AUTHOR: davidstewart

Julie Collier Blog 1: #GreyhoundDerby2022

Unbelievably, I am bringing you your first Star Sports Greyhound Derby blog of 2022!! Where does the time go?! I must remember this come June 26th, it soon comes around again!

Ben Keith is as excited as ever about the 2022 renewal. Speaking to me the day after he rehomed his first retired greyhound, Goldie, he said ‘everyone knows it’s been my life ambition to sponsor the greyhound Derby and now I am, I hope I will forever. My favourite part is getting to meet all the dogs on the winner’s podium and now, with Covid hopefully behind us, I can’t wait to get my hands on them!’

At this stage, much of the anticipation is about trying to work out who is coming and who isn’t, particularly when it comes to the Irish contingent. I’ve been chatting to a few of the kennels and hopefully have a few exciting names to get on your radar!

🐢 Paul Hennessy must be loving life right now with two of his stalwarts through to the Easter Cup final and the Cheltenham Festival coming up where he will have two runners. Heaven Help Us will bid to follow up on last year’s victory and Ocean Of Mercy will race in the bumper and is another runner, not without a chance. The greyhound fraternity will all be cheering them on that’s for sure! At Shelbourne Park on Saturday night, Beach Avenue and Priceless Jet will take their place in one of the best finals of the year in Ireland. Paul described the dogs to me as being ‘like pets, who also race’. And what dogs they have been for the kennel. Priceless Jet was so impressive early doors at Towcester last year and Beach Avenue took the kennel right through to the semis. All being well, they will be back for another tilt and joined by a few more of the team as well. Barefoot Supremo is an awesome young talent. Boylesportsglory will head to the Kirby first and then hopefully be Towcester bound and Priceless King will also make the journey to England.

🐢 Another two youngsters heading for the Kirby at Limerick before Towcester are Pat Buckley’s speedy Lenson On Ice and Glengar Scholar. Both are in the Juvenile Classic this weekend, but Towcester is on their radar. The kennel are reluctant to confirm any other runners this far in advance. Pat is actually really superstitious! I think it’s fair to say he didn’t overly enjoy his Derby campaign last year, mainly due to injuries to his dogs. I really hope they fare better this year. It would be a lesser Derby without them there. Plus we need the tea van back in the kennels!

🐢 Susie Sapphire will line up as the favourite for the Easter Cup final at the weekend and rightly so! Owen Mckenna seems to handle his bitch perfectly in the way he rests her and brings her back progressively. Many people think she won’t head over for the Star Sports Derby but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion! It’s not ideal that the Derby clashes with the Irish Oaks but nothing is off the table and Owen says it will be down to the owner, Peter Comerford. Watch this space…I for one (of many) would love her to come! How lovely (and unusual) to see a bitch as the current ante post favourite at 20/1.

🐢 Explosive Boy is second in the betting along with Jackslittlething at 25/1, trained by Pat Guilfoyle and Graham Holland respectively. Nothing has been decided for Explosive Boy yet but he is having his first race back this Friday at Tralee in front of the RPGTV cameras. He is another ‘watch this space’, as is Jackslittlething. Nicky Holland confirmed to me that with the Β£175k prize pot on offer again this year, the kennel will definitely be at Towcester but as for how big the team will be, that is a TBC. If previous years are anything to go by, it won’t be too long before a van full of dogs are crossing to UK shores for trials.

🐢 Another runner to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks is Savana Hero, formerly known as Annonymous. Kevin Boothby has bought into the dog trained, and now part owned by Brendan and Damien Matthews respectively. He will likely be Kevin’s best chance of winning the title he so desperately wants, at his own track.

🐢 No surprise that Ian Fortune is as bullish about the chances of the Irish as ever but whilst acknowledging that the Irish-trained greyhounds have never managed to win a Derby at Towcester. He told me ‘Obviously, it’s still relatively early to start thinking about individual names but there seems no doubt this year’s Irish challenge will be very strong.
We have a very talented group of established greyhounds around at present and all evidence would suggest the youngsters are pretty special too. We’ve never won a Derby around Towcester and it probably doesn’t play to our strengths as much as Nottingham did but we still managed to get four through to the final last year. While we didn’t win last year, it’s worth remembering the Irish did win the two previous renewals and we have every intention of regaining the title. I’m really looking forward to it and plan to be there final night, hopefully celebrating an Irish trained success.’

🐢 In terms of UK runners, first up in the betting is Havana Bale out. The April 2020 bitch out of Magical Bale and Comeouttoplay was a semi finalist of the RPGTV Puppy Derby at Towcester in December and is undoubtably a speedy girl. Missed breaks have been costly in her short career so far, as at Monmore last weekend when she was knocked out of the Puppy Derby in the first round after a slow start. Her kennel mate, Havana Lover (August 2020, Laughill Blake x Love Honey) is equally as highly rated by assistant trainer Rab Mcnair. As I write this, it is international womens day…of course a bitch can win a Derby (just ask Owen Mckenna)! And these are potential contenders.

🐢 All intentions are that Thorn Falcon will return to Towcester to defend his title. This year he has solely been campaigned at Towcester, a track he clearly thrives at, and he hasn’t been out of the first three so far. He came third in the Blue Riband final but did well to go that close after clocking a 4.20sec sectional and then finding trouble. I adore this big, 39kg boy and am excited to see him again at kennelling! He oozes class.

🐢 Brookside Richie is one of the best backed dogs with Star Sports so far. The money came before the dog’s recent change of kennel, moving from Dave Mullins to Jimmy Fenwick in the North East. The Mullins camp were understandably disappointed to lose such a talent with Dave’s daughter Rhianne tweeting that she was ‘absolutely gutted’. But the Mullin’s loss is the Fenwick’s gain. When I was chatting to David a few weeks ago and asking for a comparison to Tenpin, the one-time ante post favourite for the 2021 Star Sports Derby, there were similarities but with Richie being less draw dependent. Other dogs to have already seen good money with Star include Havana Bale Out, Lautauro and Thorn Falcon. Looks like the punters are getting behind the English runners!

🐢 Burnchurch Mick won last month’s Winter Derby in style for trainer Richard Rees. Early pace is a great weapon at Towcester and this dog has it in spades. Whether he will fully stay the 500m remains to be seen but he could well be one worth considering when the best sectional market comes out.

🐢 I’d love Icemans Savana to go deep into the Derby for owners Kevin Boothby, Gerwyn Price and Will Lazar. It could potentially be great publicity for the sport and the owners are a great bunch of guys. Despite Gerwyn being booed at seemingly every opportunity when he plays darts, I’ve found him to be very personable and so enthusiastic about greyhound racing. I think it’s fair to say the dog has disappointed connections so far but there was hope on Tuesday night when the Mark Wallis trained runner finished second at Towcester in an A1, two lengths behind Alien Snogger. He was slow away and ran very wide but showed a lovely bit of back straight pace. Hopefully something to build on.

🐢 Hopefully I’ve whet your appetite for what’s in store in the coming months. Don’t forget, whenever you’re commenting or chatting about the Star Sports Derby on social platforms, use the hashtag #greyhoundderby2022. We read them all and love to hear what people’s thoughts are! Happy ante post betting!