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Drumbo Park chief hoping Sunday greyhound meet is first of many

By Robert Fenton

From never on a Sunday to always on a Sunday.

That's the ambition of Drumbo Park's chief executive John McCollum after yesterday's historic sporting moment — the first greyhound meeting staged in Northern Ireland on the Sabbath, and not a protester in sight.

Changed days from March 2004 when racegoers jeered those protesting about Sunday racing at Down Royal and again when objectors turned up to voice their disapproval of Glentoran and Bangor playing at the Oval in September 2008.

McCollum said: “Will it be a success? It's not easy racing Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and then expecting people to turn out again on a Sunday.

“But we have to try and use the facility as much as possible and we believe we are putting together a good package for everyone involved.

“Clearly it is an experiment but it would be my intention to be running every Sunday.”

If the first occasion, blessed with brilliant sunny weather, is anything to go by, then the new initiative certainly has a bright future.

Of course, the novelty value helped pack out the restaurant for the initial Sunday lunch but there is no doubt many will be back after a relaxing afternoon where good fayre and entertainment held sway. Everything went like clockwork with 11 races between 2.00 and 4.00pm.

At first, some newcomers were bemused as, prior to racing, they couldn't understand why on three occasions only one dog was chasing the hare.

Those were trials for dogs entered in next week's £5,000 Peter Meegan Memorial over 550 yards.

If anything, the strong sun was a hindrance as it meant those outside could not see the screens to watch the racing because of the glare while it was also difficult to see the dogs running into the top corner.

But those minor problems won't occur too often in the winter months ahead. Trainers were more than happy.

Dublin's Thomas Lynch, a Drumbo regular who had a winner on the card, said: “I would have no problem coming here every Sunday. The racing time is much better than the 7.00pm start down the country.”

Another visitor from across the border, Drogheda's Jim Gorman, added: “I was disappointed at not getting a runner on the programme because I had a table booked, but I may have better luck next week.

“It certainly did not spoil the day and what a good turnout for the first Sunday. Hopefully, its the start of more success for the stadium.”

Those indulging in Tote betting for the first time were pleasantly surprised at the returns for small stakes while the Tote staff were delighted with the turnover, something that will be a key factor if the Sunday meetings are to continue. It was not so good for the outside bookmakers as a number of fancied dogs went in.

In many races, it was a case of the winner being the only one backed. However, the layers are well used to that and know there'll be other days.

Trailing Shoe had the distinction of being Drumbo's first Sunday winner shortly after 2.10pm. He had his trapping boots on to give Lurgan's Thomas Simmons a special victory over the sprint trip.

The feature event, the Clonmel Festival Open sprint, saw Seamus McGarry's pup Drumna Ice in hot form, shaving the track record in

clocking 17.69 secs. The brindle dog was a length outside the clock in beating Glenbane Air two and a half lengths while the other three heat winners were Burnhill Flame, Hoots Mon and Ballyhill Seles.

It followed a thriller the night before in the Tennent's Gold Cup final with the Carrick-based Lemon Velvet putting in a storming finish to snatch the £5,000 prize from the gallant Frankys Back, owned and trained by Dungannon's Justin McAleer.

It needed the camera to separate them with opinions divided until the result showed Velvet getting up for a short head victory in a very fast time of 28.15 secs — the best over the trip this year.

But spare a thought for Dungannon's Justin who agonisingly watched as his white and black dog ran his heart out only to be denied in the final stride.

Frankys had the better pace into the first bend and led round from Lemon. Entering the back-straight, the leader kicked on, opening up a four-length lead going into the penultimate bend where Lemon checked. That looked to be costly and Frankys held what looked a winning advantage in the dash for home.

But the bitch is such a strong stayer — she holds the 575 track record — and with every stride, she got closer and closer and popped her head in front where it mattered. Fluff The Lines finished three lengths back in third for Dundalk's Gerard Callan.

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