Race to Glory: The Towcester Showdown

A Thrilling Clash of Canine Champions at the English Greyhound Derby Final

This Saturday, the Towcester racetrack is set to witness an electrifying finale to the Star Sports & TRC English Greyhound Derby, where six contenders will vie for glory in a heart-stopping thirty seconds of action. The competition has been a showcase of agility, speed, and the indomitable spirit of greyhounds, with Graham Holland’s Irish contingent making a significant mark by advancing three of their finest - Swords Rex, Clona Duke, and Gaytime Nemo - to this pivotal moment.

David Firmager, buoyed by the triumph of last year's champion Romeo Magico, enters the fray with Romeo Command, a contender that stands as the prime hope for the British camp. The market’s confidence in him is palpable, yet rivals Cochise and Ninja Kerry from Hove have displayed formidable prowess, signaling a clash of the titans that promises to captivate and thrill.

Beyond the main event scheduled for 21.15, the undercard is replete with races that are no less compelling. Fromposttopillar, once a frontrunner for the Derby title, seeks redemption in the Derby Plate (20.56) against seasoned adversaries Brookside Richie and Blackhouse Harry. Meanwhile, Ballymac John, despite not clinching a heat in the Stakes (20.05), remains a favorite among bettors, a testament to the unwavering faith in Mark Wallis's charge.

The curtain raiser at 17.47 is a winner-takes-all match featuring Maree Champion and New Destiny, two of Britain's most promising pups, each vying for a £10,000 bounty. The evening's proceedings will culminate with the Dorando Marathon (21.55), where Space Jet seeks to emulate last year's dominant victory.

Now, let us delve into the contenders for the 21.15 Star Sports and TRC English Greyhound Derby Final:


bk d Droopys Sydney - Lemon Stacey (Jun 20)

Best recent time 28.94 (27 May)

Trainer: Richard Rees (Hove)

Owner: Billy Evans

Basically, the name they gave this greyhound, Cochise, means he's as tough as an oak tree, and honestly, it fits him perfectly because he can run way longer distances than what's usually expected in races like the Derby. He's a pretty big guy, weighing 38kg, and he started his racing career with Dave Mullins over at Romford. But then, Mullins was like, "Maybe Hove would be a better fit for him."

People have noticed that Cochise doesn't really enjoy the whole pre-race routine, especially hanging out in the kennels, but he showed everyone what he's made of by beating his competitors in the Cesarewitch at Central Park back in January.

The Rees family, who own him, are no strangers to winning big races. Richard's granddad won the Derby back in '76 with Mutts Silver, and his dad won it again in '85 with Pagan Swallow.

Before the competition even started, you could've bet on Cochise with odds of 125/1, which was a pretty sweet deal. He's made it to the final by being quick off the mark and finishing strong. Now, the big question is whether he can keep up with some of the top dogs in the more challenging parts of the race.

COCHISE embodies the essence of resilience, a characteristic derived from his namesake, the legendary Apache leader. Transitioning from Romford to Hove, he has overcome early challenges to showcase his endurance and speed, capturing the imagination and hopes of his connections.


bk d Droopys Sydney - Gaytime Deval (Jul 20)

Best recent time: 28.79 (17 June)

Trainer: Graham Holland (Ireland)

Owner: Brendan O'Connell

When the Holland powerhouse made its entrance, it could be argued that Gaytime Nemo somewhat slipped in unnoticed as the group of eight began their competitive efforts. A significant factor for this was the dog's return after nearly five months away due to an injury. However, a statement was made at Towcester when he delivered a sub-29 second performance in the initial round from this track. Should he match or exceed the performance seen in the quarter-finals, where he left Ninja Kerry trailing by over five lengths, his time could be competitive. It's interesting to note that during that race, he benefitted from a draw of five and took advantage of a pace setter veering left early on.

With relatively few races under his belt, Gaytime Nemo presents as an intriguing bet, especially considering his draw might be seen as the "least bad" among the options. However, he must avoid falling behind the competitor in the red jacket, who tends to slow down significantly at the first bend, potentially hindering any opportunity to challenge the favorites.

GAYTIME NEMO, the underdog of Graham Holland’s trio, has defied expectations with performances that underscore his potential. Returning from injury, he has quickly recalibrated, demonstrating his competitiveness and agility, which could very well tilt the scales in his favor.


bd d Dorotas Wildcat - Drive on Betsy (Jan 21)

Best recent time: 28.75 (10 June)

Trainer: Patrick Janssens

Owner: David Firmager

If the success of Derby winners was determined by their connections' pedigrees, this dog would be a prime candidate, boasting ownership by last year's Derby victor and training by the handler of 2021 standout, Thorn Falcon. Romeo Command boasts an impressive lineage himself, being a progeny of 2018 winner Dorotas Wildcat, and initially trained by Graham Holland. His performance soared to new heights after moving to Janssens in Ireland, highlighted by an undefeated run in the BGBF British Breeders Stakes at Nottingham.

Despite being the beaten favourite in the Racing Post Juvenile over the same distance and track in April, he kicked off his Derby campaign with four consecutive wins, including an impressive eight-length victory in the third round, posting the night's fastest time after a 4.11 sectional start.

To clinch victory on Saturday, he'll need to overturn his semi-final performance against Swords Rex, which was arguably his poorest showing of the series. Yet, his advancement was no accident, as he demonstrated considerable effort from a challenging spot. The trainer is renowned for peak performances in high-stakes situations, and Romeo Command has a strong track record from his draw, suggesting he's a contender to watch.

ROMEO COMMAND carries the legacy of last year’s victory, with a pedigree that speaks volumes of his inherent capabilities. Under Patrick Janssens’s tutelage, he has ascended to new heights, with his eyes firmly set on emulating the feats of his illustrious predecessors.


bk d Droopys Sydney - Starry Display (Jul 20)

Best recent time: 28.76 (24 June)

Trainer: Graham Holland (Ireland)

Owner: Barbara Lowndes

SWORDS REX arrives at the final with an impeccable record, aiming to etch his name alongside the greats of the sport. His journey to this stage has been marked by a blend of speed, strategy, and an unyielding will to prevail, making him the one to watch.

Swords Rex stands out as the only contender entering the Final with a perfect record, aiming to emulate Westmead Hawk's complete triumph in 2006. Nicky Holland, distancing from comparisons to Nick Savva’s iconic Westmead Hawk, champions Swords Rex as a remarkable greyhound in his own merit.

Originally known as Newinn Gilly, this son of Droopys Sydney made a splash on the Irish greyhound scene in 2022, clinching an unraced stakes competition at Clonmel and further establishing his reputation with a win in the Kirby Memorial at Limerick. While some might have rushed towards the English Derby after such success, the choice to delay has proven fruitful. Swords Rex triumphed in the Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park and adapted impressively to Towcester, captivating audiences with his rapid start from the traps.

Despite last week's less-than-ideal draw of five, Swords Rex is a straightforward competitor who has adeptly navigated all challenges thus far. A strong start in tonight’s race could significantly boost his chances for the title, signaling an exciting competition for the top honors.


bk d Malachi - Coolavanny Pearl (Mar 21)

Best recent time: 28.69 (24 June)

Trainer: Graham Holland (Ireland)

Owner: Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O’Brien’s Clona prefix has become synonymous with owning high-caliber greyhounds, and Clona Duke, a half-brother to the 2019 Easter Cup champion, Clona Blaze, is no exception, entering the competition with strong claims to success. His unexpected victory in the 2022 RPGTV Juvenile Derby as a 20-1 longshot showcased his potential early on. His preparation for the Derby, marked by a win in what many consider one of the most competitive Select Stakes at Waterford in recent memory, further solidified his status as a contender.

The Kirby Memorial at Limerick highlighted Clona Duke's inconsistency, with a record-equaling performance in the second round followed by a disappointing missed break and subsequent elimination a week later. This pattern of highs and lows continued at Towcester, where he set a track record in the first round with an impressive 3.98 sectional, only to falter in the trapping during the second round. However, his journey in the competition underscores a critical Derby adage: you must be in it to win it.

Skeptics were proven wrong ahead of the semi-finals when Clona Duke shattered the track record from trap two, delivering one of the standout performances of the competition. The final challenge comes with a wider draw, demanding a repeat of his exceptional start speed at the most crucial moment.

CLONA DUKE has showcased a remarkable dichotomy of performance, from record-setting victories to nail-biting finishes. His semi-final showing has left many in awe, positioning him as a formidable contender, eager to defy odds and expectations.


bd d Droopys Jet - Ninja Penny (Nov 19)

Best recent time: 29.20 (24 June)

Trainer: Belinda Green (Hove)

Owners: Alan Ballard and Barry Sadler

Ninja Kerry, the competition's most senior contender, had his beginnings in Ireland's graded races before being acquired by Belinda Green in anticipation of the 2022 Derby, where he was quickly tested against the eventual finalist, Savana Beau, in a Trial Stakes. Although he reached the quarter-finals of last year's Derby without securing a win, he found form with a Maiden Open win at Hove, followed by a triumph in the Sussex Cup, one of England's most esteemed Category One races.

This season at Towcester has mirrored the past, with Ninja Kerry yet to claim a victory, evoking memories of Astute Missile, the Hove-trained victor of the 2017 Derby at Towcester's previous iteration. Some might argue that Ninja Kerry boasts superior qualities as a competitor. Positioned as a middle seed, he was allotted box six for the Final, a draw that has seemingly played to his advantage due to his preference for wider turns, helping him avoid trouble.

Despite the formidable challenge indicated by the timings, Belinda Green's exceptional year, highlighted by securing three Category 1 titles, suggests that underestimating Ninja Kerry might be premature. The combination of strategic racing and Green's winning momentum could yet produce a surprising outcome.

NINJA KERRY, the seasoned campaigner of the lot, brings experience and a proven track record of resilience. His journey to the final, marked by consistent improvement and strategic prowess, sets the stage for a potentially surprising outcome.

As the anticipation builds for the Star Sports and TRC English Greyhound Derby Final, each contender stands on the precipice of history, ready to unleash their full might in pursuit of glory. With the stage set and the stakes higher than ever, this promises to be a spectacle of speed, strategy, and spirit that will resonate far beyond the confines of Towcester racetrack.  

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English Greyhound Derby Tip & 1/2/3

SWORDS REX is the talk of the track with some pretty sweet odds, and if he gets a clear shot, he's the one to beat. Clona Duke really stepped up his game last week, but it's anyone's guess if he can pull off that magic again from his new spot. Romeo Command is everyone's buddy - he kept his cool even when the race got messy. Gaytime Nemo seems to have a bit of a tiff with trap one, so don't bet on his last race being a repeat performance. Ninja Kerry and Cochise? They've earned their spots at the starting line, fair and square."