Express & Star

Racegoers all set for Monmore feast

The semi-finals of both Ladbrokes Gold Cup and Summer Stayers Classic take place at Monmore Green tonight while two other top-quality competitions will begin.

Monmore Green

The Gold Cup and Summer Stayers – which will each see the winner bag a cool £10,000 – continue after a thrilling opening round last weekend, with this evening having three races in each event ahead of next week’s finals night.

If the standard of greyhounds in those events was not enough, racegoers are in for a treat as both the Peter Billingham Memorial Trophy and Vixon Contracts Limited Trophy also get under way at the Wolverhampton track.

In the Gold Cup, semi-final three looks particularly intriguing as bookmakers’ favourite Links Maverick (trained by Newcastle’s Tom Heilbron) and second-favourite Churchfield Syd (of Hove’s Richard Rees) look to ensure they are the two dogs to advance to the showpiece.

The second semi-final has three heat winners from last week in Whitings New Era (Nathan Hunt, Monmore), Hopes Rhino (Jason Heath, Hove) and March on Larry (Harry Burton, Pelaw Grange/Newcastle). The competition’s third-favourite Hawkfield Ozark (Patrick Janssens, Towcester) runs from trap one in semi-final one.

The Summer Stayers was dominated by Elizabeth McNair (Central Park) last week as she had Havana Lover, Havana Bale Out, Fromposttopillar and Warzone Tom victorious in heats.

Three of those four – the exception being Warzone Tom – find themselves in a stacked semi-final one this evening, with Fromposttopillar the one being backed to go all the way.

Home trainer Ian Langford could have a decent shout with Fridays Eske, who caught the eye with a top triumph in his heat and runs in semi-final three, while another of McNair’s runners, Havana Lover, is among a strong-looking semi-final two.

Monmore racing manager Tony Williamson said: “It was a brilliant start to the Gold Cup and Summer Stayers last weekend, with so many impressive performances.

“The semi-finals are all set up to be fascinating races, and we’re wishing the best of luck to all connections.”

The Peter Billingham Memorial Trophy will kick off tonight’s card and is being run in memory of the late former Monmore trainer.

The former Albion and Walsall footballer became a mainstay at the track following his retirement – and now daughter Kim has followed in his footsteps.

She has Magical Luna, Magical Toby, Newinn Larkin and Kranky Jamie all involved in the 18-dog event and said: “It’s been four years since dad passed, and this is the second year we’ve run the Trophy. We’ll all be there as a family on finals night.

“Dad was a long-standing trainer at Monmore Green, doing more than 20 years as a trainer before I took over in 2018, and Monmore’s always been a large part of our family’s life.

“When he was playing football, he fancied becoming a greyhound owner and then as soon as he finished with football, he fell in love with the dogs.

“Monmore became our family’s second home and we’re thankful to the track for running the competition in his memory again.

“There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t think about him, and it’ll be lovely to remember him as a family with this competition.

“We’ve got four dogs running in it for us – three of them having their maiden race.

“We’ll have some competitive runners, so it’d be lovely to get one of them through to the final and make the competition even more special.”

The inaugural, meanwhile, Vixon Contracts Limited Trophy is the brainchild of greyhound owner Matthew Povey.

He owns dozens of dogs trained by Monmore trainer Brian Thompson while his successful decorating and refurbishment business is just a stone’s throw from the stadium.

Povey added: “We’re excited to be holding the competition and two of our greyhounds, Baunaniska Diego and Vixons Star are involved, so it would be nice to see them do well.

“It’s a very busy period with the Gold Cup and Summer Stayers in full swing, and our final will be taking place on the same night next week which we’re very much looking forward to.

“Hopefully, everyone involved enjoys the competition and we can do something similar again in the future.”