Astute Missile (T4) turns prominently at the first bend of the Greyhound Derby
Astute Missile (T4) turns prominently at the first bend of the Greyhound Derby

Greyhound Derby final: Ian Brindle's in-depth preview of the race

The final of the 2019 Star Sports, Arc & LPS Greyhound Derby takes place at Nottingham on Saturday and the trap draw has ensured a wide-open affair.

Magical Bale and Clonbrien Prince (both tipped up in last week’s column) won their semi-finals with the minimum of fuss, and connections joy at reaching the £100,000-to-the-winner final will have been somewhat muted as the draw saw the pair allocated their least desired boxes.

Dorotas Wildcat sadly failed to progress and it was to emerge that the reigning champion had torn a whip muscle during his semi-final defeat. A lucrative stud career awaits and he has been given the honour of leading out the finalists on Saturday.

Let’s take a closer look at the make-up…

21.10 - Greyhound Derby final


Bk d Zero Ten – Sizzling Sarah (January 16)

Trainer: Kevin Hutton

Owner: Westwell Racing Club

Fastest calculated time: 29.44 (15 June)

With the presence of Dorotas Wildcat in the Kevin Hutton kennel, Magical Bale enjoyed the luxury of coming into the competition under the radar despite his previous achievements.

Winner of the Puppy Derby at Towcester, he was quietly fancied for last year’s Derby but got no further than the second round.

Joining Pat Guilfoyle for an Irish campaign, Bale developed mentally and physically. There was no hiding place in the Irish Derby where he was to finish as runner-up, and he looked a serious contender for Easter Cup honours before taking a crashing fall.

Returning to England, he was entitled to need his first outing in the Derby but almost found himself out of the competition when sweeping perilously wide off the first bend.

Fast trapping and brut early pace have negated any issue that the draw has thrown at him, and his sectionals have simply steamrollered the opposition. His quarter-final performance against Droopys Expert and Ballymac Tas being one of the most dominant displays ever witnessed at Nottingham.

Having had five career starts in red – winning one and finishing second in a further three - Magical Bale can handle a rails draw. Only eight of this year’s 62 Derby races have gone to the red jacket so can he cheat an apparent bad draw?


Bk b Droopys Sydney – Ballymac Razl (May 17)

Trainer: Liam Dowling (Ire)

Owner: Liam Dowling

Fastest calculated time: 29.78 (7 June)

Bitches have traditionally fared modestly in the Derby though Ballymac Tas has managed to confound expectations and find a way through to Finals night.

Bidding to become the first bitch to win the Derby since Farloe Verdict did so on disqualification in 2003, Liam Dowling’s inmate will attempt to follow in the pawprints of Salad Dodger (2014) and Astute Missile (2017) by winning the main event without a victory in any of the preceding rounds.

Dowling is no stranger to Derby finals having reached the final of the 2013 English Derby with Ballymac Vic, and though his kennel ace, Ballymac Arminta, recently missed out on glory in the Irish Oaks; this would be compensation indeed.

The owner-trainer rarely makes fanciful entries for his dogs and in basing his team at Peter Harnden’s kennels, he exercised the kind of planning that was designed to give his runners every chance of success.

Far from a ‘no-hoper’, Tas was a creditable third to Skywalker Logan in the Plunkett Devlin at Shelbourne Park and was fourth (when sent off as favourite) in the final of the Kirby Memorial at Limerick.

On sectionals, she needs to produce something special but she does have the advantage of occupying the winning most trap in the competition.


Bk d Laughil Blake – What a Diva (Oct 16)

Trainer: Paul Hennessy (Ire)

Owner: Bryan Murphy

Fastest calculated time: 29.71 (7 June)

With the Irish sending out one of their strongest raiding parties for some years, the market appeared to suggest that Priceless Blake was one of the lesser lights with 100/1 still readily available following the conclusion of the opening round.

Starting life as ‘National Glory’ during the Red Mills Stakes in Ireland, he was to be acquired by the combination of Bryan Murphy and Paul Hennessy.

Murphy having already reached an English Derby final in 2011 with Barefoot Bullet; whilst Hennessy is one of a rare number of handlers to have landed the trinity of English, Scottish and Irish Derbys.

Shawfield appeared to be the aim for the son of Laughil Blake, and though he was narrowly eliminated in the semi-finals of the Scottish Derby; he’s enjoyed the rub of the green at Nottingham by avoiding the market heavyweights during the earlier rounds.

A winner of three of three Derby heats, his place is entirely on merit as he took the scalps of semi-finalists King Sheeran and Jaytee Taylor en route to the final.

Connections were predictably delighted to have drawn the acknowledged ‘ping’ box at Nottingham and the market should give a clue as to their confidence on the night.


Wbk d Tarsna Havana – Sizzling Sarah (Oct 16)

Trainer: Pat Guilfoyle (Ire)

Owner: Ray Patterson

Fastest calculated time: 29.25 (25 May)

There’ll be no such thing as brotherly love in the Derby and supporters of Magical Bale will be hoping that his half-brother will be a help rather than a hindrance on the drive to the first bend.

A fair juvenile in his own right, Skywalker Logan graduated into open age company with a flawless competition in the John Slyne Memorial at Cork. A subsequent finalist in the Plunkett Devlin and the Gain 600; he took an unorthodox route into the Derby with victory in the Irish Cesarewitch at Mullingar.

Nottingham’s stiff 500 metres appears tailor made though his initial impact was through speed rather than stamina. Popping out in the first round with a sectional of 4.99; he flew down the back straight and was to shred a long-held track record by a massive margin.

Were Logan to win on Saturday, he’d complete an amazing comeback for trainer, Pat Guilfoyle. Widely regarded as one of Ireland’s rising stars, Guilfoyle handed in his licence in 2016 to become a teacher, and if his charge can get his fractions right, he is more than capable of seeing off the remainder.


Bk d Greenwell Hawk – Droopys Rhinoa (Oct 15)

Trainer: Angela Harrison

Owner: The Conlon Family

Fastest calculated time: 29.62 (1 June)

The term ‘a credit to his connections’ has become the stuff of cliché but it would be appropriate where Droopys Expert was concerned.

Successful in Newcastle’s All England Cup as a pup, he looked a potential superstar before a severe tendon injury (that necessitated its removal) struck at a time when he was likely to have been reaching the peak of his powers.

Almost forgotten as last year’s Derby runner-up Droopys Verve became one of the big players on the Northern scene; his recovery has been slow but has justified the faith of the connections that never doubted him.

With veteran status on the horizon, he served up a fine series of runs in the Steel City Cup at Sheffield, beating and ultimately finishing second in the final to Roxholme Nidge. His well-being confirmed by a subsequent success over Lenson Blinder in a Derby Trial at Nottingham.

A winner of just one heat so far, qualification has been tough as he has faced off against either Dorotas Wildcat or Magical Bale during the last three rounds. Held in the semi-final, he travelled comfortably enough without being in danger of elimination.

Experience can count for plenty in the powder keg atmosphere of Finals night and with a previous success from this trap during the 2017 Eclipse, he could produce an upset.


Bk d Confident Rankin- Mongys Rach (Jul 16)

Trainer: Graham Holland (Ire)

Owner: Kay Murphy

Fastest calculated time: 29.49 (7 June)

Graham Holland will bid to win his first English Derby having missed the target with the well-backed Clares Rocket in 2017 – the greyhound that was famously stolen from his kennels when ante-post favourite for the prize.

In the month in which three suspects have appeared in court regarding that disappearance, Clonbrien Prince will be attempting a ‘smash and grab’ from the widest draw of all.

The Holland team looked powerful ahead of the Derby and the son of Confident Rankin had already begun to establish himself as a ‘competition performer’. Reaching the finals of the Irish St Leger and the John Slyne Memorial; he was a neck away from glory in the Easter Cup before eventually prevailing in the Gain 600.

A decision to gain match practice in Derby Trials has proved beneficial as his sectionals have stayed on a positive trajectory throughout. Sent off as favourite on all seven of his visits to Colwick Park, he was won four of his five Derby heats – finishing second in the other to Queen Beyonce.

With few wides in the initial Derby field, just five of the 62 races have gone the way of the stripes. It is impossible to know whether Clonbrien Prince will take to racing from this position as he has never raced or trialled from the box previously. That said, he was still able to put together a 4.97 sectional on his previous start from trap five so all may not be lost.


MAGICAL BALE would have preferred not to have been drawn on the rails but his trapping has not let him down and there is a degree of mitigation with Ballymac Tas to his immediate outside. Should he get to the opening turn unhindered, he will be difficult to catch. Priceless Blake has it to do on the formbook although tonight’s draw gives him every chance. Skywalker Logan is blessed with all round speed and his tendency to veer right will give him two notable hazards to his outer. Clonbrien Prince has a horror draw to work from and were he to steer a straight course, he could potentially profit from any inside bunching. Droopys Expert is used to the pressure of the big occasion and could figure at a price. 1-3-5

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