TOWCESTER promoter Kevin Boothby launched the Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby at the Northamptonshire venue on Thursday with a rallying call to the sport to get behind the £175,000-to-the-winner Classic.

As Ballymac Kingdom set the standard as the fastest of ten heat winners on a superb opening night of action at Towcester, track boss Boothby admitted to feeling proud to return the Greyhound Derby to a track which last staged the event in 2017 and 2018.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this point and it’s been great to see the best greyhounds in the UK and Ireland round here. The Greyhound Derby is the sport’s pinnacle and we intend to make it a great showcase for greyhound racing.

“Of course things have been tough and there have been teething problems, but everything that’s been thrown at us we’ve dealt with and improved whether that be installing two new motors for the hare system, bringing in new traps – even reconfiguring the track.

“Greyhound racing is a special sport. It brings fantastic people together who have great and valid opinions on how we should run things. They’re not afraid to express them – and that’s even before they tell us who’ll win the Derby!

“The rivalry is superb between the English and Irish trainers – and don’t forget the Scottish entry either!. Everyone enjoys being part of the Derby and, as a massive dog man myself, having an interest tonight (Savana King) was great – albeit we didn’t make it through.

“I wish every single owner and trainer the very best of luck. I thought the racing tonight was superb and it was fantastic to hear the roar from the terraces – it makes such a difference. There’s plenty of work to do, but we’re going the right way.”

Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Kingdom was quickest on the first night of action as Ireland’s 2020 Stayer of the Year finished best to reel in Frankies Jet and win by almost three lengths in 29.54sec (-20), delighting his breeder and trainer.

Dowling said: “That was a good start certainly. I felt coming into the Derby that he was short of work, so we’ve got to be delighted the way he’s picked up. He’s proven himself a good competition dog (Corn Cuchulainn winner) and hopefully he continues to progress.”

Paul Hennessy’s Priceless Jet (29.90sec -20) and Graham Holland’s Newinn Session (29.73sec -20) were other Irish-trained winners on the night, with double English Derby-winning handler Hennessy, a Cheltenham winner no less this year, delighted to be back.

“Everyone connected with the English Derby should be congratulated for getting the competition on and it’s superb to see crowds here, too. I’m thrilled for Bryan and Kathleen Murphy who are real family friends of ours.

“They own Priceless Jet and, like us, will have been impressed with how he went about his business tonight. He had to work hard to win. It didn’t look promising at the first bend but he showed pace, great trackcraft and a real will-to-win.”

Debbie Calvert’s Jumeirah Sprite was second quickest on the night as he made all for owner Jimmy Buckley, brother of last year’s Derby-winning trainer Pat. Holding the running-on Bandicoot Sammy, he posted 29.59sec (-20) for the 500m trip.

Nathan Hunt’s Jonno You Go kicked off the 2021 English Derby with a trap-to-line success in 29.93sec (-20), while Mark Wallis made it a double on the night having sent out graded winner Tiffield Maximus when in-form Drumcrow Brent finished best in heat two in 30.00sec (-20).

Biggest-priced winner in this first session was the Paul Burr-trained Drumdoit Bruno (30.02sec -20) who landed odds of 14-1 in heat four, although there was nothing fortuitous about the victory. The Yarmouth trainer later qualified both Shelone Milo and Drumdoit Bomber in the final heat won by Paul Young’s impressive winner Bubbly Magnum (29.64sec -20).

Kevin Hutton’s Monmore Winter Derby hero Signet Ace was also an eye-catching victor in heat nine, making all in 29.62sec (-20), while Patrick Janssens’ recent KAB Maiden Derby winner Thorn Falcon again showed his liking for Towcester with a popular off-the-pace success in 29.89sec (-20).


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