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

 

If some doubted its status as the biggest and best  greyhound competition on the globe they will surely have been rejuvenated by a spectacular night when greyhound racing and showbusiness merged to produce a night to remember.

The action on the track was every bit as exciting as what was going on off it. And in the Star Sports Derby final we had a race that had everything. The result wasn’t the one anticipated but it was nonetheless as thrilling.

Astute Missile became the biggest-priced winner of the Star Sports English Greyhound Derby when landing the £175,000 final at 28-1.

The dog trained at Hove by Seamus Cahill tops previous longest-priced runners Duleek Dandy (1960), Tartan Khan (1975) and Kinda Ready (2009), all of whom scored at 25-1.

Most of the pre-race media surrounded Clares Rocket. The greyhound who set the track alight last year in Ireland had reached the final unbeaten and appeared to be coming to hand with a sizzling semi-final victory over Tyrur Shay, also trained in Ireland by P J Fahy.

Tyrur Shay, the 500-metre track record holder, looked destined to play a part as did Hiya Butt, last year’s third. Seamus Cahill was represented by both Astute Missile and Droopys Acrobat, whilst Kevin Boon had the extremely talented Murrys Missile in the line-up.

The expectation was that Clares Rocket, on the back of a red hot 05.10sec sectional, would break ahead and make all. But that wasn’t too be.

The nose of Astute Missile and Hiya Butt were just about the first to emerge from the trap-rise as Droopys Acrobat and Clares Rocket brushed against each other. Tyrur Shaw was next but Murrys Act completely mistimed the start and trailed the field approaching the first turn.

Courtesy of his draw next to the fence, Hiya Butt, bidding to emulate Future Cutlet, Milebush Pride, Moaning Lad and Loyal Honcho, all of whom won the Derby after they were beaten in the final the previous year, took command. Astute Missile was in second as Tyrur Shay moved into third.

The third bend was to become the part of the race when the winning manoeuvre was made as Astute Missile moved through on the rails to take command as Hiya Butt began to tire. Tyrur Shay positioned himself on the outside and set off after the leader. Clares Rocket began to pick up the pace but had lost far too much ground.

Just for a moment those that had backed Tyrur Shay sensed that were on a winner as the dog trained in County Galway by P J Fahy closed on the leader but Astute Missile wasn’t for catching and he stayed on stoutly to score by three parts of a length in 28.92sec – his fastest in the event.

The immediate reaction from William Hill was to give Astute Missile a 100-1 quote for next year’s Derby but that was the last thing on the minds of trainer Seamus Cahill and his wife Teresa as they started to digest the realisation they had won the derby.

The popular couple finished second with Call Me Baby in 2002 behind shock winner Allen Gift. Few would have realised that like Claude Gardiner’s dog and Astute Missile had something in common as both had won the Derby without winning at any stage of the preliminaries.

The win came month after the Cahills suffered the family tragedy of the loss of his daughter Brig following a long battle with cancer.

Seamus said: “It’s the biggest race in the sport. It’s the one everybody wants and we have won it. It will probably be a day or two before it dawns on me.” Teresa added: “We had the help of angel tonight. Brig is looking down on us.”

Tyrur Shay lost nothing in defeat and returns to Ireland for a tilt at the Boylesports Irish Derby at Shelbourne Park, starting late next month. Clares Rocket, who was withdrawn lame after the first round of the Irish Derby last year, will tread the same path.

Astute Missile, meanwhile, will most probably head to Nottingham for the Betfred Select Stakes on Wednesday, July 27.

Seamus Cahill said: “Once he trapped in front I thought he was always going to win. It’s an incredible feeling. The plan is now to go for the Select Stakes at Nottingham and he will trial there soon.”

Teresa Cahill said: “I told everybody at the Derby Lunch that we had an angel rooting for us on Saturday. She was going to push our dogs on and she has. Bridget was on our side. I think people should remember that Astute Missile beat Tyrur Shay in Ireland. Our dog was getting better and better and was the improving dog in the final.”