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Greyhound Derby: Rocky road

Here is an in-depth look at the Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon on Saturday night.

Rocky up for Wimbledon fight

As the equine stars will be thundering around Epsom on Saturday afternoon, the greyhound world will be determining its “top dog” later that evening.

With every Derby runner comes a story, and it’s been a fine renewal for the Irish, with four in the final, and numerically, their best chance of winning the prize since 2008.

Charlie Lister OBE knows more about training Derby winners than anyone, and the Newark maestro has an opportunity to send out his eighth winner of the sport’s premier race, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, the whole of Wales will be cheering on Hayley Keightley as she has her first Derby finalist.

Let’s take a look at the six finalists:

T1 Lenson Rocky

Bk d  Droopys Scolari- Momentinnewyork (Jun 14)

Trainer: Pat Buckley (Ireland)

Owner: Len Ponder

Fastest Time: 28.23 (28 May)

There’s no bigger supporter of racing at Wimbledon than Lenny Ponder and the glass magnate missed last year’s Derby following a major health scare.

Ponder assembled a crack team for this year’s renewal and his decision to bring Lenson Rocky to Wimbledon against the initial advice of his trainer, could turn out to be the best he’s ever made.

The youngest dog in the final, he was the subject of a gamble ahead of the quarter-finals, and he looked like justifying that confidence before Cloran Paddy picked him up at the post.

Drawn three on that occasion, a switch to the red jacket in the semi-finals saw a change of fortune as he found a seam on the inside and struck out for home.

At just over 31 kg, he’s the lightest in terms of weight but he certainly knows how to use that in order to hold his line.

Rio Quattro won last year’s final from this trap and Lenson Rocky’s semi-final time would have secured any of the last four finals.

An inexperienced dog, we won’t know how he copes with all of the pomp and circumstance of the occasion until the traps open.

T2 Cloran Paddy

W Bk d Westmead Hawk – Martinstown Rose (Mar 14)

Trainer: Charlie Lister OBE

Owner: M Aldous/ J Gilman/K Hickey/C Lister

Fastest time 28.22 (24 May)

Leicester has had the monopoly on sporting champions of late, and with three-parts of this syndicate known as “The Boys from Leicester”, it would be apt if Cloran Paddy could win the Derby in a blue jacket.

The dog impressed in trials at Sheffield and Nottingham before his first public appearance, but defeats in a couple of the Derby Trials saw the bookmakers happy to field against him.

Progressing through one of the tougher of the second round heats, he then began to bloom into a serious contender.

Westmead Hawk won his races from the rear and his son possesses a number of similar attributes. A quarter-final victory showing that it isn’t necessary to lead from the lids to win races around Wimbledon.

From a punting perspective, his price reflects the fact that his style of racing requires an element of luck.

Last Saturday’s semi-final was no exception as he scrambled into this Saturday’s showpiece having made what Lister described as “his worst break in the competition”.

As the strongest stayer in this race, he is the one dog that the front-runners do not want to be seeing on their tail at the final bend.

T3 Droopys Roddick

Bebd Droopys Jet – Droopys Start (Apr 14)

Trainer: Pat Buckley (Ireland)

Owner:  John Proctor / Darryl Bear

Fastest time: 28.38 (28 May)

When Droopys Roddick blew away a high quality field in the RFS Puppy Derby in 27.97 seconds, any hope of arriving under the radar into this year’s competition immediately disappeared.

Victory in the Kirby Memorial at Limerick confirmed that he had lost none-of-his powers, and Pat Buckley elected to “go easy” with the dog ahead of his return to Plough Lane.

The ability to peak at the right time is what separates competition winners from “very good” dogs, and though some pundits were lukewarm about Roddick’s performances in the earlier rounds, connections never lost faith.

Made a 4-1 chance ahead of his semi-final, the dog produced a game-changing effort off his fastest sectional so far. Avoiding a potential hazard on the inside, he sat in a stalking position behind Hiya Butt and kept on decisively to the finish.

Determination is a big driver with this dog and he’ll need to show plenty of guts from this draw. With railers to his right possessing superior sectionals, things could get tight but he’s capable of coming from behind, and he may yet surprise his doubters.

T4 Peregrine Falcon

Be d Ace High Rumble – Minefield (Mar 13)

Trainer: Pat Curtin (Ireland)

Owner: N-J-G-P Syndicate

Fastest time: 28.47 (28 May)

England famously checked out of their hotel ahead of Ian Botham’s finest hour at Headingley, and trainer Pat Curtin was similarly gloomy having reportedly packed up his van ahead of last week’s quarter-finals.

The trainer had plenty of reason to be doubtful as Peregrine Falcon had endured a series of minor injuries and had failed to eat up after the exertions of the previous round.

Owned by a syndicate that includes former Republic of Ireland ace, Niall Quinn, the son of Ace High Rumble was a finalist in last year’s Irish Derby and Irish St Leger.

Nibbled in the market ahead of his semi-final, he produced his best run of the competition, and surprised plenty with his pace from the boxes.

With a noted preference for the rails, he will once again edge left, but will he find smooth sand or simply Droopys Roddick?

T5 Hiya Butt

Bk d Hondo Black – Hather For Pat (Sep 13)

Trainer: Hayley Keightley

Owner: Paul Ellis

Fastest time: 28.32 (24 May)

Owner, Paul Ellis, is a man that has experienced the highs and lows of the Derby.

A year ago, his Farloe Blitz entered the traps on finals night as the 8-11 favourite but could only finish fourth having won every round to that point.

Ellis has returned with another pacey type, and a greyhound that has lit up this Derby, win, lose or draw.

Trained by the underrated Hayley Keightley, and unheralded as a consequence, Hiya Butt’s brutal early pace has blasted his way past the opposition.

A sectional of 4.63 accompanied his opening round victory, and he proved this to be no flash in the pan by putting his rivals (including Jaytee Jet and Peregrine Falcon) to the sword throughout the competition.

Beaten in the semi-finals having obtained a good, though not electric exit, he kept on stoically to qualify when headed.

Logically, this draw is not ideal for a railer but if he can trap out quickly, he holds a hold a major say in how this race will pan out. Seven days is a long time in greyhound racing and with time for recuperation, the son of Hondo Black cannot be overlooked lightly.

T6 Jaytee Jet (w)

Bk d Droopys Scolari – Chin Gach Gook (Sep 13)

Trainer: Paul Hennessy (Ireland)

Owner: John Turner

Fastest time 28.11 (21 May)

John Turner’s dog will be the heaviest of the six finalists in terms of weight and ante-post anticipation, and his backers have lived every emotion during this year’s campaign.

It would take some effort to rival the one he produced during the second round when forcing the unlikeliest of dead-heats for third, yet he managed to top that a week later with one of the greatest performances ever seen at Wimbledon.

A quarter-finalist last year, Jaytee Jet went on to win the Irish Derby consolation and was a deserved victor in the Easter Cup.

As the only remaining wide seed, he was guaranteed to draw six but the big question is as to whether he truly handles the track at Wimbledon?

Having fallen out of the traps in the first round with a sectional of 4.93, his trapping has improved slightly as the competition has gone on, though it may prove his Achilles heel if he gets too far behind the leading pack.

A very strong stayer, backers should expect to see him doing much of his work between the second and third bends before utilising his class on the run for home.

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