Hayley Keightley sent out her 11th Cat 1 winner with Roxholme Nidge performing like a 1-2f should in the GMG Steel City Cup, but had it not been for kennelhand Craig Morris, the silver brindle would probably have spent the evening in Mark Keightley’s office.
Unbeaten to the final, the 2017 Romford Puppy Cup winner broke moderately but soon accelerated into an early lead. Although Nadurra Ross reduced the deficit to a length and a half, there can be no doubt that Roxholme Nidge looks every bit as good as the hound who won nine from 11 opens prior to a void trial at Doncaster in December when he cracked a bone at the back of his hock.
Mark said: “I was delighted with the performance, not least because he won it without everything going right for him. He didn’t smash the traps, but had to rely on his early pace to win it.
“It might be our 11th Cat One, but in some ways, it was the best. It was certainly the most surreal, given everything we have been through with the dog.
“He damaged the bone when he got it caught behind the hare rail and it blew up to a point I was convinced he spend the rest of his days in my office. I took him to (physio) George Drake who was more optimistic. He said the bone wasn’t displaced and we should persevere with him. We had the injury blistered and we restricted him in a small paddock. When we got to May, George said, ‘Have you galloped that silver brindle dog yet?’
“I told him I couldn’t face doing it but we had kept swimming him every day. Eventually we gave him a gallop and he galloped terribly. He wasn’t lame, but he just wasn’t fluent. George could find nothing wrong. We gave him another gallop and he definitely improved, but he still wasn’t himself.
“Hayley and I then went on holiday to Portugal and when we were away, we spoke to Craig who said, ‘I know you couldn’t face doing it but I’ve given Nidge a 350 yard gallop behind the drag, and . . . . you have a Nidge back’.
“To be honest, you can get so pessimistic waiting for things to go wrong, that when they all go right, it is hard to take it in. If all continues to go to plan, we will hopefully be looking at the Henlow Derby.”
Although no strangers to big race success, Mark Keightley admits to enjoying the Tuesday night meeting at Sheffield more than any other meeting that he can recall.
He said: “I’d stopped enjoying going racing and had to be persuaded to go to Sheffield. I am so glad I did. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I woudn’t say it was an enormous crowd but there were so many doggie folk there. It was like the old days.
“I know people always say, ‘I’d like to thank the management’ and it is a bit of a cliche, but I really would like to thank John Gilburn, Dave Perry and the rest of the staff. The meal was superb, the hospitality was exceptional and there was a real buzz about the place. I realise some of the tracks are struggling a little bit due to other things going on, but great credit for still giving it everything.”