Ian Fortune

Romeo Magico produced a truly stunning display at a packed Towcester on Saturday evening to claim his place in history as the sixteenth Irish trained winner of the English Derby.

The Star Sports and TRC sponsored showpiece really delivered with Kildare and Mickys Barrett running massive races in defeat but the night belonged to Graham Holland, Dave Firmager and Romeo Magico.


A huge crowd descended on the Northamptonshire venue and provided a wonderful atmosphere that could only be described as joyous.

And that was certainly a word that could be used to describe the display of Romeo Magico.


Kildare was actually sent off the marginal favourite at 9-4 and Peter Cronin seemed set to finally claim his first Derby success when the brilliant tracker flew into the turn to head the fast-starting Mickys Barret.

Importantly, however, Romeo Magico slightly mistimed the start and this was to work out in his favour as he got a clear run at the leaders into the bend. Moving third, he slipped onto the fence as Kildare steered a trap three course around the opening turns.


It was all the gap that Romeo Magico needed.

The fluent son of Magical Bale displayed his immense pace to wonderful effect, joining Kildare on the second turn before soon asserting at the head of affairs. It was a maneouvre that was appreciated by the knowledgeable crowd.

To a rapturous reception, Romeo Magico eased on to hold a three parts of a length lead on the third turn. Kildare, to his great credit, was still running strongly and doing all he could in an attempt to bridge the gap but Romeo Magico was on a mission.

Again, showing wonderful fluency and pace around the last two bends, Romeo Magico entered the home straight with a length and half in hand. The remainder of the contest acted only as a victory lap for Dave Firmagers charge.

Maintaining a relentless gallop to the line, Romeo Magico went on to claim his place in history by a length and three parts from a gallant Kildare in 28.95. Mickys Barrett was a further two and a half lengths adrift in third. It just didn’t happen for the remainder of the field and Priceless Jet finished best of the rest on fourth.


But this was Romeo Magico’s night. For Graham and Nicky Holland and all at the Riverside Kennels operation, this was one of the great nights.

Finally, after going close with the likes of Ballydoyle Valor and Clares Rocket in the past, Graham had captured his first English Derby success.

Both he and Nicky were still in disbelief when we caught up with them after racing in Towcester supremo Kevin Boothby’s suite. In contrast, David Firmager was revelling in the success. It is so clear how much it means to Dave, a man who has been involved in greyhounds for so many years. Not only did he own Romeo Magico but he also bred and reared the son of Magical Bale and Fabulous Artist. At this very moment, he is the proudest man on the planet. A huge congratulations to all involved.


For Peter Cronin, it was heart-breaking to go so close once again but he has every reason to be optimistic for the future.

Kildare remains one of the most exciting greyhounds in training and will now be aimed at the Boylesports Irish Derby.

Incidentally, Cronin did have some consolation on the undercard as Cape Cloud landed the Star Sports Jack Murrell Memorial. Flashing from traps and securing a rails pitch, the talented tracker proceeded to make every inch for a three and a half length victory over his compatriot Bockos Budsit in 29.34.