Star Sports English Derby Wide Open

This year's Star Sports Greyhound Derby has been incredibly open right the way through and this weekend's Derby will prove no different.

Julie Collier

29 October 2020

This year’s Star Sports Greyhound Derby has been incredibly open right the way through.

Now we are down to our final six contenders and, perhaps fittingly, there isn’t a surprise winner amongst them. 

Just one spot separated the two semi-final winners on the clock and now it really is all to play for to take home the £50,000 and most importantly, the prestigious title of Star Sports Greyhound Derby winner for 2020. 

The rain came down hard at Nottingham all afternoon and then again, right as the two big races were due to kick off.

The track was in good order but the conditions were far from ideal. 

In the first semi, Southwood Jet lined up in trap one which was beginning to get a reputation as a box that dogs were struggling to break from. But Jet isn’t a trapper as such, he shows phenomenal acceleration to the first bend.

And he did just that once again getting to the turn in front and powering on from there, to win in 29.97, making his record here in England seven out of seven.

He is now the 15/8 favourite with the sponsors to win the competition, and write a new piece of history for the Rees family.

Trainer Richard has been sending his son Charlie to Nottingham for the series.

His Grandad, Phil, won the Derby in 1976 with Mutts Silver and his Dad in 1985, with Pagans Swallow. Richard’s biggest career achievement so far was winning the Grand National with Victoria Falls.

What a step up it would be to land the most prestigious race of them all.

It means a lot to the family. 

Qualifying behind Southwood Jet was the first of Graham Holland’s finalists, Ballydoyle Valor, who was just held for a yard of early pace.

Bagging that all important third place was Coolavanny Chick, trained and owned by Noel Hehir. She looked to miss a step around the third turn, as such allowing the strong finishing Valor to move into second. Chick is the only bitch in the Derby final, but weighing in at a hefty 32.6kg, that won’t phase her. 

The second semi-final was won in a time of 29.96 by Holland’s second representative, Wolfe. This dog has always looked at home around Nottingham, it’s still a mystery why he went out of last year’s Derby when appearing to get distracted at the third bend.

But there have been no such antics this year. He came away modestly from trap three, just managing to clear the inside duo, but it was Smurfs Machine who set the early pace for Seamus Cahill.

Then, Wolfe’s back straight pace came into play and he drew level with Smurf’s, then powered on for home. Pat Buckley is through to the final with his Deerjet Sydney, who ran on for second after finding trouble out of the third turn, Smurfs Machine looked to tire a little in the heavy conditions, but held on for third. 

The draw for the final worked out well with all connections happy with where their dogs are housed and in truth, it makes the final far more open than the betting might suggest.  

So, after a brilliant Derby campaign, Ireland have four runners representing them in the final, which is quite an achievement.

For Noel Hehir, this is his first ever Derby finalist. In fact, he has only ever had one entry before and that made a quick exit in the first round.

Graham Holland has won everything going in Ireland many times over but is looking to secure a win in his first ever English Greyhound Derby final.

And for Pat Buckley, he hopes to go into the record books as only the third ever trainer to win the Scottish, Irish and English Derby’s. What an achievement.  

All eyes will be on Nottingham next weekend, we have a classic race in store. Good luck to everyone. May the best dog win.