With a month to go, Newcastle GM Ian Walton has confirmed that the 18 runner Laurels will be on the same format as last year – a Category 2, 18 runner competition over the 480 metre course with a £5,000 first prize.

He said: “We have applied for the dates of the Thursday 12th and 19th of December to coincide with Alconex Northern Puppy Derby and are awaiting confirmation from GBGB. I am also awaiting confirmation from one of the sponsors, but we are conscious that trainers need to plan ahead, and wanted to give as much notification as we can. Whatever the decision, the first prize is guaranteed.”

In what already promises to be a high profile meeting, Walton is hoping that the supporting card will provide a high quality veterans race.

He said: “We are conscious of the welfare importance of having races for the older dogs and we staged our first ever senior handicap race last week won by Kellsoboro Moll.

“There are a lot of veterans still competing in high class company; we have one here in Cooneen Jack who is still in A1 who I would expect to be entered. But there should be others big kennels here for the Laurels and Puppy Derby who will also have veterans still capable of performing in good company. We would love to see them.

“We are quite fortunate that our veterans opens usually fill, though usually with graders. But I am aware that some visiting trainers with dogs in big finals are reluctant to enter veterans for fear that the races will take place late in the meeting when they want to be heading home.

“If we can fill it, I will make sure that it takes place before the finals. If there was enough interest beforehand, I would try to find some extra prize money.”