Which Six Greyhounds Will Have Fate On Their Side To Reach The Derby Final?

Which Six Greyhounds Will Have Fate On Their Side To Reach The Derby Final?
By Ian Fortune
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With just hours to go until the semi finals of the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby at Shelbourne Park, the competition and sponsor were dealt a disappointing blow on Friday morning with the news that Boylesports Xtra, who has been running so well for both Paul Hennessy and John Boyle will be a non-runner. 

It means that only eleven greyhounds remain in the hunt for the €115,000 winner’s purse and the honour of being known forever more as the 2020 Derby champion. It’s an honour that each and every owner, trainer, breeder and enthusiast dreams of when they first get involved in the sport and that dream rarely leaves you. 

When the greyhounds line up at Shelbourne tomorrow evening, the latest chapter in the Derby story will provide heartache, jubilation, plot twists and perhaps the odd shock. As it happens, a number of those still involved have tasted Derby success before but it doesn’t make it any easier. 

Owen McKenna is one man that certainly knows what it takes to win a Derby. He landed the illustrious prize all the way back in 2004 with Like A Shot, but he grew up in a household where training classic winners was something of a habit. 

Owen’s father Ger is perhaps the most famous name in the history of Irish greyhound racing and through his career he trained tens of classic winners. In all he captured the Irish Derby on three occasions with the last coming in 1987. 

Owen was in his early teens at that stage and would certainly have been a hands-on member of the team. Some thirty-three years on, he has the favourite at the end of the lead and should Pestana capture the Derby in little over a week from now, he will be classed as one of the best and most dominant winners in the long history of the event.  

Of course, he has a bit of work to do before then. The Boylesports Xtra news, while very disappointing to everyone in the sport, does aid Pestana’s cause. Drawn in trap three in the second semi, the track record holder now has an empty trap on his immediate inner. 


Given the fact that Boylesports Xtra is one of the most natural starters of the past decade, his absence should take considerable pressure off the favourite in the early yards. It remains a brilliant contest, however. 


Ballymac Wild and Glengar Bale are ranked amongst the most exciting and progressive young trackers in training. Both can go up strongly and have the pace and power to compete against the very best. Despite the brilliance of Pestana, even his most fervent supporters will recognise that he needs another foot-perfect display. 

The remaining duo of Kilara Icon and Indesatchel are also entitled to plenty of respect, although both are available at double figures. That does them an injustice as they are amongst the very fastest, and strongest, greyhounds in the land. It’s a line-up, be it only five runners, that would be fitting of any Derby final. 


The opening semi is also a red-hot affair, although Newinn Taylor is a very restrictive price to continue his impressive run of form. After suffering defeat in the opening round, he has really come into his own in the competition, displaying huge promise behind Pestana in the second round before winning both his third round and quarter final assignments in the style of a potential Derby champion. 

Few greyhounds possess the raw ability of Newinn Taylor. It’s no fluke that his career record reads fourteen wins from sixteen starts. He has also won the three competitions that he took part in ahead of the Derby and few would rule him out completing a famous four-timer next week. 

His style of racing is simple; hit the ground running, leave your rivals standing to the third turn before coasting home.  It could be a very familiar sight on Saturday with Newinn Taylor ideally housed in the stripes of six. Should he get loose in the opening yards, as expected, there may be little his rivals can do. 


One obvious threat is Ballymac Cooper. He chased home Pestana in the quarter finals and is no doubt amongst the most talented greyhounds in training. The big question is whether he can turn close enough to Newinn Taylor. There is no doubt Cooper is a stronger greyhound than Newinn Taylor, but he will need to put himself in a position to strike before the third turn. 

As with the second heat, this is far from a one or two-dog affair. Yes, recent evidence would suggest Newinn Taylor and Ballymac Cooper have a bit in hand and their price will reflect this view but Toolmaker Sydney, Catchmeflying and the two remaining bitches in the competition, Scooby Princess and Meenagh Miracle have all negotiated the four rounds to date and are clearly in the form of their career. 

Toolmaker Sydney, in particular, has the pace to put it up to any greyhound. Trained by Derby winner handler, Robert Gleeson, Sydney is the fastest greyhound in the competition from bends two to three but whether he can turn close enough to make full use of his back straight pace is up for debate. 


You can study the form all you like, and many will, but at this late stage of the competition it often comes down to luck, force of will and fate. Whatever the results on Saturday, the Derby dream will remain for six lucky owners, trainers and breeders. Best of luck to all involved. 

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