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


ROXHOLME NIDGE (pictured in action in last year's Romford Puppy Cup) again stole the show with another faultless performance in the semi-finals of the GMG Steel City Cup at Sheffield on Tuesday.


The ante-post favourite, off the track for ten months before the 500m competition, delighted connections with another pillar-to-post victory as he clocked one of the fastest times of the year at the Owlerton venue - just two runs into his comeback.


Breaking in front, last year’s Romford Puppy Cup and Sunderland Puppy Plate winner was soon clear and never looked in danger, crossing the line almost three lengths clear of the staying-on Down To The Felt (Heather Dimmock) and Nadurra Ross (John McLachlan).


Mark Keightley, husband of trainer Hayley, said: “There was a small wobble on leaving the traps, but other than that Nidge was paw-perfect again. We’re on this journey of his comeback, and so far, all is good. He returned in good shape.”


Keightley conceded the 500m distance is as far as the November 2015 son of Droopys Nidge and Silver Dollar wants but is delighted with the way he is handling the South Yorkshire track.


“There’s no doubt he’s bang on his ‘max’ distance-wise, but there’s no hiding place at Sheffield as the track allows you to be running flat out from lids-rise. For that reason, it’s the quickest-running 500 in the UK - and probably the world.


“If I’m lucky enough to catch one of the firms with a multiple bet anytime soon I’ll make sure the Derby comes to Yorkshire!


“Joking aside, this little dog is brilliant and, while we can only take one step at a time and not get in front of ourselves, it’d be a sin not to be overwhelmed by his two runs back and long may he continue to progress - starting next week.”


The Keightleys will be double handed in next week’s £7,500 final after Roxholme Ray stayed on behind the Colin Handford-trained Airfield Penny, who led approaching the final bend before going on to score from his rival by two and a half lengths.


The third qualifying place went to last year’s Steel City Cup runner-up Dropzone (Elaine Parker) who was led from the boxes by local hope Geelo Sapphire but ranged upsides that rival into the third bend, the pair drifting wide which allowed the eventual winner through.


Of Roxholme Ray, a finalist in Sheffield’s 3 Steps To Victory until his withdrawal from the final, Mark Keightley added: “Ray again showed resilience to qualify from a tough position at the boxes, and any sort of fluke break in the final brings him into the mix.


“I really do feel that around the more narrow tracks, where he’s had to track cleverly, he’s a match for anything given the chance. Him making the final completed a happy night for us -  for Hayley and myself, Craig Morris and Ian Sutherland.


“Ian, who has joined us from Charlie Lister, made his ‘debut’ for us at Sheffield and his arrival here can only further contribute to our already established team. We’re delighted to have him on board and wish Charlie - a legend to us all - a very happy retirement.” 


Mat Stagg, Sheffield’s racing manager, said he was more than happy with the way the event has unfolded, commenting: “We had two excellent semi-finals - Roxholme Nidge is showing he’s back to his best, again pinging the lids and getting clear from the rest.


“He’ll take some beating in the final, but Airfield Penny was a good but surprise winner in the second semi, although Geelo Blissful was a very unlucky loser as she looked to be away until badly crowded out by Dropzone.


“I still think Nadurra Ross has a big part to play in the final, however. We haven't seen the best from him yet. If he can find his trapping boots, he’s sure to be in with a shout. He ran great here over four bends in the 3 Steps and runs the track well.”


Trap draw and form for Tuesday’s final: 1 Nadurra Ross, 2 Roxholme Nidge, 3 Dropzone (m), 4 Down To The Felt (w), 5 Airfield Penny (w), 6 Roxholme Ray (w).