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SIS Yorkshire St Leger - Doncaster 661m - £12,000


ROXHOLME POPPY landed her first Category One event with a powerful performance in the SIS Yorkshire St Leger Final (661m) at Doncaster on Monday - as Hayley Keightley’s kennel won a second major competition in less than a week.


After Roxholme Nidge completed his incredible comeback with victory in the Steel City Cup at Sheffield, another Yorkshire track provided the stage for the Keightleys to progress further up the Trainer of the Year standings with another huge success.


Breaking smartly in the £12,000 final, Roxholme Poppy was soon challenged by defending champion Keplar Nine, and it was Chris Akers’ runner who set the tempo again as he eyed a repeat victory having scored for the now-retired Charlie Lister OBE last year.


Both Keplar Nine and Roxholme Poppy were soon clear of the rest and seemingly had the race in safe-keeping with the latter beginning to press the leader down the far side second time round before challenging and then passing him at the penultimate turn.


However, making ground from off the back was Slippy Maggie, Hazel Kemp’s Crayford Kent St Leger winner, who produced a stirring run and powered into second on the run for home, finishing a length and three-quarters behind Roxholme Poppy in 41.74sec (-45).


On behalf of winning connections - owners Martin Green, Hayley Keightley, Duncan Lambie, Emily Mackey - Mark Keightley, husband of the winning trainer, said the March 2016 daughter of Aero Majestic and Pookies Sophie deserved this success.


He said: “Poppy capped off a stellar week for all involved at ‘Roxholme’ - Hayley, Craig, Ian and longstanding supporters of the kennel, Martin (Green) and Duncan (Lambie) - and we’re just all delighted with how things have turned out.


“It seemed throughout the year we were pretty quiet big-race wins-wise, but we made endless finals and things just haven't gone right on the night, for whatever reason. But how it’s changed over the last seven days - I’d like to think its normal service resumed!


“There was huge relief when Poppy trapped so well - that is proving key to her. She was always getting outpaced for four bends, at least by Keplar Nine, who ran a fantastic race for Chris (Akers) and his new kennelhand Charlie Lister!


“Chris has done a great job with him, clearly, but Keplar seemed to protect his lead fantastically well. Every racing line Poppy took, Keplar took the same. Eventually at bend five she pressured him enough to pass outside and at that stage victory was hers.


“The final itself was full of class - probably the best six-bend final for years. Our bitch had unfinished business with both Ela Juliet and Slippy Maggie who had beaten us previously in the last two finals at Monmore and Crayford.


“Therefore, it was extra special to prove we could be a gold medalist when coming up against those two talented rivals. She’s 27 kilos of pure class and hopefully can go on from this to many more great, winning nights.


“I thought the track was in super condition, even if on the slow side, and everyone in Doncaster put on a great show. It was a terrific night in Yorkshire, some fantastic prize-money, and as owners and trainers, we want more of the same please.”


Meanwhile, Hazel Kemp, trainer of runner-up Slippy Maggie, is to target her star stayer at the Perry Barr St Leger next month - and was overall delighted with the effort which the Peterborough trainer believes was her best yet.


“She ran a superb race,” said Kemp. “She just met Ela Juliet at the wrong time when starting her run, which meant she had to go around her, but when she saw daylight she gained lengths, but Poppy got a great run. Well done to them.


“I think on the night it was generally running better on the outside, but that’s racing, and we enjoyed the evening. It was great entertainment from start to finish, and we’ll look forward to Perry Barr - but after a short rest for her.”