Ian Fortune

Born Warrior is the Derby champion.

Those are the words so many were wishing to read the morning after the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby decider. This was a special night for greyhound racing, for those involved in the sport and, most of all, for winning handler Jennifer O’Donnell and the lucky members of the Whatever You Like Syndicate.

Jenna Boyle Presents the trophy to John Mitchell and the Whatever-you Like-Syndicate after Born Warrior won the 2022 BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby at Shelbourne Park , Also inc are Jennifer O Donnell (Trainer), Matthew and Frances O'Donnell, Dolores Ruth,  and Peter Burke Minister for Local Goverment and Planning,                           Pic: Imelda Grauer


It took just over twenty-nine and a half seconds for Born Warrior to race into immortality yet so much happened in that brief moment in time.

This really was a race of two halves. The sheer brilliance of Born Warrior carried him to the front in the early yards, while his reserves of bravery and determination were called upon in the second half of the contest as he repelled the magnificent efforts of the runner-up Ballymac Finn.

The latter’s role in making this a final to remember can’t be understated. The November whelp was bidding to become the youngest Derby champion of all time and, for the briefest moment off the final turn, it must have seemed to his many supporters and his owner Liam Dowling that he was going to do so.

But Born Warrior had other ideas. The son of Ballymac Best and Mountaylor Queen may have run off the final turn in his traditional manner but, when he straightened up, he pinned his ears back and drove to the line to pull out extra.


This was a return to the great times at Shelbourne Park.

A massive crowd poured through the stiles, welcomed by entertainers and a real sense of occasion. Through the evening the sense of anticipation built until it was time to welcome the Derby finalists onto parade.

It seemed every step was cheered by the packed stands. The action in the betting ring was a reminder of the golden age of greyhound racing with the layers reporting a huge turnover. The weight of support in the final was with Callaway Pro Am. As big as 5-2 during the week, the Owen McKenna trained star was backed all the way into 5-4.

He may have been returned 7-4 but there wasn’t a board showing that price as they went to traps. Crafty Kokoro was returned the 7-2 second choice in the betting ahead of Ballymac Finn on 4-1. Then came Born Warrior, a drifter in the betting at 11-2. Maries Wedding was 6-1 while Droopy Nice On remained the outsider of the field at 12-1.


As the dogs made their way onto the track, the crowd started to make themselves heard.

By the time the final dog was in traps, the noise levels were really high and ready to explode with the trap rise.

The Derby roar set Shelbourne Park alight and the decibels when the dogs emerged from traps was incredible. With the exception of Droopys Nice One on the outside of the track, each of the field came away racing.


Maries Wedding took a step to her right and gave her brother Ballymac Finn the slightest of bumps but it failed to halt his momentum.

After five strides Born Warrior and Ballymac Finn were virtually level but the former began to show his incredible acceleration.

By the winning line first time up, Born Warrior had a neck to spare. Twenty five yards later it was almost three parts of a length. By now Callaway Pro Am was starting to get the better of Maries Wedding, while Crafty Kokoro was slightly detached in fifth and the slow starting Droopys Nice One another two lengths away in last.


The next fifty yards into and around the opening corner would decide the Derby.

Born Warrior cleared Ballymac Finn and began to edge across to the fence. Now Callaway Pro Am was upsides Ballymac Finn and seemed set to turn a close second, on the heels of the leader.

But in a matter of strides, his Derby challenge was over. Moving off the turn, he bumped Ballymac Finn losing his back end for the shortest time. It was enough to cost him his momentum. Maries Wedding was the meat in the sandwich just behind the pair and was forced to check off wide, ending her hopes.

Meanwhile, Crafty Kokoro stuck to the fence to enter the back straight in fourth, in a tremendous position to launch her trademark flying start. Droopys Nice One moved fifth but she was too far back.


Born Warrior was now over three lengths clear as they hit the back straight.

The noise suggested that his many supporters were pleased with what they saw. Callaway Pro Am may have gone second briefly but Ballymac Finn catapulted his way around the second bend to chase the leader.

The order remained unchanged to halfway with Born Warrior maintaining a three-length advantage. Ballymac Finn, in turn, had the same distance to spare over Callaway Pro Am with Crafty Kokoro next in fourth.

It was now Born Warrior’s to lose. The third turn saw the hopes of Crafty Kokoro come to an end as she met Callaway Pro Am at the wrong time. Once forced to check her stride, losing a couple of lengths in the process, it was clear she was too far back.


And so, all eyes were back on the front two.

Born Warrior hit the final turn just two lengths to the good. Would his exaggerated wide running ways cost him at this point? As expected, Born Warrior swung wide, leaving the door open for the advancing Ballymac Finn. Passing their starting point, the 550yds boxes, the pair were side by side, virtually inseparable.

After six weeks, fifty-seven races, twenty-eight minutes of racing action, it all came down to the final fifty yards. Born Warrior and Ballymac Finn went at it like prize fighters, giving their all, driving to the winning line to a deafening roar.

But Born Warrior’s name was destined to make it on the roll of honour. As if sensing the importance of this moment, Born Warrior dug deep to pull out a half length on his rival. In a tremendous finish, Born Warrior raced into the history books, stopping the clock in 29.53.

Ballymac Finn ran his heart out in second, losing nothing in defeat. His day will come. Crafty Kokoro once again came from out of the clouds to finish just three lengths further adrift in third, while it wasn’t meant to be for Callaway Pro Am in fourth. Maries Wedding and Droopys Nice One came next.

This was Born Warrior’s day, however. Showing the most electrical early speed in each and every round, he was never headed to the third turn through the competition. For his owners, the Whatever You Like Syndicate, consisting of his trainer Jennifer O’Donnell, John Mitchell, Willie Hanlon, Fred Malzard and Tom Crean, it must have seemed like a dream.

Jennifer O’Donnell was a cool as a cucumber when interviewed by Rob Catterson on RPGTV soon after, recognizing the significance of the win but perfectly summing up the display and strengths of her star. Not only had she trained a Derby champion, following in the footsteps of her father Matt, who won the classic three times, and her mother Frances, who won in 2012 with Skywalker Puma, but she also bred and reared Born Warrior. It just doesn’t get any better than that.  

Video: The Derby Roar In Full Voice as Born Warrior Wins The Derby