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GMG Steel City Cup - Sheffield 500m - £10,000


ROXHOLME NIDGE (Pictured above winning Romford Puppy Cup last year) returned to the track after a ten-month absence in the best possible style with victory in heat one of the GMG Steel City Cup (500m) at Sheffield on Tuesday.


Hayley Keightley’s runner, winner of the Puppy Plate at Sunderland and Romford Puppy Cup last year, chipped a bone at the back of a hock in a trial at Doncaster last year - and retirement had been an option for the precocious November 2015 son of Droopys Nidge and Silver Dollar.


However, nursed back to fitness by his trainer and her team at their Newark base, Roxholme Nidge equalled the sprint track record in a Sheffield trial, before clocking a decent 480m time the following week back at the south Yorkshire venue, despite missing the break. Nevertheless, connections were still nervous as he went to traps.


“There was certainly a big deep breath as he went to the boxes,” said Mark Keightley, the trainer’s husband. “But after a decent start, some 40 seconds later when he arrived safely at the pick-up he’d completed his comeback in the best way possible. It was a vintage performance from a gentleman of a greyhound.”


Never headed, Roxholme Nidge raced to a 4.25sec sectional on his way to a 28.66sec success, winning by three and a half lengths from Quivers Phoenix (Heather Dimmock) - just the first two qualifying for Tuesday’s semi-finals of the £10,000-to-the-winner Category One event.


“He’s 30kg of courage, conviction and pure class - and has just made everyone in the kennel feel like it was all worth it again,” added Keightley. “When Hiya Butt retired, it was Nidge we all prayed would get back our ‘mojo’ - and no disrespect meant to the remainder of our kennel here. All have the ability to beat anything on their day.


“But when Butt landed at any track, and it’s now the same with Nidge, the opposition have to be at their very best to beat you - that makes a big difference in this sport,” added Keightley, who also praised Roxholme Ray, who landed a double for the kennel when winning the sixth and final heat.


A finalist in the recent 3 Steps To Victory before a groin strain prevented his appearance in the Sheffield final, the October 2015 whelp took a bump at the third bend but again hit overdrive down the far side to catch Fearsome Turbo (John Marriot) and cross the line two and a half lengths clear from Nadurra Ross (John McLachlan) in 28.90sec.


Commenting on the double, Mark Keightley added: “For this kennel, last night at Sheffield must be one of the most satisfying evenings since we’ve been involved in training greyhounds. Yes, we’ve had big-race victories, landed gambles, bought dogs very cheaply and turned them into much better dogs.


“But you have to remember how devastated we all were after what was a freak accident in a trial for Nidge at Doncaster. It ended his career we believed, and were told, but complete dedication and commitment from Hayley and Craig (Morris), under the guidance of George Drake, has got him back. 



“Nidge himself was a great patient, so his win in the heats was just fantastic, as was Ray’s. It made a great night even better to see Ray win also, because in all truth he’s top drawer too when completely sound, and he’s earned his place in the semis. We’ll look forward to Tuesday now, and will hope Nidge stays sound. Anyone who loves our sport will surely hope that’s the case too.”


Fastest time of the night was clocked by the Paul Shore-trained Funk Factor who made all to beat Angel of the North Oaks winner Geelo Blissful (Carl Perry) in 28.60sec in the sixth and final qualifier.


The performance impressed Mat Stagg, assistant RM at the Owlerton Stadium, who also praised the effort of Roxholme Nidge and Heather Dimmock’s heat four winner Donation (29.25sec) after she edged out Dropzone (Elaine Parker).


He said: “It was a great comeback from Nidge. He fairly bursted out the traps and there was no catching him, but for me Donation was the standout performance. She hit trouble just about everywhere on the track and still managed to win - it was a fabulous effort from a bitch at the top of her game just now after winning the Lowther Stakes.


“I wouldn't worry that she did the slowest time of all the winners, because with a trouble-free run she’ll no doubt be near the front in her semi. I thought Funk Factor ran the track brilliantly, but Geelo Bblissful also showed tremendous early pace and clocked the fastest sectional. It was a very gutsy performance to qualify in the end.”


The other heats were won by Gary Carmichael’s Gazilly Shay (28.67sec) who led home the John Mullins-trained Rackethall Jess and Colin Handford’s Airfield Penny (28.81sec), who led at halfway on her way to beating Down To The Felt (Heather Dimmock).


Trap draw and form for Tuesday’s semi-finals: