The most prestigious greyhound racing competition in the world reaches its finale on Saturday with more than 4,000 fans expected to flock to Towcester to watch the final of the 2022 Star Sports & TRC English Greyhound Derby.
A total of 192 of the UK and Ireland’s top greyhounds have been narrowed down to six who will line up for the £175,000-to-the-winner race – a nail-biting decider that will be over in just under 30 seconds.
Winning the English Derby is the most significant achievement for any greyhound trainer or owner and has a rich history stretching back to 1927, when Entry Badge was first past the winning line.
Last year’s race was won by Thorn Falcon, trained by champion trainer Patrick Janssens and owned by the Two Dragons and A Lion Syndicate.
This year, four of the six finalists are trained in Ireland, including the English-bred Romeo Magico.
English Derby-winning trainer Paul Hennessy is double-handed with two greyhounds through to the decider – Priceless Jet and Hello Hammond – which is an impressive feat in itself. Jet broke the track record at Towcester earlier in the competition in a blistering time of 28.78 seconds.
For one group of owners in this year’s final, however, their Derby journey has come as a huge surprise.
The 67-strong Mickys Barrett syndicate bought their greyhound in loving memory of a close friend who lost his life to cancer in 2021.
They came together paying £100 each for a share in their greyhound, named after their late friend Mick. He has gone above and beyond all their expectations under the care of Nottingham-based trainer Jason Gray and they are surprised and overjoyed that he is now a Derby finalist.
Attendees at the Derby will be able to easily spot Micky’s owners in the crowd as they will be wearing their usual 'Mickys Barrett’ hats to match his trap and racing jacket colour.
Syndicate founder Ashley White said: “We have a great bunch of lads in our syndicate – they are a credit to the great man himself, our dear friend Mick Barrett. We miss him but having this journey together with such a great greyhound running in his name is a way of honouring him and keeping his memory alive.
“In our wildest dreams we never thought we would be in the Derby final.”
Kevin Boothby, managing director of Towcester Racecourse, who also owns the Diane Henry-trained Derby finalist Savana Beau said: “It’s going to be another tremendous Derby at Towcester and we’re looking forward to hosting everyone and enjoying a great day’s racing.”
Commenting on his runner, Kildare, trainer Peter Cronin said: “It’s a wide open Derby and he has every chance.
"He has come out of his semi final pretty good, and a similar run on Saturday night should see him go well. If he leads round the bend, he would be a difficult dog to pass.”
Susan Hennessy, wife of trainer Paul who sends out Hello Hammond and Priceless Jet in the final, said: “It’s incredible – you dream about these things. You take nothing for granted in greyhound racing.
"It’s a tough Derby and you need luck but we are happy with the draw for Hello Hammond. He is in fantastic form and we are getting a great thrill with him.”
Ben Keith, CEO of Derby Sponsors Star Sports, said: “I feel very honoured to be involved with the most prestigious and richest event in the greyhound calendar.
"We will see some top-class action on Saturday and I’m looking forward to crowning the new Derby champion on the night.”
Trap draw for Saturday’s final: (1) Savana Beau (2) Kildare (3) Hello Hammond (4) Romeo Magico (5) Mickys Barrett (6) Priceless Jet
There will be live music and entertainment at Towcester on Saturday, with the gates opening at 3pm and racing due to begin at around 6pm.
The Derby is the 12th race on the card and is due to start at 9.15pm. Ticket details at https://towcester-racecourse.co.uk/derby-final/