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Star Sports Derby - Towcester 500m - £170.000

DROOPYS VERVE (pictured) and Dorotas Wildcat dominate the market ahead of next weekend’s Star Sports English Greyhound Derby Final after a night of top-class racing at Towcester on Saturday where the semi-finals of the £175,000 Classic took centre-stage.

The draw for the final will be made at the traditional Derby Lunch in London on Wednesday, but the Angela Harrison-trained Droopys Verve will certainly have trap four in the 500m showpiece as the sole middle speed left in an original 150-plus strong entry.

Victory in Saturday’s first semi-final was achieved by once again showing trademark early pace and, when the fast-starting Borna Gin and Rising Brandy came together at the turn, the Conlon Family-owned runner was away and on his way to a 28.91sec success

Winning by four and a half lengths, he finished in front of the strong-running pair of Bombers Bullet (Mark Wallis) and Dorotas Vic (Charlie Lister OBE) who qualified ahead of the unlucky Irish star Borna Gin, Saleen Ash and Rising Brandy.

“It’s fantastic and a dream come true,” said winning trainer Harrison afterwards. “This is what greyhound racing is all about - the buzz and the excitement are part of it. We knew he was well in himself, he’s handled the schedule well for a young dog and we’re looking forward to next week.”

Jimmy Wright, Harrison’s partner and assistant, said: “This is out greatest acheivement, no doubt. We’ve been fortunate in train some great dogs and won competitions - Droopys Buick was a Greyhound of the Year for us - but this tops the lot.

“When I was working with Graham Hutt we had a dog called Dotland Hit Man, who looked good for long way, and we’ve had three Scottish Derby finalists with Droopys Buick (twice) and Manic Mile. But this tops the lot, easily. It’s what you work for. It’s brilliant.”

Irish raider Whoops Jack edged out Dorotas Wildcat in a thriller in the second semi-final, a heat which saw Bruisers Bullet qualify in third so giving Mark Wallis a second finalist. But it was the runners trained by Peter Cronin and Kevin Hutton who served up the main dish.

Irish Gold Collar winner Whoops Jack was fast away, Dorotas Wildcat slow away. However, the Towcester dog paced up, recovered from a bump at the bend before challenging and then nosing ahead as the swung off the last bend, only for Whoops Jack to rally back and win.

The short-head margin win for the Cronin runner in 29.18sec was cheered to the rafters by the Towcester crowd who had witnessed another fantastic race, and the winning trainer was delighted to be have been involved in such a great buckle with the dog owned by Larry O’Shea.

Cronin said: “That was fantastic and I’m just delighted to have another crack at winning it. We’ve gone close a couple times - who knows maybe third time lucky? He broke really well, which is testament to this dog given he’s got so much early pace and its been a tough week.

“We know him well - he came to us at five weeks old and we reared him. He’s been a pleasure to handle and given us some great times. He's done it for us again tonight and, win or lose on Saturday, is a real star for myself and the family, and Larry and his family.”

Kevin Ackerman, Towcester MD, said: “They were two fantastic semi-finals, the second one especially exciting. We look forward to more of the same next week when our racing office team headed by Chris Page will be assembling one of the best cards of the year.

“It’s going to be hard work for the team here, but these are events which you must enjoy staging, even with the pressure that comes with it. I urge all greyhound fans - and all sports fans - to come and join us next week for finals night.

“If that’s not possible, then catch all the uninterrupted action on Towcester TV. We will also be broadcasting the Derby Final draw on Towcester TV live from White City, London. It’s a nod to this sport’s great tradition and history - and I know connections of the finalists are looking forward to it immensely.”