Top dog Atitboy is star of Derby show at Drumbo Park
Atitboy was the star on a sun-kissed night in front of a packed Drumbo Park with a brilliant performance in taking the £6,000 Toals Bookmakers Northern Irish Derby, the track's biggest race of the year. In what was anticipated to be a competitive race, the Derby turned into a rout with the brindle son of Kinloch Brae scorching home by six and a half lengths over the 550 trip in 29.83 seconds.
It was Hillsborough trainer Ronnie McKeown's first Derby success and it was warmly received for the man who has been the leading handler since the track opened in 2008.
European King didn't line-up in trap one, having sustained a wrist injury in the semi-finals, but even he would not have lived with Atitboy on this display.
He bounced out of trap three and was two lengths clear going into the first bend.
From there, the 7/4 joint-favourite left his rivals behind with the other 7/4 chance Gizmo Classic never getting into the race and finishing last.
Outsider Cleveland Tebow chased Atitboy for most of the way but lost out for second on the run-in as Denis Jamison's Newtownards-based runner Birthday Boy surged up the inside rail to claim the £1,400 runner-up prize by a length and a half.
"I had been telling everyone earlier in the day Atitboy was a certainty," said Ronnie.
"He had too much early pace for the others and left them for dead. It was a great show and I'm delighted."
Ronnie's stepson Nigel Bain, who does all the work with the dogs, was equally pleased.
"Atitboy is a very good dog and has had his problems with injury in the past," he said.
"It's nice to land this major prize and it was also a great moment for his Exeter owner, Dudley Wilmott.
"He couldn't come over for the final because of business and he deserved this success as he has quite a few runners with us who are not so good.
"He could quite easily have sold Atitboy but he decided to hold on to him and that decision is beginning to pay off, as we saw on this outing."
And to cap a superb night, the kennel won the last race over 525 with Blenhiem Tricks for Helen's Bay owner Charles Martyn.