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Superstar Jimmy knocks us for six; OUT AND ABOUT People and places with Jim Cremin.

FESTIVALS take time to establish themselves. It was around five years before the Racing Post Festival (ran 1998-2007 at Walthamstow) became fixed in the minds of fans.

Sunderland's culmination of its UK Festival of Greyhound Racing on Thursday marked its fifth birthday and there is no doubting the importance locally, and to the entire north of Britain.

Joe O'Donnell, director of stadia for William Hill, is a hard-nosed operator, so it was encouraging to hear him report "the best attended Festival yet" and then bubbling about Jimmy Lollie winning at the meeting for the third year, later adding "what a pulsating double for the two Marks [Wallis and Currell - Blonde Fletch and Blonde Snapper] in the main events."

Both he and his colleague Kate Miller found concern about the future of the Festival wearying - but an unexpectedly generous uplift in the sponsorship of the williamHill.com Derby naturally raises the question.

Miller, playing a straight bat, says all their sponsorships, including horseracing, come under review at year-end - exactly the same will happen again. But given Sunderland's success, and appreciation from within the greyhound game, I'd reckon the Festival has a good chance of flying and evolving again.

As for Jimmy Lollie, now on the verge of veteran status, he gets more handsome with age!

He was stunning on Thursday up on Sunderland's podium, tail wagging, after his 115th career race and 66th win, taking keen interest at the noise and sight of a train moving in the distance.

He won the sprint on the 2009 Festival finals night at odds of 8-1, then narrowly fended off the ultimately tragic Rotar Wing in the Flyer final last year.

Rotar Wing, his old rival, suffered a freak fatal injury when in a clear lead on the straight on Thursday night in a separate supporting race. It was a horribly empty journey home for his always proud connections.

Teresa Cahill, wife of trainer Seamus, reflected: "It reminds that in life you never know what lies round the corner." But for Jimmy Lollie, it proved to be triumph. He is a genuine superstar, and has now played six, won six over the course. He next goes to Hove on Thursday.

Jimmy has convinced even me that there is merit in sprinting (a remarkable change for someone so set in his ways!), although 'The Dogfather' of Newcastle and Sunderland, Terry Meynell, said before racing that two televised sprints was one too many.

He may have a point.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 17, 2011
Words:412
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