AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

Julie Collier Blog 8: Greyhound Derby

🐢 In winning the first heat of this year’s Star Sports Derby, Patrick Janssens emulated Ian Reilly’s achievement in 2005 when he sent out the winner of heat one (Droopys Leroy) having won the 2004 Derby with Droopys Scholes at Wimbledon. Janssens won with Aussie Captain Thursday night and topped that by also sending out the winner of heat 2, Bockos Belly! Thursday night was the stuff dreams are made of for Patrick with four amazing winners.

🐢 Another one of those was Lautaro who demolished the track record clocking a swift 28.84sec. Well done to all of you who took the bet with Star Sports (there were plenty) for the track record to go and well done to connections of this dog who I am really taken with. I love the photo I took of him Thursday nightΒ (below). He definitely has a nose for a photo finish! I wonder if he will need it on the 25th of June? It’s very possible. He looks a machine and Patrick says there is no doubt he is the fastest he has trained. Huge statement. Deelish Frankie was the fourth winner on the night for Patrick (who only had runners in five races). On Friday his defending champion Thorn Falcon, whilst not winning his heat, made it safely through to the next round after completely missing his break. Patrick told me he will really come on for that. The one of Patrick’s not to qualify was Scooby Prince who took a tumble when being squeezed out in the opener by Aussie Captain. Thankfully, the dog was reported absolutely fine afterwards.

🐢 Skywalker Barry also sustained a minor injury after winning heat 8 on Thursday night when the hare stopped prematurely after the finish line. I spoke to his trainer Michael O’Donovan who told me he was fine and that it was just a superficial cut. Barry has the CV of all CV’s. A true warrior and competition dog and obviously in great hands. I really think he will go far.

🐢 You’ve got to hand it to them, Friday night was a night for the Irish. Fair play to Darrell William’s who was working for RPGTV – he kept putting the questions out to the Irish owners at the presentation and the later it got, the more and more incoherent they were! I’ve no idea if he understood the answers he was getting! O’Brien-Mcpherson Racing re-posted one interview on twitter with the question ‘Have you had a Guinness?’ Love the banter. Having the Irish here really makes the Derby for me.

🐢 On the subject of alcohol…….. the same aforementioned twitter account (aka DOCTOR Simon Gilson) posted his own photo just before his dog Goldies Perryman ran in heat 3. The tag line read ‘Calming the nerves @TowcesterRaces’. I am sure many of you reading this, myself included, who are at Towcester for the Derby, will be pleased to hear it officially confirmed, the pints are purely medicinal… I’m pretty sure Simon would have needed a few once he saw Steve’s draw in heat 15 on Saturday night too. I really hope he can qualify from what is an incredibly tough heat. Good luck gang.

🐢 Ian Fortune was waxing lyrical, as he does, on Friday night, tweeting that there were ‘just the seven Irish winners’ that night, all whilst commenting at Shelbourne Park with a toddler (his daughter) on his lap! A man who can multi-task it seems? May I take this opportunity to remind him that it’s June 25th that counts. 0/3 and all that jazz………

🐢 Another Irish runner, Singalong Sally had a tricky first look round Towcester in a pre-Derby trial so for me, it really was all about getting her through the first round and hopefully she will come on at the track from here. She was second to Part Blake, only beaten half a length but has been rewarded with a tricky draw in trap 4 in heat nine on Saturday. Emma Buckley managed to prize herself away from her beloved dog for a few seconds to let the owner, Gilbert Anderson’s grandson Archie have a photo with her. I love seeing kids who are so proud of their dogs.

🐢 It’s also always a joy to see the Buckley sisters, Emma and Sarah. I really love these girls. And, Sarah let slip the secret to why Sally runs so well. Not many trainers give away their secrets but here it is… Sally knows that after the race she is getting an ice cream in the van!

🐢 Talking of kids and greyhounds…what Faughan Rebel is achieving is achieving, we have said time and time again, is unbelievable. The dog was retired, injured and so to come back and be winning at this level deserves huge credit not just to the dog but also the kennel and owners who adore him. So much so that the kennel hand parading him, Richard Hill, insisted on doing so despite breaking his ankle the weekend before! Part-owner Louise Warr was on hand to race to the pick-up to collect the dog and I think my interview with her got the most views of the weekend, testament to the following this dog has. His owners made a fuss of him after the presentation as well as little Esmea who is three years old and the daughter of Jacob Bower (assistant racing manager at Towcester) and Evie Collyer (starter at the track). Rebel was loving it, profusely wagging his tail. Quite possibly my favourite video of the weekend…

🐢 The dogs who win their heats on Saturday are in for plenty of toddler cuddles as Ben Keith is coming along with his gorgeous daughter, Georgina. I’m looking forward to catching up with the boss. He probably couldn’t tell you what will win the Derby but he adores the dogs and now he has his own, Goldie at home who falls asleep with his daughter at night, they are going to love it even more.

🐢 I’m loving the ‘one man (or woman) and their dog’ stories in this year’s Derby. Jason Gray is a trainer I have been banging on about in this blog for weeks, without realising how vocal his owners were! The joy of winning a heat of the Star Sports Derby was pretty obvious but it’s a story with so much emotion too. Their dog, Mickys Barrett is named after a friend of theirs who passed away. Not only that, the first dog that got sent from Ireland had already had a name change and because they wanted to call the dog ‘Mickys Barrett’, they had to get another one. It’s worked out pretty well. Jason is a lovely man with great kennels and I really hope they go far. We all might need our earplugs if they do…

🐢 Sharon Thompson is another ‘small’ trainer who is going to war with Master Ten Ten. She is of course, of Sparta Master fame and has proven that she knows how to do a dog, despite her doubters. Again, Sharon is a lovely, kind lady who owns the dogs with her Dad, Steve who looked as proud as punch at the presentation on Friday night. Well done Sharon, go girl! I’d also like to mention two more ladies; Alison Kelly-Pilgrim who was on the scoresheet with her Deanridge Skippy who surely can only come forward and Katie O’Flaherty whose partner and ex-trainer Steve Gammon was on hand to pick up the trophy for Daring Deise’s win at 20/1 on Saturday night.

🐢 Callmesteve was a good winner for trainer John Mullin’s on Friday night. One of a couple for him with Signet Goofy obliging too. But don’t be fooled…Steve’s win was all down to owner Chris Waters. He has personally found the key to the dog. He told me (and John) that the win was down to him giving him two hours of cuddles in the van on the way to Towcester! If only training were that easy, I’d be Champion Trainer!

🐢 On Monday, I interviewed Mikey Cronin for RPGTV. He (and his Dad, Peter) were thrilled with their dogs performances in the first round. And rightly so. This is, in my opinion, the strongest team Peter has had for a Derby and, it’s fair to say, has made the final with lesser dogs than the likes of Kildare, Da Bold Freddie and Emilys Jet. In 2014, Crockers Champ led the final and was picked up by Salad Dodger. Tynwalk Bish finished second a year later and then in 2018, Whoops Jack was 6th. I really think Peter is one to watch this year.

🐢 Standout for me on Saturday was the dog who clocked the fastest time of the night, Ballymac Leon (main picture). But it wasn’t just his 29.04sec clock that impressed (or his 4.04sec sectional), to the eye he was unbelievable; a striking fawn dog who came out under the bars. Trainer Liam Dowling has been a little coy leading up to this Derby and I thought maybe he was keeping one under the radar. Is this it? He certainly isn’t a man to travel unless he thinks he has a real chance…

🐢 Talking of top bitches, if you ever wanted the equivalent of a canine night on the razl, I know just your girl… I’ve have never seen a dog drink as much as Wide Open does after a race! She literally devoured three bowls of water before she got to the presentation area. Photographer Jim Tate told me she was like that all through the Maiden Derby too. Wasn’t she impressive though, clocking 29.16sec when winning her heat. Remember she is just an August 2020 whelp. She is amazing.

🐢 In all the Derby madness, it is, as always important to remember that all these dogs deserve a comfy sofa once their racing days are behind them and the GBGB Ambassadors were out fundraising during for the retired greyhouds during the first round, as they will be throughout the Derby. On Saturday, Gail May bought along Pablo the Pup for the public to meet and I took full advantage and enjoyed a lovely cuddle! This Saturday, George (formerly Blue Tick George) will be at the track to help raise money. I saw that plenty of you have already but please, do continue to dig deep. It’s a tough time for the homing centres post-covid and they need all the support they can get.

🐢 Finally, after 19 years of working on the Greyhound Derby, I am pretty chuffed to finally be top of the media tipping challenge. This has never happened before so allow me to gloat for just a moment. I usually put loads of work into studying the form and looking at the prices and get nowhere so this year, having emersed myself in the Derby for the last eight weeks, I just trusted what people have been telling me over that time of how good their dogs are. For example, when I interviewed Paul Hennessy a few months back about another competition, off camera he told me he had one for the Derby in Barefoot Supremo who he rated highly. He ended up being a nice winner on Saturday at odds of 8/1. I thought Saturday was a tricky night and I had meant to nap him too but put the wrong heat number (amateur I know). And Scarty Yank hopefully is another who, hopefully you all saw in the Buckley kennel feature, Emma said was the fastest she had ever put a lead on. You’ve got to take note of that! Anyway, I’ve enjoyed it while it lasted as we roll into round two. See you there hopefully!