Ahead of the second round of the Star Sports and TRC Events & Leisure Greyhound Derby, Nathan Corden, consultant to Towcester Racecourse and former Director at Nottingham, speaks about the joys and challenges of hosting this year’s Derby. He also talks about his own journey within the sport and the vital role the competition has in inspiring the next generation of greyhound breeders, trainers, owners and racing fans.

“One of my most treasured racing memories is of my Dad winning the 1991 Greyhound Derby with the superb Ballinderry Ash. Looking back, I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of this moment. This, and his subsequent near victories with Ayr Flyer (1994) and Tynwald Bish (2015) paved the way for my life-long love of open racing. This led, some 20 years later, to my involvement in three Greyhound Derby’s – at Nottingham and now at Towcester.

As anyone who has ever attended knows, the English Greyhound Derby is special. Not only is it our sport’s richest race but there’s an incredible atmosphere that is unlike any other competition which all builds up to the electric Final. The buzz, the banter and the thrill of watching the dogs do what they do best has always been at the heart of it. It is also a date for the social calendar; where you can catch up with faces you may not have seen all year and meet new ones.

The 2021 Derby is going to be, unsurprisingly, a little different. We are so close to returning to some sort of normality and I am so grateful, as are the whole team at Towcester, for everyone’s compliance with the Covid regulations still in place, particularly around owners and trainers and kennel staff mixing. These are frustrating but necessary to help us minimise risk and give our sport the best possible chance of the Derby going ahead smoothly. We remain hopeful that these restrictions may be lifted ahead of the Final. It has been fantastic to see a crowd back in nonetheless and, of course, this has not affected the quality of the racing on offer which has been nothing short of spectacular.

Moreover, we are hugely thankful for our sponsors – Star Sports and TRC Events & Leisure – for their continued commitment to this competition. In a year where prize money could have, understandably, stayed consistent with last year’s, we instead have an increased prize pot to match 2018’s when the incomparable Dorotas Wildcat stole the show. The £175,000 prize adds another layer of excitement and is a suitable reward for connections for their investment and dedication to their winning greyhound. This prize money highlights Ben Keith and Kevin Boothby’s passion for our sport and their shared belief in the importance of honouring our top race.

I am a firm believer in the importance of open racing for generating new talent within our sport and the Derby stands at the pinnacle of everyone’s ambitions when it comes to breeding and training greyhounds. It unites us all – whether you’re a big or small operation;- having that one special dog or bitch get to the Derby is the goal we all strive for. No one should ever underestimate the time, care and dedication that goes into raising a greyhound and following this dream. For many, it is what makes the non-stop commitment and countless unsociable hours all worth it.

Seeing Ballinderry Ash cross the finishing line all those years ago sparked ‘the Derby dream’ in me and this is something I hope to pass down to my own son. Together, we are embarking on an ownership journey with two pups currently over in Ireland. I was blown away by Skywalker Logan’s performance in the 2019 Derby at Nottingham and was lucky enough to acquire his sister, Magical Elsie, who we bred from last year. She had eight healthy pups and the two we’ve kept for ourselves are both doing very well. Of course, it’s early days and whatever their performance on the track they will get the very best. But sharing the excitement of a potential Derby contender with my son is priceless. I hope and very much expect that he too will catch the Derby fever that comes alive in so many of us each year.”