ROXHOLME JIM was quickest in the heats of the Carling Eclipse at Nottingham on Monday as the Colwick Park venue played host to some high-class performers and performances as the Category One event kicked off with six heats over 500m.

Trained by Hayley Keightley, Roxholme Jim was soon clear in heat three, winning by three lengths from Small But Deadly (Pat Rosney) in 29.21sec, the fifth fastest time of the year at the track – comparing favourably to some of the fast times posted during the Derby.

Roxholme Jim reached the quarter-finals of the premier Classic – going out behind eventual winner Priceless Blake – before making the Steel City Cup Final at Sheffield behind kennelmate Roxholme Nidge. More recently, he finished second to Ice On Fire in the All England Cup Final at Newcastle.

With the kennel’s Roxholme Glory always in the mix in a crowded affair in heat two, won by fast-finishing Ballymac Diego (Kevin Hutton), it was a fine evening’s work for the Newark-based kennels of Hayley Keightley, as husband Mark confirmed.

“It was a great night for us, given the quality of the runners on show,” said Keightley. “Glory looked to have done the hard bit when leading up, but when King Cash comes out of the second bend with momentum he’s far from a fool.

“However after a coming together with that rival between bends three and four I’m just delighted he’s in the semi-finals. He’s a really consistent greyhound.

“Jim did what he does best – bullying dogs only as good as him. He needs no second invitation to win, he’s an honest greyhound and I still maintain he’s overachieved all his career – he’s a half a length short of the best greyhounds either side of the Irish Sea.

“However, when all is said and done, we are lucky to have him. I would never pass his lead to another trainer – he’s a great dog for the ride! We now look forward to the semis – and it’s well done Team Roxholme –  Hayley, Craig and Alex!”

Ballymac Ambrose, the pride of Belle Vue, was equally impressive in winning heat five as the Bev Heaton-trained runner overcame a tussle with Waikiki Lad (Philip Simmonds) early before going clear to win by two and a quarter lengths in 29.24sec.

In leading home Kent Derby winner Forest Alan (Seamus Cahill), Ballymac Ambrose was less than half a length slower than Roxholme Jim – a top-class effort from the dog who equalled Barnfield On Air’s four-bend clock at the Manchester track earlier this year.

All England Cup and Puppy Classic winner Ice On Fire started his bid for a third Category One title when winning the opening heat, pacing up to lead but always being pressed by Swift Fabio (Kim Billingham) before King Dylan (Liz McNair) finished well. The winning time was 29.71sec.

The other heats were won by Steve Anderson’s Newcastle raider Bramble Reggie (29.58sec), who led home another Liz McNair qualifier in Derby semi-finalist King Sheeran, while the latter’s kennelmate King Lennon finished third behind Romeo Rumble (29.55sec) in heat six.

The British Breeders Stakes winner was completing a good few days for John Mullins after Saving Sonic’s Gold Collar victory at Crayford on Saturday. Runner-up here was Plaza Lep (Lynn Cook), who led early until the winner swooped close home.

Nottingham director Rachel Corden said: “It was a good night’s racing, reflecting the quality of entry which was fabulous. It made the job harder for the racing office to whittle the field down to 36 from 60 but left us with some high-quality heats.”

Commenting on the action, Nottingham racing manager Jason Smith added: “Roxholme Jim was very impressive, just two lengths off the track record, and Ballymac Ambrose was only a neck slower.

“It was good to see the ante-post favourite Ice On Fire start his campaign in winning style, although he was pressed throughout by Swift Fabio. Ice On Fire has trap four in the semis which looks more suitable and so he should improve.”

Trap draw for Monday’s semi-finals:-

First semi: 1 Ballymac Ambrose, 2 Small But Deadly, 3 Plaza Lep, 4 Ballymac Diego, 5 King Sheeran (w), 6 King Cash (w).

Second semi: 1 Waikiki Lad, 2 Roxholme Jim, 3 King Lennon, 4 Ice On Fire, 5 Forest Alan (m), 6 Romeo Rumble (w).

Third semi: 1 Bramble Reggie, 2 Ballymac Osby, 3 Roxholme Glory, 4 King Dylan, 5 Droopys Trapper (m), 6 Swift Fabio (w).