“We were beaten a short head but I said to Matt Dartnall, ‘I think these two are both exceptional’. That was when I decided to enter her in the St.Leger”

Patrick Janssens had been impressed with Skilful Sandie from the moment she arrived in the kennel back in August. On Saturday night that faith (in her and her rival Brave Ark) was vindicated as she won her first UK open in the semi finals of the RPGTV St.Leger at Perry Barr.

Patrick said: “The owners, George Carpenter and Richard Marling decided to buy her after an impressive 750 race at Clonmel. I was really impressed with her and I liked her breeding, she is from the next litter to Lenson Blinder and Slippy Cian.

“From her first trials, I knew she was exceptional and I threw her in the deep end in the Kent St.Leger. She finished fifth in the semi finals but was only beaten a total of just over two lengths after trouble. I then took her to Hove where she was beaten a short head by Brave Ark and that was when I spoke to Matt. His dog had recorded 41.63 (695m), we had been beaten a short head, and the third dog was 11 lengths away.”

In Saturday night’s semi final, Skilful Sandie was a head adrift of Avastorm (16.68) when they crossed the winning line for the first time before pulling away to win by five and a half lengths in 43.85 (-50) for the 710 metres.

The fastest time of the night went to Irish entry Redzer Ardfert (16.68 split) who followed Headford Ranger (16.42) over the line for the first time. But as Kevin Hutton’s dog faded, the Shelbourne 750 yard record holder pulled away to win by four and a half lengths from Matt Dartnall’s Brave Ark. The winner’s time was 43.61 (-50).

The first qualifier had gone to Antigua Fire though the 2-7f had to draw on all of his undoubted class after stumbling at trap rise and finding himself back in fifth place (16.90 sect). The first half of the contest was dominated by Piemans Noelle (16.55) from Summer Savvy (16.61) though as both felt the effect of a rain drenched circuit, Mark Wallis’ runner got up to beat Savvy by two lengths in 43.83.

The unlucky runner was Goldies Hotspur who failed by a short head to reach her 12th Category One Final.

Patrick said: “Despite all he ability, her downfall has always been her (lack of) track craft. Her and Mark’s dog were catching the leaders hand over fist along the backstraight but as Mark’s dog went past the two (Piemans Noelle), Goldie ran straight up its arse.

“I realise that she is nearly five years old but when she goes racing you would think she was a 15 month old puppy going schooling. She absolutely loves racing and as long as she stays sound and keeps enjoying it, why retire her?

“I think it is a very open final. Look at the times of the semi final winners and there is nothing between them. If we lead, and she might, the others may struggle to catch her. The same for the Irish dog (Redzer Ardfert), if he leads I don’t think they can catch him. Mark’s dog looks the one to beat but he will probably have to come from the back and one bump could change the result.

“Whatever happens, our bitch is only just two years old, can only improve with age and is giving us something to look forward to next year.”

Saturday’s £15,000 decider: 1 Redzer Ardfert 2 Skilful Sandie 3 Brave Ark 4 Avastorm (m) 5 Antigua Fire (w) 6 Summer Savvy (w)