AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

EMILY WALLIS: Greyhound Derby Blog 8

EMILY WALLIS concludes her weekly blogging of the 2023 Star Sports Greyhound Derby with the small matter of the Greyhound Derby Final at 9.15pm on Saturday at Towcester. It’s the Final Countdown …..

⭐ Well we are now on the final week of the Derby with our six finalists now known and the race plus a great supporting card to look forward to on Saturday night. The semi-finals provided two great races with a new track record set by Clona Duke and another great performance by Swords Rex with Romeo Command losing absolutely nothing in defeat. This week will be a nervous but exciting one for all finalists all playing the race out in their heads figuring out how their dog can take the glory.

⭐ The first semi final was won in impressive style by Clona Duke, Cochise was first out of the traps but Clona Duke showed fantastic pace to get himself to the front and definitely stepped up his game from the last couple of rounds setting new figures for the track in a great 28.69. Gaytime Nemo, Graham Holland’s other runner, also showed great pace to turn second down the back straight and the third qualifying spot was taken by Cochise who was going to be hard to pick up when turning third round the second bend. The second semi final looked like a fantastic match on paper and Swords Rex once again just made it look effortless leading round and making all, Romeo Command fluffed his lines at the start of the race but showed great bravery and track craft to overtake Ninja Kerry down the back straight and lost nothing in defeat to Swords Rex. Ninja Kerry managed to hold off the strong finishers for third place booking his place in the final.

⭐ The draw for the final took place at Monday’s Derby lunch at Towcester and I’d say its worked out well for most and connections were all happy enough with the draw. The first out of the drum was the Richard Rees trained Cochise who has found some consistency at the right time for this competition. After struggling over 4 bends in a lot of his races, connections decided to step him up to six bends in which he won his staying debut at Monmore and then quickly after made the St Leger final over 710m at Perry Barr. He then got the kennel off to a great start this year when winning the Cesarewitch over 708m at Central Park, albeit his running style over that sort of a distance is getting off the front and trying to hold off the challengers, he then made the Kent Plate final before beginning his Towcester campaign. Cochise won the first two rounds of the Derby impressively leading and being too strong for any challengers and that strong running style has seen him keep qualifying in third since then. He is by no means the most natural railer but would be smart enough to keep himself straight and the inside line can always be an advantage if there’s trouble, 33/1 may be big for a dog that is so strong and we know is very fast.

⭐ Second out in the draw was the first of 3 Graham Holland runners Gaytime Nemo, who hasn’t been in trap 2 since the first round of the Derby in which he won where he was ‘quick away, always led’. For a July 20 whelp, he is extremely lightly raced so has no super flashy form to his name in Ireland although he has beaten some good dogs. It has been said in interviews by Nicky Holland that he has had his injury problems explaining the lack of racing but it’s safe to say they have gotten to the bottom of that and now with some consistent racing, we are really seeing what he can do. His most impressive run in the competition so far for me would be in the quarter finals where he won from trap 5 in a very good 28.79 calc. I also thought the semi final run was ultra impressive too as he was slow away from the boxes and went into the bend almost last but came out second, if he breaks on Saturday he will push his way round at the corner and is another strong sort that would be hard to catch.

⭐ Trap three in the final was filled by Romeo Command trained by Patrick Janssens and owned by last year’s winning owner Dave Firmager. All you can say about this dog is that he is a winner, he is 13 wins from 15 runs in England including winning the BGBF British Breeders Stakes Final at Nottingham in March, he then had some time off preparing for this competition and has proved he can beat the best. He is another dog that is very strong but he is also not devoid of early pace by any means and if he hits the front in any point of the race on Saturday I would fancy him to be the winner. He was doing it the hard way in the first couple of rounds before finding his trapping boots in the third round and quarter finals, he didn’t come away in the semi finals but Patrick has certainly proved he knows how to get his dogs out the traps in Derby finals in 2021 when Kilara Lion and winner Thorn Falcon both flew out! This is obviously Command’s toughest race to date but for a dog with such an amazing strike rate he really can never be underestimated and looks a big price.

⭐ Your Derby final favourite will be sent out of trap 4 on Saturday in the prolific Swords Rex. He has been a model of consistency throughout this Derby and a worthy favourite throughout. He soon made a name for himself as one of the leading Irish dogs early in his career winning the Kirby final at Limerick last year and has gone from strength to strength and came to Towcester fresh off the back of an Easter Cup win at Shelbourne beating last years English Derby winner Romeo Magico too. He has gone through the whole competition unbeaten clocking consistent sectionals and times each week, he isn’t always the fastest away from the traps but within a few strides he is in front which is breathtaking to watch. If he can keep up what he’s been doing throughout the competition it is hard seeing him not take the glory but this is a final and truly anything can happen.

⭐ Graham Holland’s last finalist Clona Duke drew trap 5 which may not be ideal as such but Nicky Holland stated at the lunch on Monday that all three of her dogs are smart enough to keep their lines to the bend so the draw wasn’t too much of an issue. Clona Duke is another greyhound that hit the ground running in Ireland soon claiming the Juvenile Derby final at a massive 20/1, he proved it was no fluke however and won the Select Stakes final at Waterford (out of trap 5) a week before his first trip to Towcester to begin his Derby campaign. He was extremely impressive in the first round breaking the track record in 28.73, in the second round he missed his break and showed his class to claim the win, in the next two rounds he perhaps ran a little flat but of course still good enough to qualify which is the main thing but last week he was back to his best setting even better figures for the clock in 28.69. He is going to have a hard job leading up his kennelmate on his inside but for a dog so fast, doing it all right on the night could easily prove enough.

⭐ Finally, as the only seeded runner Ninja Kerry automatically went into trap 6 in the draw. He is 40/1 with Star Sports but deserves his place there as another dog that has been so consistent throughout the competition. We can’t forget the good form he does have to his name including winning last year’s Sussex Cup and giving Belinda Green her first Category 1 win sending her from strength to strength since. He has clearly had some injury problems since but since coming back in March, in his 8 races before the Derby he has 5 wins, a second and a third. He had some very strong finishers in behind him on Saturday in the semi final but he still qualified fairly comfortably and it’s great for the dog and connections to reach a Derby final.

⭐ All six finalists have earned their place in the final and connections had a fantastic time at Monday’s Derby lunch. It was kicked off with a great montage of previous Derby winners and then by another fantastic speech from Ben Keith reflecting on how much the dogs and the Derby means to everyone. Ben then made the draw which was followed by all the connections being interviewed about their thoughts on it. It was also fantastic to see some greyhound legends present at the lunch including Linda Jones, Tony Meek, Bob Rowe and Linda Mullins who all reflected on their memories in the sport and gave their thoughts on this year’s final. It was a great day with lots of friendly faces from different areas of the industry but most importantly there was great sportsmanship between the connections and everyone wishing everyone else the best of luck.

⭐ It has to be mentioned the strength of the Derby Plate final this year in which you wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the runners in the Derby final itself. Fromposttopillar is currently the 7/4 favourite with Star Sports but Brookside Richie is running so well at Towcester recently and with a half decent break should lead again, Fromposttopillar couldn’t quite get to him in the semi finals but, with 4 other classy dogs in the race too, it is going to be an absolute thriller.

⭐ The rest of the supporting card on finals night is now out CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PDF FORM and each race is filled with class greyhounds and is going to be great to watch and enjoy. The finale to what is set to be a fantastic nights racing is the Dorando which this year looks very competitive, Night Time Danny is a Category 1 marathon winner, of course Space Jet has been the star of the marathon scene for the last year and won this race last year, Ower Smasher won the marathon race last week by some 13 lengths and stays very strongly and you cannot discount the others being interesting going over this distance, that is a race I am particularly looking forward to!

⭐ Another race has been added to the start of the card that is a 10k match race between Maree Champion and our own New Destiny (pictured below (c) Steve Nash) with both connections putting up 5k each with the winner taking all. This match race format seems to be a popular idea and certainly gets rid of the disappointment that there was originally no puppy race on the card. It adds something different to the night and it will hopefully be a great battle between two very fast pups, both with massive futures ahead of them regardless. You’re going to want to make sure you’re at Towcester nice and early on Saturday as this race, off at 5.47pm, isn’t one to miss!

⭐ Of course you don’t have to wait until the start of racing on Saturday to begin your night, the gates will open around 3pm where there will be music entertainment until the racing begins and after racing there will be more entertainment with a disco. Derby final night really is the highlight of the year in the sport and it is set to be a great night with hopefully a large crowd present to enjoy the racing and the famous ‘Derby roar’ will hopefully be a good one. I can’t wait!

⭐ Best of luck to everyone involved with a runner on Saturday night and particularly the six finalists, may the best dog win on the night!


📷 Thanks to Steve Nash Photography for feature image.



Ben Keith introduces #GreyhoundDerby2023



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