THE Irish challenge for the Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby always looked strong on paper and Toolmaker Sydney underlined that fact on the track with a fastest-of-the-competition return in heat 11 – the first of the night – at Towcester on Friday.

The Robert Gleeson-trained runner, who reached the semi-finals of last year’s Irish Derby, made all to beat compatriot Knocknaboul Syd, trained by Pat Buckley and himself an English Derby semi-finalist at Nottingham last year, by four lengths in a magnificent 29.13sec (normal) for the 500m trip.

Gleeson said afterwards: “When he came out in front you know he’s going to do a run, all these top-class dogs are capable of doing the same if they manage to get off the front. He cut the corner well and was away.

“He wasn’t breaking that well at Shelbourne but maybe he might be suited to the traps opening when the hare’s in front of the traps as they do here. We’ll get back and regroup and go again next week. It’s great to be involved.”

Ireland had five winners on the night in total with a Graham Holland-trained brace courtesy of heat 13 winner Gaytime Milo (29.89sec) and Sweep The Yard (29.61sec) in heat 19, added to by Pat Buckley’s Glengar Bale (29.30sec) in heat 12 and Liam Dowling’s  Ballymac Wild (29.53sec) in heat 17.

Fastest of the UK-trained winners was the ultra-consistent Droopys Addition for Romford trainer Gemma Evans, who made all in heat 15 to score easily in 29.21sec – leading home kennelmate Newinn Jacko for a special one-two for their handler.

Bockos Belly was another impressive winner in heat 14, pacing up to lead into the bend and always dominating matters thereafter as he crossed the line almost five lengths clear of Troy Firebird (David Mullins) in 29.32sec.

Winning trainer Patrick Janssens said: “I was pretty confident beforehand. I knew he was very well. The trip to Ireland didn’t quite work out for him, but he’s really come into himself now – as I always thought he might. He’s a Kinloch Brae and I don’t think they really come to themselves until at least two and a half, so I knew he’d improve.

“He had a good make-up and, while he didn’t break that well and can trap better, was still able to dominate. He has all-round speed, nothing flashy and no real acceleration as such, but he quickly gets to top speed and keeps at that level. Sometimes in top company he’ll be chopped for some middle speed but will come back at them, which is why I reckon he could be very good over 575m at Romford.”

Lee Field’s superb bitch Luna Rocket trapped in front in heat 16 and never gave her opponents a chance as the Monmore raider made all to win from Tom Heilbron’s Northern Flat champion Pacemaker Ted in a fast 29.35sec. The latter’s Newcastle-based trainer would later strike with puppy Anynamewilldo in heat 20 in 29.62sec.

Liz McNair landed a popular victory with Queen Beyonce in heat 18, with the daughter of Eden The Kid completing a fantastic return to the track with a gutsy victory in 29.59sec. The kennel would qualify Queen Dolly from the very next heat (behind Sweep The Yard), making up for a disappointing start after major traffic problems saw King Louis miss the opening heat.

The final heat of the night was won by Little Emir for Edinburgh-based trainer Gary Carmichael who trapped smartly and made all the running, winning by almost two lengths from Arran Dunn’s Shelbys Memory in 29.66sec.


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, June 03

Final: Saturday, July 10