LIZ MCNAIR took the training plaudits as the first major four-bend competition of 2020 kicked off at Hove on Saturday with heats of the Coral Winter Derby.

The second running of the £10,000-to-the-winner competition, staged over the Sussex track’s new 500m distance, witnessed a treble for Central Park handler McNair as brothers King Sheeran (29.18sec, -10) and King Lennon (29.60sec, -10) obliged, as did kennelmate Queen Dolly (29.55sec, -10).

“It was a brilliant night, because we also had a winner with young King Bruno on the supporting card. He’s from the latest Skate On litter which are doing great, but Sheeran was again the star. He’s running superb and Hove just plays to his strengths – we couldn’t be happier with him.”

The British Bred Greyhound of the Year, whose successes were celebrated at last week’s GBGB Awards in London, won the Coral Greyhound Olympic at Hove at the backend of last year and now eyes a notable Hove big-race double given he is favourite now to lift the first Category One prize of 2020.

Fastest heat winner was the Matt Dartnall-trained Killeacle Gus (29.16sec, -10) as the exciting April 2018 whelp led off the second bend to win by almost four lengths from Sonic Spur (Chris Akers), while the other heats went to Erica Samuels’ Jakes Magic (29.68sec, -10) and Heather Dimmock’s Make No Apologie (29.24sec, -10).

Brian Murphy, stadium manager at the Coral track, said: “It was a great night’s racing with some really good performances and Saturday’s semi-finals promise to be equally competitive. The 500m distance is working really well, trainers love it, and it’s proving the perfect test of speed and stamina.

“We’ve just celebrated out first Hall of Fame night and Saturday, February 15, will be another special night here. We’re staging the Coral Winter Derby Final, but the supporting gala will also be special given we’re staging a £1,000-to-the-winner one-off invitation (500m) to welcome Derek Knight into the Hall of Fame also.

“Derek is very much part of Hove’s history, a fantastic trainer, and absolutely deserves to be alongside George Curtis on the Hall of Fame here. Even many years after George retired, he could still be found working at Derek’s kennels. Not only has Derek been a great friend to George, his record as a trainer stands up to any.

“We plan an exciting February with the Hall of Fame, the Coral Winter Derby and various offers for our customers – the latest being that, on selected days, kids can eat free in the Skyline Restaurant. We also plan to offer free entry on finals night (February 15) to anyone who was here on either Feb 1 or Feb 8 for the heats or semis and picked up a voucher in the programme.”

*Trap draw for Saturday’s semi-finals: