ROXHOLME KRISTOF, initiating a double for connections, ensured a sensational start to the 2020 Gain Nutrition 3 Steps To Victory at Sheffield on Tuesday when breaking the 480m clock at the Owlerton venue in the heats of this unique three-round competition.

Staged over 480m for the heats, then 500m for the semis and, finally and crucially, 660m for the final, the Hayley Keightley-trained two-year-old son of a former 3 Steps winner Ballymac Eske and Badminton Baby lined up as hot favourite for heat four.

It was his UK debut and he duly obliged – and how!

Pacing up to lead into the first bend, Roxholme Kristof steadily drew further and further clear and crossed the line six and a quarter lengths clear of Easy On (Gavin Holman) in 27.27sec, taking five spots off Candlelight King’s previous best for the trip.

Two races later, the Keightley double was landed by Roxholme Glory, who made a tremendous return to the track after a long injury layoff to win heat six by two lengths from Sophies Ace (Jamie Kingsley) in 27.78sec.

A delighted Mark Keightley, husband of the trainer, said: “Kristof has been over a good while now and, early on, everything was going to plan. He clocked 29.37sec in a 500m qualifying trial at Towcester but badly damaged a bottom joint in a toe.

“It was all a bit worrying as both Stefano Malegori, who did the x-ray, and George Drake were concerned as to the long-term implications of the injury, but as per usual ‘Team HK’ (Hayley Keightley and assistant Craig Morris) knuckled down to the task.

“Their TLC now sees us a few months later with a new track record holder and a greyhound that could just be anything. It’s very exciting and, certainly for 27.27sec last night, made me have a rethink about our retirement!

“We’re still on track for that, but seeing Kristof and then Glory win was brilliant. In fact, Glory’s win was even more satisfying, seeing ‘Big Bazza’ come back after seven months off after a broken hock was just great.

“I’d say he’s not breaking as well as he was before the injury but, look, that’s a minor detail. He’s a champion as far as we’re concerned – and he’s still unbeaten at Sheffield. Happy days!”

The other heats were won by Clever Airmount (27.86sec), trained by last year’s winning trainer Barrie Draper (Bull Run Button), the Patrick Janssens-trained Lenson Austin (27.81sec), Angela Harrison’s Coolavanny Bani (27.73sec) and Jodie Payne’s Coolavanny Combo (27.57sec).

Mat Stagg, Sheffield’s deputy racing manager, said: “It’s been a long time, but it was great to see open-racing back at Owlerton – and what a return!

“I thought there were some outstanding performances for the returning crowds who got to witness the 480m track record be broken by Roxholme Kristof for the Keightley.

“However I’d like to give a special mention to Sophies Ace who ran an outstanding race when finishing second – at 50-1 – to another Keightley runner in the always-impressive Roxholme Glory.

“We have one local runner through to the semis – and she’s certainly a good one. I thought Barrie Draper’s Clever Airmount showed great early speed and stayed on strongly to take her heat.

“It’s all set up for another superb night here for the semi-finals next Tuesday, which will be supported by heats of a new event for us. The Brinkleys Poet At Stud Young Guns is for pups and closes to entries on Friday.”

Semi Finals Trap Draw:

Heat 1 – 1. Roxholme Glory 2. Lissatouk Max 3. Coolavanny Bani 4. Daddys Prince 5. Droopys Catch 6. Calzaghe Edward

Heat 2 – 1. Clever Airmount 2. Savana Darn Hot 3. Rockforest Hugo 4. Roxholme Kristof 5. Sophies Ace 6. Willowdale Shane

Heat 3 – 1. Ballydoyle Bee 2. Ballymac Saga 3. Easy On 4. Ridgedale Max 5. Coolavanny Combo 6. Lenson Austin