There are those who claim that greyhound racing in the UK and Ireland is in decline, and yet you look at the early declarations for the English Greyhound Derby and it’s easy to dismiss such notions as hokum.
The stakes have been raised considerably in recent times, with the winner’s share of the prize money increasing to a handsome £175,000 – that’s $235,000, and a packed crowd expected at the race’s new home at the Towcester Greyhound Stadium in July.
The leading bookmakers offer betting on the next greyhound races, but they also offer ante-post prices, and Explosive Boy has been installed as the early sportsbook favorite at odds of +2000.
Trained by Patrick Guilfoyle, the progeny of Good News – who won nearly $200,000 in prize money in his own stellar racing career – and Delightful Girl won seven races in a row in the summer of 2021, setting a slew of track records along the way.
However, a handful of defeats in the autumn – including a pair to possible Derby opponent Ballymac Ariel – have dampened expectations somewhat.
The Irish dog twice defeated Explosive Boy in heats for the Emerald Isle’s own version of the Derby, and with those from across the Irish Sea enjoying plenty of success at the English Derby in recent years – Pat Buckley and Paul Hennessy have both trained winners – there could be plenty of interest in Ballymac Ariel heading into the showpiece occasion on June 25.
The 2018 English Greyhound Derby was won by Dorotas Wildcat, whose trainer Kevin Hutton celebrated a fine win on home soil – his training operation is based in the English town.
Hutton has a standout hope for the 2022 renewal too, with many believing that Signet Ace has the pedigree and the speed to emerge as a major Derby contender.
The three-year-old looked to have the Gold Cup in the bag when asserting his pace on the field at Monmore back in August, but overcrowding on a bend allowed Minglers Popeye the chance to steal in and claim the £10,000 ($13,500) winner’s prize.
Hutton, the champion trainer, will still be hopeful that a dog that has proven to be a prolific winner at Towcester will return to championship ways later in the year.
You have to go back to 2005/06 to find the last time that a dog won back-to-back editions of the English Greyhound Derby – Westmead Hawk banking a brace of victories that were followed by that of yard mate Westmead Lord, who completed a phenomenal hat-trick for trainer Nick Savva.
Patrick Janssens will be hoping that he can emulate Savva’s achievements, and his star Thorn Falcon looks well placed to give him an excellent run for his money.
The two-year-old, who was so impressive in his Derby triumph, defeated Signet Ace on New Year’s Day and trounced the fancied Forest Gold in an outing later in January.
Whichever way you look at it, the 2022 English Greyhound Derby is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in years.