Southern raiders crash the party

BIG-TIME WINNER: All smiles as Loughteen Blanco wins the big race of the night, the Classic.

BIG-TIME WINNER: All smiles as Loughteen Blanco wins the big race of the night, the Classic.

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It looked to be all set up for the northern contingent on finals night of the William Hill-sponsored UK Festival of Greyhound Racing – before the southern raiders crashed the party by taking the Sunderland competition’s two big races.

Kelly Macari – one of the top trainers not only in the area but also the country, enjoyed an early double on the night courtesy of Mill Whiskers – who won the SR Transport European Couriers Stakes – shortly before she saw success in the £3,000 Festival Flyer – one of the highlight supporting races, with Mill Bullseye.

After the Macari double, the local fans were hopeful the good run could continue. The northern kennels were well represented throughout, with great chances in the two big races – including one of Kelly’s kennel stars, Mill Bling Bling, who was a fancied dog in the williamhill.com Classic.

The williamhill.com Grand Prix final – which boasts a first prize of £15,000 to the winning connections – was dominated in the betting by legendary local Jimmy Wright. He had trained the winners of this particular race twice, and was represented by the favourite Derrane Jake. Many will remember Yarmouth trainer Mark Wallis, who enjoyed success both the big events at last year’s Festival, and took dead aim at a title-defence with a trio of finalists in the six-bend race. Neither Jimmy or Mark were to see more Grand prix glory however, as Swabys Princess, from the Romford-based kennel of Paul Young, landed the spoils.

The most prestigious race on the card – the £25,000 williamhill.com Classic – had a 50 per cent chance of the trophy staying in the area, with three of the six greyhounds, Wells Honour, Mill Bling Bling and Blue Artisan, all hailing from local yards. However, it was Hove handler Seamus Cahill who would land the biggest event of the Festival, when Loughteen Blanco broke well and was not to be caught, leaving Wells Honour and Droopys Loner to follow him home.

William Hill spokeswoman Lucy Rhodes said “This year’s festival attracted top greyhounds from all over the country – even entrants from across the Irish sea – and it’s been a fantastic competition. Naturally many punters’ favourites from neighbouring kennels were out in force, but the southerners swooped late to deny the locals of the main events. However you can be sure they’ll be back next year to keep some of the sport’s top trophies in the region”