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KEVIN HENNESSY

Weblog: Sponsor's view of the Boylesports Irish Derby

Blake is 25-1 to repeat the treat in 2015

SHELBOURNE’S stands were packed in anticipation of the 2014 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby final and nobody was disappointed with the spectacle which unfolded in front of our eyes.

Laughil Blake had been the stand out performer throughout the competition and it was great to see his consistency rewarded as he landed the €125,000 winners prize for connections and the illustrious tag as an Irish Derby winner.

Blake did give his supporters a scare as he missed the kick by his standards, but he showed that exciting acceleration to the opening bend which he had produced in each of the previous rounds to still make the opening bend, from here he was chased home by the two old warriors Tyrur Sugar Ray and Ballymac Vic, but it was to be Blake’s night as he secured victory in 29.50sec.

From a betting perspective Boylesports did avoid a hammering as Vulturi failed to win, though there was some solid support for Blake throughout the build-up to the final and on the night itself. We installed him as the slight odds-on favourite at 10-11, and after significant support we had to cut him into 4-5, and still saw hefty support for him at that price. This ensured he was a loser in the book.

Blake has only had the 17 starts in his career and he has been victorious in ten of those which is an excellent record. Being such a young and inexperienced greyhound you could be forgiven for thinking that Blake may be even better next season.

His owner Mary Jennings was asked after the race would he continue racing or be retired to which she replied that it would be up to his trainer ‘Curly’ Mick O’Donovan, this to me is great news as generally trainers like to keep the greyhounds racing for as long as possible. I think much will depend on Blake’s well documented metatarsal, it is well known that he has suffered from problems there and I think if it holds up when he is brought back after a lay off, then we will see plenty more of this superstar next season.

Blake has been installed by us as 25-1 joint favourite with Droopys Nidge to defend his crown in our 2015 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby.

I’m sure despite being 12 months away many people will take a chance at the price after his near flawless campaign in this year’s event, and when you consider with age he may become an even stronger dog for next year’s renewal.

It was also put to me after Saturday night by some of the many British spectators who were in attendance: would Blake be a Wimbledon dog next year for the English Derby?

I am of the opinion that the track itself would suit Blake extremely well, he does tend to give away ground running wide, but around a tighter circuit such as Wimbledon he will be forced to keep in. I also do not see the slower opening of the traps being much of an issue as Blake does not rely on pinging the lids. It is once he hits the ground his unbelievable acceleration enables him to make the bend in front on most occasions. His trainer Mick O’Donovan is also a regular to Wimbledon for the English Derby when he feels he has a runner worthy of bringing over and in Blake I would expect him to be excited by the prospect.

However, there is one issue for me and that is the dog’s previous injury, a metatarsal can be a tricky injury to treat throughout a competition and that is why I regard this year’s Derby winning performance as one of the best training efforts that I have witnessed.  With the three runs in a week required in Wimbledon I can see that potentially becoming an issue.

At the end of the day this is all speculation and I am sure we will not categorically know of any decisions until next year after the dog comes back from the winter and connections see if he is still in the same form/health. In the meantime, we also make Blake our 25-1 favourite to win next year’s English Derby.

Just to summarise I feel from both a sponsor’s and an enthusiast’s point of view this year’s Boylesports Derby has been a major success, the attendance figures were up, our turnover on the heats/specials/outrights almost doubled, punters got cash back on over 100 of the 138 runners in the Derby from us, the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust received €1,600 after my charity bet clicked, Dublin GAA club Naomh Barrog won €5,000 which was also put up by Boylesports after they were assigned to Laughil Blake in the GAA clubs draw and, most of all, we had a fitting winner in Laughil Blake who was undisputedly the most impressive greyhound throughout the 2014 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby.

So from all angles I think it was a competition that will live long in the memory for so many and now we all need to go and try and find the dog to possibly knock Blake off his perch in 2015!

Kevin

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