THE world’s greatest greyhound competition is almost upon us with the heats of the Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby at Towcester.

The first of three nights of first-round action takes place on Thursday, with ten heats that night, before 11 heats apiece on Friday and Saturday – 32 heats in total.

Worth £175,000 to the winner, the 2021 running of the Classic is the latest in a long line of Greyhounds Derbys dating back to Entry Badge’s success in 1927.

This is the third time Towcester has staged the event after wins for Seamus Cahill’s Astute Missile in 2017 and Kevin Hutton’s Dorotas Wildcat in 2018.

For the past two years Nottingham has staged the English Greyhound Derby, drawing huge praise in particular last year for staging the competition at all.

Delayed until October because of Covid and staged without crowds, the Derby nevertheless produced some outstanding racing – and another Irish winner.

Deerjet Sydney, trained by Co. Tipperary-based Pat Buckley for Scottish owner Kenny Glen, scored a popular and emotional success for the Buckley family after a number of near-misses. Their success followed that of compatriot Priceless Blake for Paul Hennessy and Bryan and Kathleen Murphy at Nottingham the year before.

The Irish have again assembled a hugely strong entry.

Among an original 188 entries received by Towcester – comprising 105 railers, 49 middles and 34 wides – a total of 42 were received from Irish trainers which prompted sponsors Star Sports to make the visitors overwhelming favourites to win the Derby for a third successive year.

However, given two home-trained runners won the two Derbys staged by Towcester, hopes remain high that the trophy can be kept on these shores.

Champion trainer Patrick Janssens is among a host of handlers looking for a successful Derby campaign – and his record at the Northamptonshire track this year is unmatched.

Towcester has staged three Category One competitions in 2021 and all have been won by Janssens-trained runners – victory for his Thorn Falcon in the recent KAB Maiden Derby following the successes of kennelmates Kilara Lion in the Blue Riband and Bockos Jon Jo in the Northamptonshire Sprint.

Both Kilara Lion and Thorn Falcon line up in the Derby and Towcester spokesman Nathan Corden believes that, while the betting suggests Ireland will dominate, that will not prevent a month of “banter and battles on the track” between connections and supporters of runners both sides of the Irish Sea.

“That’s very much part of the Derby and, while Ireland certainly has the upper hand after dominating the two Derbys at Nottingham, the home side will rightly point to two English winners of the two Derbys that Towcester has staged so far. Either way I’m looking forward to a great atmosphere – no doubt helped by a great sense of rivalry!

“I’m going with Pat Buckley’s Knocknaboul Syd outright. He really should suit Towcester and I was very impressed with him at Nottingham last year. I also think Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Wild is one who could keep qualifying. As you can see, I think the trophy will stay in Ireland, but I’ll certainly be cheering on the home challenge, too!”

Towcester racing manager Andy Lisemore added: “I know the betting suggests the trophy will be heading back to Ireland, but I’m expecting the locals will also have a major part to play. ‘Team Towcester’ is looking strong with Messrs Janssens, Wallis, Hutton and Mullins in particular all well represented.

“Pick of the Towcester bunch is obviously our brilliant KAB Maiden Derby winner Thorn Falcon, but Sharon Thompson’s Sparta Master is another massively talented local who runs the track well and could go a long, long way in the competition.”

The Greyhound Board of Great Britain wishes Towcester promoter Kevin Boothby and his team the very best of luck for a successful and safe Greyhound Derby and wishes connections of all this year’s entries the very best of luck.


Star Sports and TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby 2021 dates:-

First round: Thursday, June 3; Friday, June 4; Saturday, June 5

Second round: Friday, June 11; Saturday, June 12

Third round: Saturday, June 19

Quarter-finals: Saturday, June 26

Semi-finals: Saturday, July 03

Final: Saturday, July 10