DROOPYS VERVE will start a hot favourite to land back-to-back wins in the event for Angela Harrison when he lines up in next week’s £10,000-to-the-winner William Hill All England Cup Final at Newcastle.

The Derby runner-up and Dundalk International winner made all in the second semi-final of the 480m Category One annual on a night where his chief market rival and first round conqueror, Affane Party, suffered a career-ending injury (see separate story).

Just leading at the bend after breaking smartly, Droopys Verve tore clear down the back-straight to win by four and a half lengths in 28.12sec (normal) from the staying-on Gazilly Shay – so giving him a chance to emulate kennelmate Droopys Expert’s win last year.

“He ran great, and it was just good to see him come away,” said Jimmy Wright, partner and assistant of trainer Angela Harrison. “He’s only missed the break a few times, in the Derby final, at Monmore and then last week in the heats.

“Generally, he’s pretty good. Ideally, we’d like to have had three or four, but you’ve got to be satisfied with tonight and hopefully he’ll come forward again. It was good to see him get his head in front early this time.”

Affane Party, brilliant in the heats, again led in the opening semi-final, but something was soon amiss when he was passed by William Hill Classic winner Allowdale Bruno (Harry Williams) off the second bend, before Holdem Zidane (Carol Weatherall) (28.70sec) finished fastest to claim the honours.

Carol Weatherall’s consistent sort now lines up in another major final having made the deciders of both the Monmore Gold Cup and Sunderland Classic, while veteran trainer Williams eyes a fourth success in the ‘North East Derby’.

He first won the famous competition back in 1988 with Pond Hurricane, followed up with New Level in 1992 and then again with Mags Gamble in 2012. He is naturally delighted to have made another All England Cup final, as wife Rita confirmed.

“We’re proud and delighted to be involved in another Category One race, especially with Bruno who’s an absolute star,” she said. “This is the race Harry loves. He has won it three times, as far back as 1988, and it’s great to be involved again.

“Harry probably feels he left Bruno off too long after the Classic, and it’s taken a few races to get him fit, but he bounced out this morning and is raring to go again. He has great early and bend-craft, although 480m is just too far. However, he’ll be fitter still next week.”

The third semi-final went to the Billy Thompson-trained Falcon Bay (28.66sec) who made all the running to claim gold ahead of the fast-finishing Greenwell Jet – making it a Scottish-trained one-two as local hope Bramble Milburn was just edged out.

The winner was having his penultimate race for Thompson – the dog have been bought by owner Nic Jeal and set to head to Matt Dartnall’s kennel after next week’s final of a race which Mark Cranston, Newcastle commentator, is keenly looking forward to.

He said: “It was certainly an eventful night, not all for the right reasons, and it was sad to see Affane Party pull up as he did. But it means that all eyes now turn towards Droopys Verve to put on a show in the final – he’ll certainly have most support.

“After last week’s mishap at the boxes, he soon put things right with a terrific performance and was comfortably quicker than anything else. However, it might not be all plain sailing for Verve given he’s got trap two in the final.

“It will be a different challenge for him and connections have admitted it’s not ideal. Perhaps it opens up the final more than the bookies’ prices would have you believe. Mind you, he has bags of class and could easily land another All England Cup for the Conlons.

“Best of all luck to all the finalists, of course, and it should be a cracking night with other major finals being run – the William Hill Puppy and the Great North Run. The re-run Great North Run will be staged as the first race here on Saturday at 7.15pm.”

Trap draw for Thursday’s All England Cup:- 1 Greenwell Jet, 2 Droopys Verve (m), 3 Holdem Zidane (m), 4 Falcon Bay (m), 5 Allowdale Bruno (w), 6 Gazilly Shay (w).