NATIVE MAESTRO set a new fastest time of the event as he spearheaded a Graham Holland treble in the final batch of Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby first round heats at Towcester on Saturday.

Lining up in heat 27 of the £175,000 Classic, the Kingdom Derby and Select Stakes finalist was soon in command from the inside box and never looked likely to be reeled in, although the Brendan Matthews-trained Unlock Unlock, making an incredible return to the track after having a litter of pups, got to within three-quarters of a length of the 29.10sec winner (normal) at the line.

The Holland treble on the night had been kick-started by another ‘comeback kid’ Lenson Bocko as the 2019 Irish Derby champion rolled back the years with a fluent all-the-way victory over Robert Gleeson’s Duke De Janerio in heat 23, the winner clocking 29.35sec, to land a double for Native Maestro’s owners Bev Lochead and Graham Box.

Kameko completed the Holland hat-trick in heat 30 as the Shelbourne 550yd winner came through an early battle with Ballymac Fairone (Liam Dowling), who kept on well, before holding De Machine for a length victory in 29.44sec – just a length and a half covering the first three home in one of the finishes of the night.

Nicky Holland, wife of winning trainer Graham, said: “It’s been a great night and we’re just delighted to be in the second round – we’ve had a pretty good first round but there’s a long way to go as we know.

“Seeing Lenson Bocko win was fantastic for the kennel – he seems to love Towcester! We brought him back because he loves his racing, loves his work at home, and was in great shape. He’s mated a few bitches and has got pups on the ground now, but when he trialled so well here he made our minds up.

“He’s a seasoned campaigner and is enjoying it. We talked things over with Bev and Graham and they were happy. They can see what he’s like at the track and just enjoys being a part of it – and he certainly enjoyed it tonight.

“Kameko has proved a really good Saturday night dog at Shelbourne and it was great to see him win tonight. I think we’re especially delighted for his owner Larry O’Rourke, who bought this dog out of an unraced at Kilkenny. He was unlucky not to get Golden Tiger through here, so it’s great for him that Kameko ran so well.

“Native Maestro did a cracking time and, while I didn’t think he actually trapped that well, his early pace soon saw him in front and, like the others, we’re just happy to be in the next round – let’s hope for half-decent draws for them all. Certainly the red jacket is a help to Native Maestro, but he ran a brilliant race in the Select Stakes at Waterford from trap five and didn’t dive in.”

Pat Buckley’s defending champion Deerjet Sydney started his Derby defence on a winning note when making the most of a gap at the first bend after crowding between his rivals on the run-up, to scoot clear off the second turn and race five and a half lengths clear of Coney Wonderland (Sean Davy) in 29.68sec.

Angry Dad later completed a good night for the Irish challenge when striking for Peter Cronin in the final first round heat 32. Soon in command, the August 19 youngster defied inexperience to race clear and cross the line three and a half lengths clear of the staying on Faughan Rebel (Richard Yeates) in a slick 29.31sec.

Towcester boss Kevin Boothby was on the mark in the opening heat 22 after the Gary Griffiths-trained local Savana Domino paced up to lead early and was always holding the staying on Perrysblueyedboy (Patrick Janssens), winning by half a length in 29.50sec.

Kevin Hutton struck with Forest Gold (29.46sec) in heat 24 before Graham Rankin’s Jaguar Macie continued her sparkling year as the Monmore and Newcastle Puppy Derby champion showed superb pace to clear her lines in heat 25, clocking a fast 29.23sec as the two-year-old led home the powerful Cold As Ice (Jimmy Fenwick) by two lengths.

Richard Rees was on the mark in heat 28 courtesy of another exhibition of front running from Hilight Arkle as he gamely kept the strong-running Boylesportsbingo at bay, winning by a head in 29.33sec, before the improving Bettys Book (29.51sec) produced a faultless performance for Kevin Boon in heat 29.

Lee Field has enjoyed a cracking first round of the Derby and his Adeles Duke, a finalist in both the Romford Golden Sprint and Perry Barr Laurels, showed superb early pace to streak clear in heat 31 before crossing the line almost two lengths clear of the keeping on Tenpin (David Mullins). The winning time was a smart 29.37sec.

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

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