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A hectic schedule with plenty to look forward to
IT’s a huge night both sides of the Irish Sea on Thursday with the culmination of the William Hill Festival of Racing at Sunderland with almost £64,000 up for grabs and Dundalk featuring the Euro 20,000 Boylesports.com International (total fund of 37,000 Euros).
Starting in the north-east, Sunderland promises a brilliant evening’s racing with high-class fields in both the £25,000 Williamhill.com Classic decider over 450m and £15,000 Williamhill.com Grand Prix final over 640m.
The Classic is a real north v south affair with Blue Artisan, Mill Bling Bling and Wells Honour going into battle for the locals, while Droopys Loner, Holycross Prince and Loughteen Blanco are the long-distance raiders. It is the very epitome of what a UK Festival should produce.
It’s almost the same scenario in the Grand Prix with north-east duo Derrane Jake and Pond Shefelia taking on a trio from Mark Wallis’s kennels in the shape of Ballintine Molly, Dixies Air and Swift Reagan plus Paul Young’s Swabys Princesss.
Of the trainers who have made it through, only Wallis, Wells Honour’s handler Craig Dawson and Derrane Jake’s Jimmy Wright have tasted success previously in the feature events during the history of the Festival which stretches back to 2007.
Dawson won the Classic in 2010 with Target Classic, Wallis had taken that event 12 months earlier with Jogadusc Ace before his memorable evening 12 months ago when winning both Category Ones with Blonde Snapper and Blonde Fletch, while Wright has an amazing record in the Grand Prix.
He was very much the power behind the throne as assistant when Graham Hutt landed the inaugural running with Go Edie Honda and then went back-to-back in his own right with Crown Rover in 2009 and England Expects in 2010. He had two finalists last year as well.
This time, his Derrane Jake has been the story of the Festival in many regards, He was a good points scorer for Newcastle in the Bags Track Championship last year with two wins and a second in three starts as they made the final and then performed creditably in opens early this year before hitting a rich vein of form at just the opportune moment.
Whilst the eyes of the greyhound world were on Wimbledon on May 26 to see last year’s Classic winner Blonde Snapper sign off his career with Derby victory, Derrane Jake was sauntering to a seven lengths top grade success over four bends at Newcastle which precipitated a run of six wins bringing him into this final.
He was 25-1 at the outset, but has not seen a rival in either heat or semi, dominating from the outset on both occasions as he twice clocked the fastest time. He is deservedly favourite and a shortening one at that.
There should be a bumper crowd at Sunderland and I will be amongst them, whereas 12 months ago when there was not a direct clash I headed to Dundalk to see an international won by Definate Opinion for the second successive year.
He was retired afterwards so someone else gets a crack at Boylesports’ largesse this time around with the betting headed by Milldean Panther and Irish Derby champion Razldazl George.
It’s a strange race in some regards comprising six railers, Milldean Panther having fared worst on paper with the outside draw, while half the field are returning from absences of one sort or another. In the circumstances, a case can perhaps be made for Oaks winner Milldean Tally, notionally John O’Flynn’s second string behind Milldean Panther, to get one over her male rivals.
Looking ahead, the Betfred Select Stakes and Select Stayers Stakes are on the horizon at Nottingham next Wednesday with the draws live on SIS on Friday, which is the deadline for members of the Greyhound Trainers’ Association to get their votes to the GBGB offices ahead of the count there on Monday morning to determine whether Ricky Holloway or John Simpson will succeed Norah McEllistrim.
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