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Star Sports Greyhound Derby - Towcester 500m - £175,000

THE scene is set for the first Star Sports Derby final at Towcester – and it’s a cracker.

The betting would suggest a straight match between the two Irish-trained greyhounds, Clares Rocket and Tyrur Shay, with the tiniest nod to the possibility of Hiya Butt playing a part from a delightful draw against the rails in trap one.

To a certain extent that could be the case. Certainly, if Clares Rocket breaks in the same sizzling style as he did on Saturday, my immediate thought would be the whereabouts of Tyrur Shay. If he is sitting within three or four lengths of the leader then it would be game on. Any further than that and it could be a struggle for PJ Fahy’s dog to score.

Hiya Butt will undoubtedly run a cracker. But I believe Hayley Keightley’s dog would need a perfect storm of trouble in behind to hold out. And I think both Clares Rocket and Tyrur Shay are capable of back-running Hiya Butt.

Droops Acrobat made a statement of intent when scoring at the quarter-final stage, and he didn’t run too badly behind Hiya Butt in the semi-finals. He must, though, pull a big run out of the bag with the presence of serious early pace on both sides.

Astute Missile, like Droopys Acrobat trained by Seamus Cahill, ran a smashing race in the semi-finals – probably his best of the competition. Like his kennelmate, Astute Missile will need everything to go in his favour.

We touched on Tyrur Shay earlier and it wouldn’t be right not to highlight the huge impact he has had on the event. He is the track record holder over the Derby 500-metre trip and, given his outstanding ability, will most likely be bearing down on Clares Rocket in the closing stages.

Murrys Act represents the popular Kevin Boon and the Racing Post Juvenile winner shouldn’t be ruled out. But, like some of the others, he requires the big runners to fluff their lines and that is unlikely to happen.

So, to summarise: the race will most probably be won in the first 100 metres or so. If Clares Rocket is in front or marginally behind Hiya Butt at the head of the charge around the first and second bends, Graham Holland’s dog will most likely win. But he won’t be allowed to relax with Tyrur Shay, expected to be close behind.

The Star Sports Derby Final Line-Up

1 Hiya Butt

2 Droopys Acrobat

3 Clares Rocket

4 Astute Missile

5 Tyrur Shay (m)

6 Murrys Act (w)

WHAT CONNECTIONS HAD TO SAY

Mark Keightley (husband of Hayley, trainer of Hiya Butt): “How he has made the final is a mystery given the journey he has had to get there. We have trained him with the intention of sacrificing a length or so of his early to improve his ability to stay. It seems to have worked. He is approaching four years old and it is an incredible achievement for him to reach the final. We are over the moon with his draw (trap one) and cannot wait for the final.”

Seamus Cahill (trainer of Astute Missile and Droopys Acrobat): “I’m delighted with both dogs. They have performed so well and deserve their place in the final. If I had the choice I would have swapped their trap draws – but it is what it is. I have really enjoyed this year’s Derby. I think Towcester has been a tremendous venue. They have put on a great show and deserve lots of credit.”

Graham Holland (trainer of Clares Rocket): “I didn’t know what to expect with the three quick runs last week because he had never been in that position again. But he handled it well and will appreciate the week off before the final. I wanted trap one in the final but to be honest I’m happy enough with trap three. He needs to come away – but that was the case from any box – and must build a lead. Tyrur Shay is my biggest worry but they are all good dogs and anything can happen in a final.”

P J Fahy (owner and trainer of Tyrur Shay): “Delighted to be in the final and I’m over the moon at the way he ran in the semi-final. We made up more than a few lengths on a dog as good as Clares Rocket. That’s incredible. I’m happy with the draw and believe we can have a say in the outcome.”

Kevin Boon (owner and trainer of Murrys Act): “It’s fantastic to reach the final. If you had seen this dog just a few morning’s ago you would have given him a chance of reaching the final. He was in a sorry state. But I took advice from some experienced people and I managed to get him right. I really believe this dog can go close in the final with a clear run. He didn’t get anything like that in the semi-final. I’ve only been training for five years and cannot believe I’ve got a Derby finalist. It’s tremendous.”

HOW THE SEMI-FINALS WERE WON

The First Semi-Final

He may have been amongst the oldest still standing in the competition but there is still plenty of life left in Hiya Butt. That was a point he hammered home in emphatic style with a sizzling performance as he led from start to finish to land this. The dog, who 12 months ago led everywhere bar the line when finishing third in the final, broke with speed from trap one and was never troubled as he went on to score by three parts of a length from Droopys Acrobat. The latter had his hind-quarters struck into by Droopys Buick at the second turn but that apart had a clear path as chased home the 29.17sec (normal) winner. Murrys Act, pushed wide at the first bend as the final part of a concertina that also compromised Bruisers Bullet and the slowly away Forest Con, went into third place off the second bend and stayed on gamely to take the final place in the draw.

The Second Semi-Final

This was billed as the race of the night and it lived up to that and how. Clares Rocket has been something of an enigma through the competition but he went into this race unbeaten in the event and that status was still intact afterwards. It was a fabulous display of front-running. The Graham Holland-trained dog broke quicker than he has at any stage of the annual and won by a shade under two lengths in a slick 28.83sec (normal). It was a brilliant run from a dog who just keeps on turning it on. Equally brilliant was the performance from Tyrur Shay, the second placed dog. He didn’t break particularly well and was forced to take a wide course by Sallows Ford at the first turn. After that, however, it was all action from Tyrur Shay, who must have made up four to five lengths in running on the winner. Astute Missile had been in second place from the start to the run-in before succumbing to Tyrur Shay in the closing stages.