ENGLISH GREYHOUND DERBY: Ahead of the opening round of the 2023 Greyhound Derby, read the thoughts and get all the betting advice from greyhound racing experts Paul Lawrence and Barry Caul.


What is the significance of the English Greyhound Derby?

Paul:

You always have that Derby dream that you can get a Derby Champion and of course it’s the biggest prize money on offer throughout the calendar year in the greyhound world. Then there’s the knock-on that you can go to stud and breed a champion.

I think it’s the nature of the competition, of getting through the gruel of the contest that makes it. It’s a marathon journey through the rounds.

We get a large Irish contingent come over, which adds to that friendly rivalry. I think brings the greyhound community together and it creates camaraderie right the way through the competition.

Barry:

It’s hugely significant. To me it’s the big one in England, it’s the biggest race of the year and it makes great champions. Going all the way back, even people who aren’t that familiar with greyhound racing would have heard of Mick The Miller and Patricias Hope, and in more recent years winners like Westmead Hawk and Rapid Ranger. It really does make superstars of the sport.

It caters for all the greyhound community, from sprinters to stayers. Look at Westmead Hawk, he probably would have been better around six bends, although most of his career was over four bends. No matter what your grade of greyhound, you can have them in the Derby and it showed a few years ago when Salad Dodger won. He was running in poor A6 races around Romford, I think it took him around seven goes to win, and he ends up winning an English Greyhound Derby.

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What do you look for in a Derby bet?

Paul:

I was brought up on Romford, that’s where I first started betting on greyhounds and ever since then I’ve always looked at early pace. In the early days, I was lured into the flashy early pacers. I think the danger with an early pacer is if they don’t quite get home, you make one mistake and you can crash out of the Derby.

You need to find a dog that can keep weaving a late passage and keep qualifying. A dog that’s not a one-trick pony, with good back straight pace and good all-round pace. You need to have consistency – I think it’s about identifying a competition dog rather than just a fast, flashy one-off dog.

Barry:

I think the trap draw has become quite important in recent years. We tend to have an awful lot of dogs that now want to be seeded inside, but that can be an issue. You can have a really fast starting dog, but if he’s just drawn on the wrong side of a dog that likes the rails, you could be in trouble straight away. It’ll be interesting to see next week how many seeds are seeded inside.

If you fancy something drawn out wide, you’ve a huge advantage straight away because more often than not every round you’re going to get trap six. That’s a massive advantage, running out of the same trap every week.

I think it’s key to find a dog that can qualify. Romeo Magico won the Derby last year and he’s more known as a dog that’s best off the front, but he actually only got to the front twice in the Derby last year, once in the earlier rounds and once in the final.

You have to have a dog that’s willing to battle it out, not one that will sulk if they’re not in front, a dog that’s got a will to keep chasing.


Who are your early tips for this year’s Derby?

Paul:

I’ve backed two greyhounds so far, one is from Fromposttopillar, more from the each-way factor in that he looks to me to be a competition dog. He strikes me as a fast dog, and that’s been backed up with the solo trials that Rab’s [McNair] given him before the competition, to run track record times. He’s done it twice now, and that just shows you that the engine is there.

The other dog that I quite like is Ballymac Finn. He caught my eye in the Irish Derby and again Liam [Dowling] trialled him in Tralee and he did a quick time there.

Barry:

Ballymac Finn is on top of my list as well. This is his target, he’s quite lightly raced this year after being runner-up in the Irish Derby last year, when he was bidding to become the youngest ever Derby winner. He looks the type that should suit Towcester – he stays strongly enough when he’s out in front and I think he has a fair bit of early pace. He’s been there and he’s done it and he’s coming into the prime of his career now.

A dog at a big price that caught my eye recently in one of the Derby trial stakes was Beepers Lariat, belonging to Jack Kennelly. He ran from trap one and missed the break but showed good pace to lead at the first bend and then held off a real old star in Warzone Tom. He’s probably not the force he once was, but to hold him off all the way home was a good effort.


What are your personal highlights of Derbies gone by?

Paul:

When we had dogs with Mark and Hayley [Keightley], Mark was given a dog called Collarhouse Jim, he was an A1 dog from Shelbourne and he turned him into a dual Derby finalist. They changed his name to Hiya Butt.

Mark encouraged me to back him each-way at 66/1 one year, and he got through to the final. He led in the Wimbledon final and got collared close home by Jaytee Jet and Droopys Roddick. He came third, so it was a mighty performance.

In the Derbies, I wouldn’t say I’ve had lots of success. In more recent years, I backed Dorotas Wildcat in 2018 so he was a success for me. I did have a little bit on Deerjet Sidney in the Covid year, when I called the final in an eery empty stadium. It was great because the one and only man that sat with me that night was Pat Buckley, and he of course went on to win the Derby that night, so that was special.

I had a little bit on Romeo Magico last year too, so maybe I’m getting older and wiser in that I’ve had a bit more success in recent derbies as opposed to past ones!

Barry:

I’m the opposite, I’m like Benjamin Button, I have to go back years to find my best success! We were over in Portugal on a stag party when Seamus Graham won his Derby with Lord Honcho in 2008. That was great, we all had a few quid on ante-post, so it was a memorable stag!

As regards favourite memories, when Westmead Hawk won the semi-final, beating Mineola Farloe, that was a race everybody would remember. It looked like he wasn’t going to qualify at the third bend and Errol Blyth’s commentary at the line was ‘Oh my God, he’s got up!’ That was a fantastic memory.



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