowther Stakes final gala next week, and TGW Graded Derby sponsor and Stress Racing owner Peter Keeble has been delighted with how the event has progressed.


He said: “Chris Page and his team have done a fantastic job putting the competition together, which I thought would be a tough task - to assemble enough graded greyhounds of similar ability to make it truly a Graded Derby.


“Other tracks have tried something similar, but these have tended to be for the higher end - A1/A2 dogs, many of whom are open racers. I wanted something for true graded dogs only - but wasn’t sure it could be done.


“Mick Livesey at Towcester said it could be done. I still had my doubts but offered £10,000 if Towcester could do it - and the rest is history. They staged a fantastic Derby and have now a TGW Graded Derby which I hope has been entertaining also.


“I try to go to Towcester on Tuesdays and Saturdays, firstly as the facilities are without doubt pleasing and, secondly, because I have good friends that race there. And with this event Towcester Greyhound Welfare will benefit, and that’s always be mine and Jan’s (wife) aim.


“We now look forward to the semi-finals. Sadly, due to business commitments I cannot be there on finals’ night, but on behalf of myself and the company, Gary Wiltshire will present the prize, and Jan will be present a cheque of £1,000 to the Towcester Greyhound Welfare committee.”