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

DROOPYS VERVE, last year’s Derby runner-up, set the standard in the heats of the RPGTV Steel City Cup as the Category One event kicked off at Sheffield on Saturday.

Heading up a high-class field along with defending champion Roxholme Nidge (Hayley Keightley), who won the competition when it was staged in October last year, Droopys Verve made no mistake as he was soon in command in heat two.

Pacing up into the lead as the bend approached, Angela Harrison’s All England Cup champion stretched out quickly and was soon clear, the two-year-old coming through to score by three and three-quarter lengths from Down To The Felt (Heather Dimmock).

“I didn’t think he came away that well, but his pace is exceptional and he’s run brilliantly after. Changing his seeding has worked wonders, and for his first competition of the year we’re hopeful he can come forward,” she said after her runner’s 28.69sec (-10) success.

Harrison’s partner Jimmy Wright added: “He’s run two good races at Sheffield now. He looked in an impossible position the previous week, but came through well and it was more  straightforward in the heats. Fingers crossed it continues that way!

“We’re hopeful he’ll be a more stronger dog this year. Some of the things he did as a pup in the Derby last year was amazing for a dog so young. It’ll be the Trainers’ Championship here, then the Scottish Derby, then the English Derby for him.”

Next quickest on the night was a superb 28.70sec from the Sean Parker-trained Lightfoot King as he came again to beat leader and defending champion Roxholme Nidge by three and a quarter lengths in 28.70sec (-10).

The other heats were won by the Barrie Draper-trained Droopys Wild (29.10sec -10), Kevin Boon’s Swan Style (28.93sec -10), Hayley Keightley’s Roxholme Jim (28.98sec -10) and the Sue Watson-trained Swift Jim (29.13sec -10).

Mat Stagg, the Sheffield racing manager, described the first round of the RPGTV Steel City Cup as “probably the best night of racing I’ve seen at Sheffield in the nine years I’ve been here!” and made the victory of Lightfoot King his pick of the winners.

He said: “We had some excellent greyhounds running round here in some fantastic heats, but the standout performance for myself was Lightfoot King. He showed tremendous pace to lead Roxholme Nidge up and then keep tabs with him before going on.

“In fact, from the third bend onwards he looked very impressive, although I do think Roxholme Nidge will improve for the run and, getting trap two two in the semis, will be a massive advantage for him.

“Droopys Verve, who recorded the fastest time on the night, has drawn trap one in the third semi which I think could be a slight disadvantage, but for me the best drawn dog in the semis is Swift Jim who’s drawn trap one in the first semi. He was a good winner on Saturday.”

Saturday’s semi-finals:-

First semi: 1 Swift Jim, 2 Ballymartin Hero, 3 Swan Style, 4 Droopys Wild, 5 Roxholme Jim (m), 6 Trade Fudge (w).

Second semi: 1 Droopys Expert, 2 Roxholme Nidge, 3 Small But Deadly, 4 Ballymac Miscula, 5 Russanda Ripley (m), 6 Lemon Ronald (m).

Third semi: 1 Droopys Verve, 2 Lostrigg Freddy, 3 Headford Johnny, 4 Lightfoot King (m), 5 Bramble Reggie (m), 6 Down To The Felt (w).