Star lights up Drumbo
Local runner Star Head stole the show in the opening round of the £25,000 Bettor.com Northern Irish Derby at Drumbo Park with the top performance on a night of superb racing in front of a large and appreciative gathering.
THE black son of Head Bound, fastest of the six winners over 550 yards, clocked a superb 29.90 seconds with the track rated 20 spots fast.
No wonder Antrim owner-trainer Brian Macklin wore a huge smile at the end of heat three which saw the dog burst from the boxes and hold off the challenge of favourite and Scottish Derby finalist Beaming Dilemma by a comfortable three and a half lengths.
And Macklin had even more reason to be happy at the end of the night when learning that Star Head had his ideal box (trap one) in next week's second round. Starting at 4-1, Star Head resisted the challenge from Pat Buckley's Dilemma down the far side, proving once again that he's a very hard dog to pass once in front.
The other qualifiers were Sam Speed and the English entrant Elwick Joaquin.
There was a shock for punters in the opening heat when the favourite Lolos Joe completely missed his break and finished last.
The winner, Cian Abbey, a black son of Crash handled by Paul Sharkey, led all the way for a four and a half lengths triumph from Elwick Bolero who, like Joaquin, is owned by James Brown from the north of England.
John McGee, trainer of Lolos Joe, had better fortune with Hats May Boy, the black son of Royal Impact rallying in the last stride to deny a gallant Murlough Hawk.
The favourite Cians Fantasy was third and Modern Mistress fourth.
Track record holder for 525 yards, Leeview Jet, showed his early pace in heat four but only held on for a short head success from Loughview Gem who ran a great race for Tyrone owner Peter Corr. The time was 30.01 seconds with Paradise Orlando and Murlough Flight taking the other qualifying places.
Cabra Legend came from behind Rafas Wee Pet to take the fifth heat by a length in 30.47 seconds. Also through are White Coat and Copeland Robbie.
The final heat saw the fast-starting Dublin runner Quick Lee, a black son of Brett Lee, squeeze out Sevenheads Bay at the vital first corner and run on determinedly to defeat Seamus McGarry's Belfast stayer Drumna Windsor by four and a half lengths (30.15 seconds).
Sevenheads had a short head to spare in third over joint-track record holder Gizmo Titan.
Second round in trap order (Saturday)
Heat One: Rafas Wee Pet; Drumna Windsor; Murlough Hawk; Copeland Robbie; Hats My Boy; Modern Mistress.
Heat Two: Elwick Joaquin; Loughview Gem; Beaming Dilemma; Conlig Mac; Paradise Orlando; Cabra Legend.
Heat Three: Little Cash; White Coat; Leeview Jet; Quick Lee; Cians Fantasy; Cian Abbey.
Heat Four: Star Head; Murlough Flight; Sam Speed; Sevenheads Bay; Elwick Bolero; Gizmo Titan.