Ian Fortune

There is no doubt Shelbourne Park is a special place and over the past 92 years has provided many of the greatest moments in greyhound racing history.

The latest of which came on Saturday as Pestana became the first greyhound in Ireland to break the 29 second barrier for 550yds on his way to a sensational victory in the second round of the Boylesports Derby.

The Owen McKenna trained superstar was simply breath-taking, producing one of the most perfect displays ever seen by a racing greyhound as he stopped the clock in a scarcely believable 28.99.

Remarkably, some thirteen years earlier, McKenna also trained Catunda Harry to become the first greyhound in Ireland to break the magical 28 second barrier for 525yd trip. That’s some double.  

Owen McKenna pictured with Pestana.                 Pics: Imelda Grauer


As predicted during the week, Pestana was sent to traps a red-hot favourite to continue his winning ways despite the presence of the brilliant Newinn Taylor.

It was also predictable the pair would dominate the contest itself, although Waikiki Keano did run a magnificent race in third.

But in truth, this was all about Des Grace’s Pestana (Pic right) and his history making exploits. To the eye it was one of the most perfect performances ever seen by a racing greyhound. Making a lightning fast start from the inside box, he never missed a beat, displaying real acceleration to open a clear lead and staying close to the fence throughout.

Newinn Taylor also ran an incredible race in defeat. He mistimed the start from trap five but did show huge pace into the turn to chase the favourite. In fact, Newinn Taylor closed the gap into the turn only to give the ground away by moving off the fence.

Pestana entered the back straight with three lengths in hand. It was clear, even at this early stage, that this was a race against the clock and that Newinn Taylor would not be threatening in the leader. The pair flew into the third turn with Pestana maintaining his three lengths lead and the eye was drawn to the third bend sectional – an incredible 16.83.

Incredibly, Newinn Taylor ran a fine third turn to close the gap slightly but Pestana was still moving with real fluency and he kicked again as they turned for home. He maintained a superb racing line off the final turn and galloped right to the line.

Pestana came home three and a half lengths clear of Newinn Taylor with Waikiki Keano just another two lengths adrift in third. A glance at the clock confirmed he had produced a second run. It needed a second glance to confirm the eyes weren’t playing tricks. Pestana had created history.

In clocking 28.99 he became the first greyhound to break the 29 second barrier for 550yds. He will now take his place in the third round of the Boylesports Derby as the Shelbourne Park track record holder and national record holder for 550yds. 

Video: Pestana's record breaking run
Commentary by Ian Fortune


Not for the first time in their illustrious careers, Ballymac Anton and Wolfe met in Heat 10. Predictably, Wolfe set the pace from the inside trap but, in just his second start since winning the Easter Cup in March, the Graham Holland trained star still looked a little short of his best.

The same could have been said for Ballymac Anton in victory last weekend but on this occasion the son of Ballymac Best and Coolavanny Angie was a little sharper. Soldier Spy and Grandslam Champ were actually the fastest into stride and the former actually set the pace to the turn but it was at this point that Wolfe shot up the fence to take up the running.

Ballymac Anton stayed tight to the fence to chase the pair in third, less than a length and a half behind Wolfe. This left him in the perfect position to strike. Wolfe struggled to get way on his rivals to halfway although he did open a two length margin into the third turn.  

It was at this point that Ballymac Anton made his move. Closing the gap on Wolfe in a matter of strides, he slipped up the inside of his rival before the final turn and quickly moved into a decisive lead.

Staying on well, Ballymac Anton initiated an incredible four-timer for Liam Dowling by crossing the line three lengths clear in 29.43. Wolfe stuck on well to stay second with Soldier Spy a further length and a half away in third.


Liam Dowling was at it again in Heat 11 as Ballymac Wild confirmed his standing as a leading Derby hope with a brilliant front running display.

The Juvenile Classic winner and Champion Stakes runner-up had given plenty of clues in his opening round victory that he was ready to produce a massive run and he didn’t disappoint.

Coming away on terms, the son of Vulturi and Ballymac Breeze was soon in front and, once doing so, was only going to increase his lead. Indesatchel ran a fine bend to move past Iconic Rory for second but his chase was futile.

Ballymac Wild was clear down the far side and he never took his foot off the pedal. Racing right to the line, the July ’18 emerged a superb five and a half length winner in a very quick 29.15. Indesatchel was second, two and a half lengths clear of Iconic Rory in third.


Liam Dowling completed a hat-trick in Heat 12 where Ballymac Cooper sent out a clear message to his Derby rivals that he is a serious Derby contender.

He was aided by Deerjet Sydney diving inwards from trap three and finding traffic, but the manner in which Cooper flew into the turn suggests he was going to come home clear anyway.

By the bend, Cooper was three lengths clear and on his way to a facile success. Coolavanny Kyser turned second and displayed fine determination to stay within touching distance to the third turn but he paid the price for his efforts, fading home.       

Instead, Razldazl Annie and Deerjet Sydney displayed fine pace and strength to battle it out for second. Ballymac Cooper was in a different league to his rivals on this occasion, however. The son of Ballymac Matt and Ballymac Scala raced to an easy nine length victory in 29.10 – a time that would have equalled the record prior to Pestana’s heroics. Razldazl Annie got the better of Deerjet Sydney by a short head to take second.


After a wonderful performance behind Pestana in the opening round, Razldazl Peaky, owned by the Kildare Kilcolgan Syndicate, was a warm favourite to win Heat 13 and, while he did oblige, he had to work far harder than expected.

The Neilus O’Connell trained son of Makeshift and Razldazl Pru shot from trap three and led the field into the turn, just clearing Kilgraney Vegas to set the pace into the back straight. It should have been plain sailing for the favourite once turning in front, but Meenagh Miracle had other ideas.

She carried real momentum into the back straight and raced upsides Razldazl Peaky into the third turn. The race was still in the balance as they hit the home straight, but Razldazl Peaky stays beyond the 550yds and he duly pulled away in the closing stages to secure a workmanlike victory by a length and a half in 29.45. Calzaghe Sonic ran on fast to qualify in third, just a further length adrift.   


Not content with three winners, Liam Dowling made it four on the night in Heat 14 with Great Name That motoring home to mow down the long-time leader Da Bold Eagle.

As expected Da Bold Eagle shot up the fence to enter the back straight with a clear advantage but his supporters knew their fate before the third turn as Great Name That, owned by the Very Quiet Syndicate, made his move up the rail.

Great Name That was only fourth into the turn but, staying tight to the fence, was third behind Da Bold Eagle and Priceless Squire as they hit the second bend. Even with six lengths to make up on the leader, Great Name That looked the one to beat.

The son of Droopys Jet and Ballymac Bonnie flew into the third turn to go second along the fence and then set his sights on the leader. Powering up the straight, Great Name That hit the front inside the final 50yds to record a fine success by a length from another fast finisher, Scooby Princess, in 29.50. Da Bold Eagle was just a half length away in third.


As expected, Derby sponsor John Boyle’s Boylesports Xtra set a searing gallop to the corner in Heat 15 before going on to record a most impressive victory over Traceys Bob.

The runner-up was his only realistic challenger throughout but he struggled to get close enough to mount a serious challenge.

Predictably, Boylesports Xtra broke fastest to lead the field into the turn and he opened up a three length lead entering the back straight. Traceys Bob did close that gap into the third turn to get within two lengths but, as they swung for home, Boylesports Xtra saved ground staying tight to the fence to increase his advantage again.

Staying on strongly, the Paul Hennessy trained Boylesports Xtra raced clear to record a comfortable and mighty impressive three and a half length victory over Traceys Bob in 29.24. Mustang Firmino again displayed fine pace to finish just a neck away in third.   


Reigning Derby champion Lenson Bocko suffered a third defeat in a row in the final heat of the round with his kennel companion Feudal Spirit running out a deserving winner following a most professional display. 

Larry O’Rourke’s Feudal Spirit was having just his tenth career start but he continues to progress each night. The son of Droopys Jet and Kilara Cher flashed from trap three to challenge for the early lead with his kennel companions Ballyhimikin Jet and Lenson Bocko.

We waited for Lenson Bocko to move through the gears into the turn to take up the running but it never came. Instead, Feudal Spirit held off his more illustrious rival to set the pace around the opening two bends.

Turning into the back straight Feudal Spirit held a near three length advantage. By halfway it was three lengths although Lenson Bocko drew closer as they approached the third turn. For a brief moment it seemed that Lenson Bocko was going to challenge the leader but Feudal Spirit ignored the script.

Maintaining a strong gallop all the way to the line, the Graham Holland trained star claimed a seventh career victory in just his tenth career start by two lengths in 29.29. Ballymac Tas was a further half length away in third.

Shelbourne undercard

Fastest run on the undercard came from Highview Celt as he led from start to finish in the A1 tenth race.

Trained by Gerry Merriman for Dolores Merriman, the son of Over Limit and Highview Beauty was always in command after a slick exit and he raced to a facile seven length verdict over Burgess Macy in 28.31.

Racing ended with a fine display from the promising Walk On Mo. In what was his sixth career start, the son of Droopys Jet and Some Tears opened his account in style. Displaying an impressive turn of early speed, the Village Crew Syndicate owned black opened a race-winning lead to the second turn. Ballydoyle Flush did finish well but Walk On Mo was too good and he held on to score by a length and a half in 28.39.

Walletbuster Ray produced a fine display of front running to land the opener for Ray White, Damien Egan and Brian Rooney. The son of Superior Product and Do It Kim was thoroughly professional, bolting from the inside box to lead home Harvard by five and a half lengths in 28.58.  

Ballyhall Kara returned to winning ways in the eleventh race. Donal Carroll’s daughter of Tyrur Big Mike and Ballycowen Moll ran a tremendous bend to lead from the second turn. Mydras Kim moved second down the back and threatened briefly, but Ballyhall Kara raced on to a two length victory in 28.66.