HAVANA CLASS edged out Ivy High Skyhigh to claim a thrilling Arena Racing Company Laurels at Perry Barr last week, in the process helping Liz McNair close the gap on Patrick Janssens and Mark Wallis in the GBGB Trainer of the Year standings.

And it was the McNair and Wallis kennels which ultimately contested the finish in this latest GBGB Category One decider, with the KSS Syndicate-owned Havana Class holding firm off the front to hold Ivy High Skyhigh after one of the closest finishes in Laurels history.

The Birmingham track and sponsors Arc had brought the Laurels back to the GBGB Calendar this year – it was first run at Wimbledon in 1930 before being switched to Belle Vue and then Newcastle. It was last run in 2019 at Newcastle and won by Ice On Fire.

With the race not run last year due to the Covid pandemic, Perry Barr racing manager Martin Seal was delighted to host the Laurels in 2021 and was rewarded with a final where, heading into the fourth bend, there were still plenty in with a chance.

Havana Class broke smartly and set a furious pace up front and, while there was a coming together between him and Ivy High Skyhigh off the second bend, the

July 2019 son of World Class and Havana Lottie maintained the advantage.

However, Adeles Duke (Lee Field) and Sparta Master (Sharon Thompson) both made ground to challenge between the third and fourth bends, only to be halted in their tracks with room tight. Candy Man (Carol Weatherall) and Coolavanny Kyser (Mark Wallis) were also close up.

However, the momentum was still with Havana Class who kept his head in front and held the rallying Ivy High Skyhigh by a short-head in 28.68sec for the 480m, with Sparta Master taking third place ahead of the staying-on Candy Man.

Perry Barr RM Seal said: “It was a fantastic and very exciting Arena Racing Company Laurels Final and just capped a night of high-quality racing, which overall we were absolutely delighted with.

“In our first Arc Laurels champion Havana Class we have a greyhound firmly on the up. Boasting both searing early pace and a terrific will-to-win, I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of Liz and Rab McNair’s flying fawn.

“Credit though to runner-up Ivy Hill Skyhigh, whose never-say-die attitude so nearly landed the spoils for Mark Wallis and his owners, plus Carol Weatherall’s Candy Man deserves special mention. He came from an impossible position off the second bend to almost grab third spot in the shadow of the post – a lucrative six-bend career surely beckons for the son of Holdem Spy.

“On the undercard, Savana Volcano stole the show by eclipsing Head Iton Jordan’s 915m track record from 2007 for Diane Henry and Kevin Boothby, claiming the scalp of Aayamza Royale, the Greyhound of the Year, in the process – but one can only stand back and admire the pure quality of these two outstanding marathon bitches.

“Jumeirah Sprite, who reached the final of last year’s All England Cup, showed he still has an engine and Debbie Calvert and Jimmy Buckley should hopefully enjoy many more wins with their big brindle, while Lights Out showed great trackcraft to develop a winning opportunity in the final of the Arc Bitches Stake for Kevin Hutton.

“Lastly, Geelo Gold Dust was dwarfed by most of her rivals in the Sky Sports Racing Dash Final, but Carl Perry’s bitch is as brave as a lion and will make a fantastic brood when she finally hangs up her muzzle – but not until a good few more top performances.

“I must offer my thanks to all the team here at Perry Barr who worked so hard to put on a great show for what is an historic competition. There has been a real buzz about the place throughout the whole event.”

Results: www.gbgb.org.uk/meeting/?meetingId=372746&raceId=732541