Ian Fortune

It’s finally time.

After weeks of incredible action, many shocks and some wonderful storylines, the 2023 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby will tonight come to a fitting conclusion.

A huge crowd is set to pour through the stiles for the greatest night in world greyhound racing, providing an atmosphere like no other with the knowledgeable Shelbourne Park crowd expected to act as a sound track to the drama unfolding on the track.

The RPGTV and Virgin Media cameras will be on track, providing pictures for those that can’t make it, but there really is nothing like being there. And the final itself should provide a fitting conclusion to what has been a wonderful competition. 

This is a race that everyone has an opinion on but the more prevalent view is that it is a wide-open contest. It’s hard to disagree. Certainly, anybody with a connection to the six finalists can dream of a scenario where their star lands the €125,000 winner’s purse.

In terms of the shape of the race, it’s pretty clear. The inside duo and the outside duo will all battle it out for early supremacy, while the two middle runners will be finishing at speed and will hope to take charge in the final yards.

It’s worth noting that no greyhound has come from further back than second to win the Derby since the Frances O’Donnell trained Skywalker Puma in 2012. Of course, Frances is mother to Jennifer O’Donnell, who is responsible for the favourite The Other Kobe, who is bidding to emulate his 2022 Derby winning litter brother Born Warrior.


The Other Kobe is favourite from trap two. A fast starter with outstanding early speed, huge pace down the back straight and the stamina to see out the 550yds, he is worthy of his position at the head of the betting.

He was good through the early rounds without producing his very best but that all changed in the quarter finals when posting a joint fastest of the Derby 29.15. A week later, he again dominated to win his semi-final in style.

He was actually purchased ahead of the 2022 Derby with a view to going deep in the classic only to stumble badly at traps in the opening round, losing all chance of progressing. Luckily, he has avoided such a catastrophe this year and goes into tonight’s final with obvious claims.

The presence of Well Met on his left is a concern but if he was to clear that rival in the opening exchanges, it could allow him make a bold bid for Derby glory. Certainly owners, Brian Clare, David L’estrange and Aidan Walsh are aware of what is needed from The Other Kobe.

If he repeats his quarter final display, he could potentially seize control from the very outset. How his owners would love to see him flash from trap two.


Well Met has been tremendously consistent through the competition although others have gone faster on the clock.

Much like The Other Kobe, his chances depend on whether he can get to the head of affairs before the race develops into a battle.

The draw will certainly aid his claims. A professional with superb early dash and the draw to suit, John Jones will be praying he can contain The Other Kobe into the bend to lead the field into the back straight. If doing so, it would be game on as Well Met is notoriously difficult to pass.

There is certainly a jealous streak in the son of Ballymac Best and he will not give up his advantage without giving everything. For the Jones family, it must be wonderful to have another Derby finalist. Our Surprise successfully made the 2019 decider only to pick up an injury. It was so devastating for the family at the time for them to have a Derby finalist so soon after must seem almost surreal. Imagine if Well Met happened to come home in front?


Threesixfive is the real fairytale story in the decider.

Trained by young Scott Phelan, who only has a training licence a year and a half, she has produced some superb runs through the competition, storming home to make the frame in each of the five nights to date.

She has yet to win a heat of the Derby and is a big price to do so tonight but she will not be short of support. Both Scott and his partner in crime Ciara Byrne are hugely popular and were the young couple to train a Derby winner, there would be a queue all the way back to Dunlavin to congratulate them.

And Threesixfive is no forlorn hope. This is a bitch with a speed and class to win a heat of the oaks over 525yds, the strength and power to star in the early round of the Corn Cuchulainn and the endurance and ability to progress to a Derby final. She may need help from others but have no doubt, she will be finishing fast. If she were to come home in front, her owners the Pint of Heino Syndicate would surely fill the trophy with their beloved vitamin H.


Some fourteen years after College Causeway came from out of the clouds to hand Pat Buckley a first, and to date his only, Derby title, Bens Teddy will attempt to emulate the flying black from trap three.

The powerful son of Droopy Sydney rally does fit the description of a true powerhouse.

Not the fastest in the early yards and often in need of a little luck around the opening two bends, he is as fast as any greyhound in training from the sprint boxes. That has been evident through this year’s Derby with clock waters left astounded by his times from the third bend to the winning line.

One suspects he will come in for strong support in the ring this evening and he could go to traps a far shorter price than what was available during the week. For his owners Sike Murphy, Nolan and Willem Byrne and Kim Prichard, a clear run for Bens Teddy is the dream scenario. Should he avoid traffic, it seems inevitable he will be bang in the mix at the line. Have no doubt, he is a serious player and were he to move into a challenging position around the last two bends, the crowd will likely raise the roof.  


Music Glideaway is the youngest and least experienced finalist but arguably comes into the race in the best form of all six finalists.

He has long been a hugely fast greyhound, showing real promise in his early outings if not always getting a clear passage.

That has changed in recent weeks. He clearly gained real confidence in a 575yd competition around Shelbourne Park in June, relishing the chance to get loose on the long run to the turn. While he still wasn’t trapping with great fluency at that time, it’s his improved starting that has seen him make the Derby final.

Certainly, that was the key to victory in the semi-finals. The brilliant son of 2020 Derby champion Newinn Taylor came through the bars to dictate from the outset in a 29.32 success. It was a serious run and one that his owner Bob Shanahan will pray he can repeat this evening.

If doing so, he could potentially hand his handler Pat Guilfoyle a second Derby victory after the 2017 success of Good News.


Graham Holland is already one of the all-time great trainers but were Bockos Crystal to come home in front this evening, he would join the legendary Tom Lynch and Gay McKenna on a record four Derby wins.

His first victory came in 2016 with Rural Hawaii, but even he couldn’t have predicted that just seven years later he would be seeking a fourth win in the blue riband. Graham Box and Bev Lochead, the owners of Bockos Crystal are also seeking to win another Derby.

They were lucky enough to own Lenson Bocko in 2019 and there are many similarities between their Derby champ and Bockos Crystal. A fast starter with incredible pace and a real desire to win, she is a huge player in this evening’s contest.

Now seventeen weeks out of season, she is also coming to hand at the right time. Certainly, Graham Holland and her owners will believe she is ready to produce the biggest run of her already impressive career.

It certainly won’t need much for her to emerge triumphant. If producing her best start, there is a strong chance she could lead the field around the turn and as a bitch that has won over 600yds in a stunning 32.07, she would be mighty difficult to reel in.

Graham Holland and her many supporters will be hoping she can follow in the footsteps of Rural Hawaii, Lenson Bocko and Newinn Taylor and hand her handler a fourth Derby victory.


And so, to the verdict.

On first inspection, a trap five draw wouldn’t look ideal for Bocko Crystal but she should lead both Threesixfive and Bens Teddy to the turn. Well Met and The Other Kobe are likely to go up fast on the inside of the track but there is a chance they could rub shoulders.

Any bumping between that pair could hand the advantage to the pair on the outside, Bockos Crystal and Music Glideaway. Given the act that she is draw on the inside of Music Glideaway, Bockos Crystal could get first run and that could prove decisive.

Bens Teddy will certainly put the foot down from halfway and would be a serious threat if receiving a clear passage but the nod just goes to Bockos Crystal. It’s a wide-open Derby final and the most important thing is they come home safe and sound. If you are heading to Shelbourne Park, enjoy every moment and the best of luck to all with a runner.


The Michael Fortune Memorial Derby Plate decider is the feature of a sensational undercard at Shelbourne Park.

It’s been a stake that has thrown up some strange results in recent weeks but it would be a surprise if the winner didn’t come from the front two in the betting, Beepers Lariat and Ballinabola Una.

The presence of the fast-starting Ballymac Pete on his immediate inside is a concern for Beepers Lariat and that throws the verdict the way of the powerful Ballinabola Una. She stormed home to win her semi-final in style and can again turn closer than normal from an ideal draw on the fence. If that is the case, she could be very difficult to contain. 


Coolavanny Hoffa can’t be opposed in the Boylesports Derby Consolation.

The Michael O’Donovan trained star will be a red-hot favourite from a kind draw in five and can assert before the turn to run out a facile winner. Trinity Junior is seen as the greatest threat.


Fresh from his Select Stakes success on Monday, Clona Duke is a big draw in the penultimate race on the card.

A trap three draw will certainly suit but he needs to be every bit as slick from traps as he was earlier in the week if he is to account for the likes of Sober Glory, 2022 English Derby runner-up Mr Chelm and Annagh Bailey.


The entire twelve race card is now set to be shown on RPGTV and that is a real bonus for punters as the finale over 575yds is an exceptional contest.

The eye is immediately drawn to one of the stars of the track scene in Ireland, Ballinabola Ed, as he bids to atone for his Select Stakes defeat but nothing will come easy.

He has to take on a stellar field that includes English Derby champion Gaytime Nemo, Juvenile Classic winner Ballymac Marino and the brilliant Scaglietti. Throw in Good Maestro and Boylesports Vic and it will be a great way to finish off proceedings. Ballinabola Ed is the choice but he must trap better than five days ago at Nottingham.


There is also a wonderful six bend race to look forward to. 2022 Derby finalist Droopys Nice One is a notable and potentially special recruit to the staying ranks but a trap two draw has raised a few eye-brows.

She does tend to swing wide on a couple of bends and, if she is to win, may need to get loose of her rivals in the early yards.

Hukum potentially has the best of the draw on the fence and will have support, as will Hanover Phantom but the outside duo are probably the two to beat. Ballymac Katie ran a remarkable race in defeat seven days ago and is ready to go very fast, while Jacktavern Bella is also likely to have a far bigger say than in the Select Stayers on Monday. Ballymac Katie can come out on top if avoiding traffic.


There are a couple of short priced favourites on the card for punters to throw into an accumulator. Certainly, Rathdown Molly in the opener and Hawkfield Blue in the open 525 look set to oblige, while it would also be a shock is Road Exile was beaten in the open sprint.

Others that punters may latch onto include Bobsleigh Dream in the open 600 and Another Holiday in an open 525. Both are likely to come home in front if putting their best foot-forward, although they do face some talented rivals.

Bobsleigh Dream will have to account for Gaytime Hugo and Undulation amongst others, while Another Holiday takes on a talented field that includes talented females Ballymac Run and Clogheen Lass.