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William Hill Greyhound Derby - Wimbledon 480M

IRISH eyes were smiling at Wimbledon on Saturday when four runners from the Emerald Isle qualified for next weekend’s £150,000 final of the William Hill Derby.

And the star of the show was undoubtedly the Country Tipperary trainer Pat Buckley who registered a double in the two semi-finals courtesy of Lenson Rocky and Droopys Roddick.

At last Buckley has can lay to rest the memory of last year’s semi-finals when he failed to bag a place in the decider despite having two runners, Paradise Maverick and Lenson Sanchez, in the second semi-final won by Making Paper.

“A nightmare” is now Buckley describes that night but the despair felt then was elation on Saturday when Lenson Rocky and Droopys Roddick cruised to a quick-fire 17-1 double.

Lenson Rocky, who will be the youngest in the decider, really is a dog for whom the sky is the limit – something he proved on Saturday with a sizzling first semi-final success from trap one.

In terms of excitement it was one of the races of the round as Lenson Rocky won the battle for an early advantage over Peregrine Falcon and Southfield Jock and nursed his lead throughout to score by three lengths in 28.13sec (0.10sec fast).

Peregrine Falcon reached his second Derby final in less than a year by producing his best performance thus far in the competition when finishing second.

The Pat Curtin-trained dog, fourth in the Irish Derby behind Ballymac Matt at Shelbourne Park in September, was always prominent and in the end came home in second – ahead of Cloran Paddy, who produced a gut-bursting late surge to deny Southfield Rocky a place in the final by finishing third.

Cloran Paddy is yet another Derby finalist for Charlie Lister, a man who has won the race a record-breaking seven times and who has had heaven knows how many runners in the big one.

It was proving a fabulous weekend for Buckley. Not only had Lenson Rocky won the first semi-final of the Derby but 24 hours earlier and 570 miles west of Wimbledon at Tralee in County Kerry, Team Buckley had been in winning form with Paradise Maverik who had won the €15,000 Boylesport Race of Champions, and Droopys Nine who had landed a race on the under card in a sizzling 28.03sec for 480 metres.

But the icing on the cake was only minutes away as Droopys Roddick, beaten into second in the final of the Red Mills Future Champions Unraced final by the aforementioned Droopys Nine at Enniscorthy back in October, landed the second semi-final with an off-the-pace success in 28.28sec (0.10sec fast) to deny the strong running Jaytee Jet.

The latter again showed he is prone to a moderate break which would have led to his elimination but for the iron-will of a dog who many still feel is the fastest dog in the competition, if not the most reliable.

Anyhow, the Paul Hennessy-trained Jaytee Jet is in the final and given that he is the only wide seed there, he is guaranteed trap six.

The third and final qualifying place from the second semi-final went to a dog who for so long had looked the likely winner, Hiya Butt.

Hayley Keightley’s charge went into the race defending a record as the only unbeaten runner left in the competition following four wins in the preliminaries. Those successes were built on early speed and that breakneck pace was evident again as the powerful black took an early advantage.

He emptied out quite dramatically, however, close home but still had three-parts of a length to spare over the fourth-placed Shaneboy Freddie.

WHAT THE CONNECTIONS HAD TO SAY

Len Ponder (owner of Lenson Rocky): “All we wanted was to qualify. Running from trap one was a bit of a worry but he has shown plenty of guts to get in front. There is no feeling like having a dog in the Derby final – it is very special. I think everybody in the sport should also say thank you to William Hill for their continued support.”

Pat Buckley (trainer of Lenson Rocky and Droopys Roddick): “We really do think a lot of Lenson Rocky…we think he is good enough to win the Derby. He’s young and improving. Droopys Roddick is a dog that always runs well in a final. He’s a really good competition dog. I’m really not bothered where he is drawn in the final – I’m just pleased to be there.”

John Proctor (owner of Droopys Roddick): “We always knew he had that run in him in this Derby. He has been written off by a lot of people but he’s reached the final and by doing that I believe he has answered his critics. It’s an achievement to get there – I don’t think it matter what happens after that.”

 

THE DRAW FOR THE FINAL ON SATURDAY

1 Lenson Rocky 2 Cloran Paddy 3 Droopys Roddick 4 Peregrine Falcon 5 Hiya Butt 6 Jaytee Jet (w)