It used to be one of the most popular sports in London.
Tens of thousands used to cram into the White City Stadium to watch the English Greyhound Derby, held almost uninterrupted at the now demolished venue between 1927 and 1984, before its popularity waned – despite still being an excellent evening out – when the action switched to Wimbledon.
Sadly, the Wimbledon Stadium has now joined dozens of other greyhound tracks in London, from Battersea and Brixton to Walthamstow and Wandsworth, in – pun intended – going to the dogs.
But there’s still a healthy contingent of trainers and owners in the sport, with all eyes on the 2023 edition of the English Greyhound Derby which starts with the early heats in May.
Refreshingly, those with a penchant for betting on greyhound racing may have noticed that it’s two English dogs leading the way in the odds – a rarity given the international dominance of the event – with the favourite, Fromposttopillar, priced at 14/1 and Hopes Paddington next best at 16/1.
Pace to Burn
Hoping to win the £175,000 top prize will be Liz McNair, the prolific trainer who has overseen a remarkable rise through the ranks for Fromposttopillar. He’s won eight of his ten starts since joining McNair’s team in Kent, including a handsome five-length victory last time out at Central Park.
Race: 6 Grade: OR1
T2 Droopys Google
Winning time: 30.35
Owner: KSS Syndicate
Trainer: Liz McNair
— Central Park Stadium (@centralparkdogs) March 12, 2023
He also trounced the well-fancied Deelish Frankie – trained by former English Greyhound Derby winner Patrick Janssens – in the Coral Olympic at Hove Stadium back in December, and part-owner Rab McNair believes his two-year-old could prosper at Towcester, home of the Derby, later this year.
“He won the Puppy Collar at Oxford even though Oxford wasn’t really his track – his class and pace helped him there,” McNair commented. “But he’s come into his own at Hove and tracks like that one, Towcester and Central Park, really play to his strengths – they’re a true test of a greyhound and give him a chance to show what he can do.”
He wasn’t even sure that Fromposttopillar would be able to make the step up in grade in the Olympic, but McNair had promised ‘he will be a better dog next year’ when quizzed late in 2022.
The rest of the Derby field have been put on notice…
Best of British
Fromposttopillar and Hopes Paddington will surely lead the British charge in the Derby in July.
Only once in the past seven years has a British trained dog won the most prestigious race in domestic greyhound racing, with Kevin Hutton’s win with Dorotas Wildcat on home soil at Towcester in 2018 the last time the Brits have dominated.
Since then, Janssens – a Belgian now plying his trade at Towcester – has prevailed with Thorn Falcon, while Irish trainers have won three of the last four editions: Paul Hennessy, Pat Buckley and Graham Holland representing the Emerald Isle in triumphant fashion.
Star Sports/TRC Greyhound Derby Final
🥇 T4 Romeo Magico
🥈 T2 Kildare
🥉 T5 Mickys Barrett
— @RPGreyhounds (@RPGreyhounds) June 25, 2022
Holland, the defending champion courtesy of Romeo Magico’s win in 2022, will be hoping his prized asset can become the first back-to-back Derby winner since Westmead Hawk in 2005-06, while Jennifer O’Donnell will be aiming to become the first female trainer since Dolores Ruth in 1996 to lift the trophy.
Whichever way you look at it, the 2023 English Greyhound Derby is shaping up to be a spectacular race.