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William Hill Greyhound Derby - Wimbledon 480M (£150,000)

LENSON ROCKY might just be the answer in what is undoubtedly a most competitive William Hill Derby final over 480 metres at Wimbledon on Saturday.

A genuine case can be made for any of the six finalists, four of whom are from Ireland. But when push comes to shove my guess is that it will be Lenson Rocky who emerges on top to give the Emerald Isle its 13th winner of the event and its first since the late Seamus Graham steered Loyal Honcho to victory in 2008.

Lenson Rocky is one of two runners in the £150,000 decider trained by Country Tipperary-based Pat Buckley, who is bidding to emulate Arthur Hitch’s achievement of having first and second home in 1986.

No prizes for guessing that Lenson Rocky is owned by Len Ponder who has spent many thousands in pursuit of his Derby dream and may well have found the answer in the shape of this tough black son of Droopys Scolari.

He is the youngest in the line-up and won’t be two-years-old until Monday but during a campaign that has seen him successful in two of the five preliminary rounds, Lenson Rocky has shown himself to possess the speed, trackcraft and the resoluteness to make him a Derby champion.

He starts from trap one. Not an ideal draw considering his propensity to move to the middle on the run-up but it is one that gives him an opportunity to go round the first bend in front or thereabouts.

This is a race which I’m sure will be decided at the first or second bend. And one of those likely to have a big say is Hiya Butt, who is trained on the outskirts of Cardiff by Hayley Keightley. He would be the first dog to win based in Wales and the sixth winner trained by a woman.

Fast-starting and early-speed are the foundations on which Hiya Butt is built and he has displayed both in equal quantities through the competition. He has also been the closest railer in the competition but has been drawn in trap five for the decider.

On his only previous start in the orange jacket, at Shelbourne Park in January, Hiya Butt broke slowly, picked-up quickly to take the bend just about in front, and then cut right across to the rail.

The concern of connections of those runners on his immediate left – Peregrine Falcon (trap four) and Droopys Roddick (trap three) in particular – must be that Hiya Butt could literally put their runners out of the race if cutting across them at the first bend during the final. It was also interesting to note that Hiya Butt ran gun-barrel straight to the first bend before diving for the inside.

To my mind if Hiya Butt breaks level with the field on Saturday he will be in front by the first bend and that will make things really interesting.

The aforementioned Droopys Roddick is Buckley’s other runner in the final. I won’t say first or second string because I don’t believe connections think of them that way.

Droopys Roddick has probably been the most talked about of all the dogs in the Derby. He came into the event having won last year’s RFS Puppy Derby over Saturday’s course and distance in a sizzling 27.97sec and the €80,000 Kirby Memorial at Tralee but many were underwhelmed by his performances in the early rounds.

Buckley has always said he was happy with Droopys Roddick and that view was vindicated in the semi-finals when the son of Droopys Jet powered ahead in the latter stages to score.

Droopys Roddick carried the white jacket to success then and wears it again in the final. Much depends on him getting a clear run and but if he does he will be a big player.

It was interesting to note the comments of Pat Curtin, the trainer of Peregrine Falcon, who at the Derby Lunch revealed he will win the race with the dog that last year finished fourth in the Irish Derby decider.

Curtin’s confidence is based on his expectation that Peregrine Falcon will get away to a sizzling start and make the bend in front. It would appear to be the only way he can win as he hasn’t thus far shown anything that would suggest he can back-run this field.

But he is a classy performer and connections have backed their confidence with hard cash and Curtin is a trainer from the top drawer with an Irish Derby

Jaytee Jet (trap six) is the best drawn in the race and will most probably start as the favourite, although there doesn’t appear to be strong confidence behind him. His inconsistency at the starting traps is his Achilles Heel and ultimately could prove his downfall.

But this is a dog who prior to coming over from Ireland with a powerful team from Paul Hennessy’s kennels at Gowran in County Kilkenny won the Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park. He also reached the quarter-finals of the English Derby last year and it is not in his nature to go down without a battle.

Hiya Butt could make the race for Jaytee Jet if moving across the field at the first turn and creating space for the wide runner. Alternatively, assuming he doesn’t get away to an electric start, he will come with a wet sail in the latter stages and will without doubt be thereabouts.

Whilst on the subject of finishers the best in the line-up is Cloran Paddy (trap two). Many are still scratching their heads at how Charlie Lister’s dog qualified in third from what appeared an impossible position in the semi-finals.

He looks likely to be behind on the dash the turn. It is perhaps in his interests that he doesn’t trap too sharply otherwise he could become embroiled in a barging match with Lenson Rocky, whom he picked up to score a famous victory at the quarter-final stage.

They’ll be no quicker finisher than Cloran Paddy who is bidding to given his trainer, Charlie Lister, a fabulous eighth win in the race.

Verdict: 1 Lenson Rocky 2nd Jaytee Jet 3rd Cloran Paddy

 

DRAW FOR THE WILLIAM HILL DERBY FINAL JUNE 04

1 Lenson Rocky

2 Cloran Paddy

3 Droopys Roddick

4 Peregrine Falcon

5 Hiya Butt

6 Jaytee Jet (w)

 

WHAT THE TRAINERS SAY

Pat Buckley (Lenson Rocky): “He is young and very consistent and we are delighted to be in the final. I’m looking for a good break and for him to get round well. He is coming out of his races nicely. The draw is excellent, and with a good clean run and he won’t be far away.”

Charlie Lister (Cloran Paddy): “He is a very strong runner and is extremely game. The draw is what it is. He’s outside Lenson Rocky who can move to the middle on the way to the first bend so I am hopeful that we trap slightly behind him and follow him round.”

Pat Buckley (Droopys Roddick): “There has been a lot said about him, some of which has been unfair. I’m happy enough with the draw – he will run from anywhere. He has been ticking over throughout the stake and he showed what he can do in the semi-finals. I’m hopeful of a clear run and if that happens he will be thereabouts.”

Pat Curtin (Peregrine Falcon): “I’ve been coming over for ten years and it’s great to finally have a dog in the Derby final. We’ve backed him at all prices and to be honest I really fancy our chances. He injured his back when hitting the rails in an earlier round and came off with a wrist injury after the third round but he will be 100 per cent for the final. He wants the inside, so trap four is not ideal and we really would like him to get away to a quick

Hayley Keightley (Hiya Butt): “I would have liked him in trap three but five might not be as bad as it seems. He needs one of those 4.60sec sectionals but if he gets away well, he’ll take a straight course to the bend can drive the turn. Hopefully that can earn him a lead.”

Paul Hennessy (Jaytee Jet): “We have been happy with him throughout the competition. He is healthy and is extremely genuine – I don’t think any other dog would have got up to dead-heat for third after the trouble he got in that second round heat. He goes into the final well and we are hopeful for the best.”