As major events go, the ARC Classic is a comparatively recent arrival having first been staged in 2007. Prior to that the big 450m event in the Mackem calendar was the Gold Cup.
The inaugural Classic was held in 2005 and resulted in a ‘memorable’ final. Mahers Boy and Paul Hennessy’s Irish raider Groovy Stan were 9-4 joint favourites for the £5,000 first prize though Stan was decidedly ungroovy when whispering in the ear of Elaine Parker’s hound on the run in and was DQ’d by the stewards with just a short head between them.
When William Hill sponsored the event, their greyhound supporting rep David Hood managed to secure a £40K winning prize for the event, with the Grand Prix Final, on the same night worth £20K. So it was well worth Tony Collett making the long journey from deepest Kent to take the 2008 decider with Lenson Express.
Mark Wallis won the only other £40K Classic in 2009 with Jogadusc Ace. Craig Dawson’s Target Classic picked up £25K prize a year later. Mark Wallis nabbed another £40K the following year though that was a combined figure after taking the Classic with future Derby winner Blonde Snapper and the Grand Prix on the same card with Blonde Fletch. Snapper set a new track record of 26.59 in the final, a time that would still hold up a dozen years later.
There was another southern raid in 2012 via Seamus Cahill’s Loughteen Blanco, but local pride was restored when Kelly Macari’s Pinpoint Maxi was an odds on winner ten years ago. Fast forward another 12 months and Maxi once again went to boxes at short odds but had no answer to Pat Rosney’s Mileheight Alba.
Julie Calvert restored Northern pride with No But followed by the biggest priced winner to date, Roxholme Scolari (8-1). The event was proving particularly lucrative for female trainers as Angela Harrison made it four wins in five for the ladies with Droopys Country successful in 2017.
If you had to choose the most memorable of all the finals, it would possibly be 2018 in a star studded line-up that included the McNair pair King Elvis and King Turbo who went to traps at ‘evens joint favourite’ only to see the Geordie Gentleman Harry Williams prevail with former local grader, Allowdale Bruno (10-1). Bubbly Bluebird was runner-up.
It seemed that the 2019 version might not be staged but it was rescued as the £8K Ted Lloyd Classic won again by Angela with the only bitch to land the competition to date, Velvet Juliet.
The future of the event looked bleak following its decline followed by the pandemic but ARC stepped in to sponsor a first November Classic in 2021 with George Cunningham’s Narcos The Great taking the £6,500.
The winner’s prize rose to £10K last year as Angela Harrison won the competition for the third time with Move Over Cha.
There is no fourth Classic for Angela this year though plenty of local firepower to ensure that the enhanced £12,500 first prize stays in the North East.
As previously, Sunderland RM Joe Frelford has agreed to guide us through the night’s 10 opens, and they are Joe’s comments under each race.
But just to spice it up a bit in the racing office, we asked Joe’s assistant Dean Kirk for his selections.
No pressure then . . .
“Copa ran really well last time out and should step up again. I would expect Hazelhill Coco to improve from his trial and he looks well drawn.” 2-6-4
“I thought Tells Star ran the track really well last time out and was only just picked up close home. Toela Gee is a new dog but has a decent Irish card. Bluejig Hank is as good as any of the locals but is probably one box further out than ideal.” 3-1-4
“It was a cracking sprint from Links Top Gun and if he repeats that early he should be away and gone. Fearsome Enigma is in great form and if he comes away and Top Gun doesn’t he may not get picked up.” 2-5-4
“Jill and Glenn look very strong in here and I can’t oppose Witton Supremo. She did a 26.98 at the end of October and a repeat of that should be enough to win this. Romeo Expo looks the danger, but might be struggling for room on the run to the corner.” 5-3-2
“Witton Venus is much the same story as Supremo. She is just coming back to form after a lay-off but if she comes away, she can repeat that run of a fortnight ago and that should be good enough in here. Zari Bon Bon would need to lead and I’m not sure she can win the race to the corner.” 3-4-6
“Lots of course knowledge in this one but I think the draw has worked out in favour of New Moors Jomac.” 1-6-5
“Skywalker Isak looks the class dog in here. He has proven winning form and trialled well. An obvious choice. Fayes Star is a new arrival but has open race winning form at Oxford which is better form than some of the others.” 6-4-5
“I like Stormy News in here. He was unlucky not to get a run last time from four but looks better placed in three this time. But it is a tough one to call with four and six in particular also capable of being away and gone. Though Watchall Sid does like to cut across if he’s in front and I’m not sure he’ll get that chance.” 3-4-6
“It has been a cracking competition but it has really opened up since the unfortunate Links Maverick went lame. I think it is a very open final but I’m judge edging it to Harry Burton’s Jonny Whiskers who hasn’t put a foot wrong since coming from Ireland. The draw wouldn’t look ideal but he won from five and I don’t think six will be a major issue. But the obvious danger is Swift Iconic. It is all down to how he break. He did a cracking split in the heats but was slow away in the semi finals. There is a lot of early pace in the race and ‘who leads wins’ so if John’s dog was to come away again, they probably wouldn’t catch him.” 6-1-2