For a man who has won an English St.Leger, a Pall Mall, a Peterborough Derby, the Northern Flat and a string of other big race events, Nigel Saunders admits it was about time he ‘pulled his finger out’. And so proved the case with Blue Trooper landing the GMG Puppy Classic at Nottingham on Monday night.

The blue 4-1 chance led up off a 5.08 sectional with favourite Arthur Noodle missing her break and back in fifth slot. Although she rocketed up on the inside, the favourite would be forced to check, and was then hampered again at the third bend when looking the likely winner. Salacres Barley also ran a tremendous race for birthday boy Pete Harnden, the the tenacious Blue Trooper held on in cavalry style run to the bend.

The winning time was 30.29 (+30) with the favourite beaten a head and Barley a further short head away third. The field was covered by six lengths.

It was a first major victory for Nigel Saunders since Lisheen Angel in the 1997 North Oaks Final, though the affable Belle Vue handler took it all in his stride.

He said: “We’ve come close a couple of times though it is all down to the quality of the dogs in the kennel. Blue Trooper was top lot at Newcastle sales, at around 5,600gns, so with all the bits and bobs added on, he has just about won that back. He is owned by Tony Young, Ben Todd and my daughter Lucy. They normally have A1 dogs but paid out that bit more this time, and it all worked out for them.

“We are still really getting to grips with the dog. There is not a lot to him, at around 29 kilos. He ran his first Belle Vue trial, showed no early, and looked very average. But there was a big improvement in his second trial including a very good sectional. He came to Nottingham without a trial and has improved with every run. He looked as though they would swallow him up in the final, but he just kept going.

“Plans are fluid at the moment. There is a possibility that we may go for the Northern Flat though the long term plan is the Steel City Cup.”

Blue Trooper’s owners Tony Young (right) and Ben Todd with the GMG Puppy Classic trophy and trainer Nigel Saunders, whose daughter Lucy holds the winner. Photo: © Steve Nash