KEEPERHILL ABBIE set the standard at Sheffield last week as the unique Gain Nutrition 3 Steps To Victory began with six heats over 480m. The semis are over 500m ahead of a 660m decider.

The Chris Akers-trained Keeperhill Abbie posted 27.49sec (normal), the fastest of the night, ahead of Sean Parker’s Russanda Ripley (27.52sec), Charles Lynch’s Rocket John (27.69sec) and Barrie Draper’s Lostrigg Barney (27.79sec), Richard Joyce’s Settle Yourself (27.91sec) and Mark Wallis’s Chubbys Caviar (27.93sec).

Rose Draper, an RPGTV analyst and kennelhand with her father Barrie, said the Rotherham-based team were delighted with the performances of their three runners – with qualifier Lostrigg Freddy already having proven form over six bends.

“He’s one of the only dogs in the competition with winning form over all three distances,” she said. “He’s strong and I’ve never seen him be picked up after leading round the first bend, so we’re hopeful if he can just qualify from the semis.

“Lostrigg Barney should also be better suited to the 500m trip. It gives him a nice run-up to show his early pace and trap one is definitely where he wants to be. We’ve struggled getting up a run of races with him but he’s just starting to become more consistent.

“Bull Run Button is without a doubt the tightest railer in the competition for me, so she definitely has a tough draw to contend with, but she’s strong and a clear run round the first should, hopefully, see her get to the final.

“She’s been one of the kennel stars for a while now, we all love her, although as a kennel we’d be delighted if any of ours win. We won it with Ballymac Eske (2014) a few years back, which I remember well.

“That was a special, special night for all of us – and I know dad also won it with Farloe Hack (2004) ten years before that. I remember that less well – I was at primary school!”

Mat Stagg, Sheffield’s deputy racing manager, said: “After getting down from 76 entries to 36 wasn’t easy, but the heats didn’t disappoint.

“The first heat winner Keeperhill Abbie not only recorded the fastest time but also the joint-fastest sectional and looked very impressive.

“She’s drawn in with Rocket John, who looked very impressive himself and has now won five out of six opens here at Sheffield.

“Looking ahead to the second semi, Antigua Fire looks the one to take from the heats. He ran on brilliantly and the step up to 500m will be in his favour.

“As for the final semi, both Ela Juliet and Lemon Ronald found trouble in their heats but both ran on brilliantly and, again, the step up to 500m will be in their favour.”

Form for Tuesday’s semi-finals:—sheffield-adv.pdf