Jonathan Hobbs on greyhound racing situation plus news from Towcester

Our columnist looks ahead to the Irish Greyhound Derby

Eyes down on Saturday for what is an historic BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby Final - a match on paper between Pestana and Newinn Taylor - but more than that.

Liam Dowling has two finalists, Ballymac Wild and Ballymac Cooper, with both more than capable of throwing down a challenge, while Kilara Icon has enjoyed a great campaign for Robert Gleeson and Gary Hicks - and litter brother Kilara Lion landed the Yarmouth Derby on Wednesday to set up the possibility of an incredible family double!

Fair play also to a bitch finalist in Meenagh Miracle for the Corr family. It is some achievement from her and her strong-running style has been a joy.

However, eyes will be very much on the start - and what could be an incredible buckle between the Owen McKenna-trained and Des Grace-owned Pestana and Graham Holland and Simon Taylor’s Newinn Taylor, who has arguably the most impressive career record of any runner both sides of the Irish Sea given 15 wins from 17 starts.

One has won the Champion Stakes (Pestana) and one the Produce Stakes (Newinn Taylor) so two champions go head to head on Saturday - and, potentially, will give us a race for the ages. Pestana is the new track record holder after an electrifying second-round effort - when beating Newinn Taylor - and has been flawless from the boxes.

His trapping has blown rivals away - us, too! - and McKenna and Grace will be hoping for one last smash break which could set up Derby glory. But only his best will do given Holland’s Newinn Taylor seems to have raised his game since his defeat at the paws of Pestana. It looks each-of-two, with Pestana just give a narrow vote here.

He was my original charity bet kindly offered by Classic sponsors BoyleSports to raise funds for Irish retired greyhounds, so many thanks once again to the company’s Sarah Kinsella. Given the behind-closed-doors situation, Sarah, Ian Fortune and Barry Drake have kept greyhound fans up to speed with all the action and all the news.

Shelbourne Park on Saturday should have been one of the great sporting occasions - at the world’s best greyhound stadium - with a huge crowd crammed inside, straining from the terraces to catch a look at the likes of Pestana and Newinn Taylor. It’s not to be this year, but still promises to be an enthralling and great race.

Catch all the action on RPGTV, but make sure you follow Sarah, Ian, Barry, Kevin Hennessy and all the team who will still bring Shelbourne to life at the weekend.

Greyhound Derby on the horizon

After Saturday’s brilliant card at the Dublin venue, attention will turn to the Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby at Nottingham - and a special trials session takes place at Colwick Park for Derby hopefuls on Wednesday.

Nottingham are keen to hear from trainers who want spaces for the session as soon as possible given Monday’s before-racing trials list is now full.

Ice On Fire is due to have a three-dog trial at the Derby venue next week as preparations continue for the Greyhound of the Year to stage a remarkable comeback in the heats of the premier Classic across the weekend of October 2/3.

Jimmy Fenwick wants him him to be close to his top level before committing to a Derby entry, but credit to all concerned with the multiple big-race winner’s recovery thus far after what was feared to be a career-ending muscle injury.

Game on in year-long race

Before then, a busy open-race schedule in the UK sees two GBGB Category One finals at Romford on Friday with the Coral Champion Stakes and Coral Romford Puppy Cup up for grabs.

Then on Sunday it’s the BGBF Two-Year-Old Produce Stakes Final at Swindon, before Tuesday’s Gain Nutrition 3 Steps To Victory semi-finals at Sheffield. In between, Nottingham stages more Derby trial stakes on Monday.

Patrick Janssens is still in front of 11-time champion trainer Mark Wallis in the GBGB Trainer of the Year race - and extended his lead by winning the Yarmouth Derby on Wedesday. With three chances in the Champion Stakes at Romford, Patrick could really open up an advantage with victory.

However, Mark is also represented in the Champion Stakes final - and the Puppy Cup final - and will not easily relinquish his title. He was under pressure for a time last year but came through strongly given a more powerful kennel strength, although this shortened season could make it tougher this time. Game on!

Evening action at Romford

Action at Towcester heating up

Towcester staged the English Greyhound Derby Finals in 2017 and 2018 and, by general consensus, hosted an occasion to fit the bill - and some.

After an enforced sabbatical, the track is back under the auspices of Henlow promoter Kevin Boothby and, having initially modified the track itself, has recently installed new lighting at the Northamptonshire venue - and it looks a picture.

Towcester, currently on the SIS service with weekly Sunday meetings, will next week also race on Tuesday as cover for Monmore which is closed for track maintenance - and open races and competitions feature on the card. The finals take place on Sunday week.

The track recently hosted a British-bred sprint event which were the first opens staged there since its return as a GBGB track - and the intention remains to stage gala open-race cards on Saturdays with full TowcesterTV coverage.

November 7 has been pencilled in as a start date.

Things are looking up at Towcester

Zoom meetings on Belle Vue future

Campaigners fighting to save Manchester’s historic Belle Vue stadium are meeting with MPs this week to discuss the future of greyhound racing’s spiritual home - well, almost!

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the meeting will be held via Zoom but remains crucial given the track was last week confined as being up for sale.

“This meeting is hugely important to our cause,” said Michael Burnage, chair of the Save Belle Vue Stadium Action Group. “We’re hoping to have a very productive conversation.

“It’s very clear in these Covid-19 times that projects must have cross-party support to succeed, which is why we’re meeting MPs from all political persuasions.”

Peckham pedigree

There was a real blast from the past at Yarmouth on Wednesday when trainer Roy Peckham was interviewed on RPGTV.

Roy is grandson of Ken Peckham, the late handler of Scurlogue Champ, arguably the sport’s most popular greyhound ever - and sent out Flip The Tyre to compete in the Derby Purse Final at the seaside track, won by Kevin Boon’s Sheldan.

Roy wanted to praise Yarmouth for marking up his runner and allowing him, as an unattached trainer, to have trials at the track - and then ultimately accepting his entry for the dog. He had found it difficult previously to get trials arranged.

It seems a recurring problem given Julie Bateson and Carol Weatherall have both raised the issue for unattached trainers, although Carol has recently moved to Sheffield.

Teddy turns out at charity event

Finally, well done to all who turned out to support Maurice Newman’s golf day supporting the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity on Wednesday.

Hosted superbly - and safely - by Stapleford Abbots Golf Club, celebrities including Teddy Sheringham, John Conteh and actor Jimmy Flint turned out along with a host of horse and greyhound racing owners, trainers, jockeys, bookmakers, media, GBGB staff and track management, to raise thousands of pounds for GOSH.

This year’s event includes a silent auction with a batch of fantastic lots which can be bid for now - with bids required by 6pm on Friday.

These include the following:

  • A day out for four at Newmarket including visits and breakfast at Phil Cunningham’s Sefton Lodge Stables with trainer Richard Spencer, a trip to Swynford Manor Stud, John Ryan’s Cadland Stables and then Mohamed Moubarak’s Linden Lodge Stables - then for lunch and afternoon racing at Newmarket Racecourse.
  • A day out for four at Gary Moore’s stables in East Sussex, followed by lunch and afternoon racing at Brighton Racecourse.
  • A day out for four at Fergal O’Brien’s stables near Cheltenham, starting with breakfast and then a tour of stables.
  • A Red Arrows Flying Suit, which belonged to Wing Commander David Montenegro ‘Monty’ OBE MA RAF, who is now commander in charge of the entire 130-strong Red Arrows team.
  • A statue of Henry Cooper, the British sporting icon.

For further information contact John Fox at

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