Lahdedah the champion but greyhound racing the winner

Lahdedah the champion but greyhound racing the winner

IT lived up to the hype and proved all the doom-mongers wrong. The 2024 Star Sports/TRC English Greyhound Derby over Towcester's 500m course was truly a competition for the ages.

The history books will record Liam Dowling's De Lahdedah, an Irish Derby semi-finalist as a pup last year, as champion with the Garsuns Syndicate, comprising of John McAuliffe and his son-in-laws Kevin O’Connor and Stephen Hanrahan as winning owners.

An Irish winner was favoured after a record initial entry of some 50, but the twists and turns before we got there were enough to fill a novel never mind a webpage. And it was simply gripping.

The likely strength of the Irish entry was highlighted before the competition even started with Graham Holland, who sent out Romeo Magico and Gaytime Nemo to land back-to-back Derby titles in 2022 and 2023, registering an incredible nine trial stakes victories over successive weekends.

Ultimately, Gaytime Nemo and his pre-event intake The Other Kobe, the 2023 Irish Derby champion, would fare best of the Holland squad and reach the semi-finals but the Irish might came to the fore right from day one.

The penultimate Thursday in May saw the opening ten of 31 first round heats after a final total of 184 names had gone into the drum for the draw.

And that first night would ultimately provide all we needed to know, although it was not that obvious at the time. The first par of the report on contained the names of the two greyhounds who would eventually finish first and second in the final.

That was not to say there were not other first round highlights, particularly 24 hours later when Liz and Rab McNair experienced a 16-minutes roller-coaster of emotions.

In the opening heat on Friday, their leading fancy Queen Joni, who would go on to land the Derby Plate as some form of consolation, was eliminated after stumbling at the start but then long-time ante-post favourite King Memphis equalled the 28.58sec 500m track record with a dominant victory in the following race.

First round Saturday saw Patrick Janssens' Barntick Bear star with a 28.68sec victory. That was as good as it got for him in the Classic but he did return to Towcester on final night to make a winning six-bend debut.

There were five Irish winners to open round two on Friday 31st May, including a certain Liam Dowling-trained greyhound.

Heat honours were shared on second round Saturday with four UK and four Irish winners, the 'home' side taking the honour of run of the night when Crafty Shivoo took her perfect Towcester record to eight with a brilliant 28.59sec victory.

Eight became nine in round three, the first night when all remaining Derby survivors run on the same card, and there was a by now familiar name just held by Crafty Shivoo in doing so.

At the end of the round, Ireland had gained numerical supremacy for the first time with 13 qualifiers compared to 11 for the UK although the raiding party would be reduced by one when 2023 finalist Swords Rex was withdrawn.

There were three greyhounds remaining unbeaten going into the quarter-finals - Crafty Shivoo, King Memphis and The Other Kobe.

That trio lost two members in the quarter-finals with Crafty Shivoo narrowly eliminated and The Other Kobe caught close home but King Memphis went marching on.

As a footnote to that Boylesports Bob demolition job, sneaking through in third was De Lahdedah, having been last at the third bend before missing trouble at three-quarters to qualify somewhat fortuitously. Fine margins and all that.

De Lahdedah duly made the most of that good fortune with a superb semi-final victory, leading from the first bend and going on to beat Whyaye Man and Boylesports Bob in 28.79sec.

We were not to know but the same trio would fill the first three places in the final seven days later albeit with Boylesports Bob second and Whyaye Man third.

With Churchfield Syd holding King Memphis by a short-head in a second semi won in 28.98sec, Ballymac Gizmo qualifying in third to give Liam Dowling a second finalist, pre-draw betting for the decider had King Memphis at 11/8 and De Lahdedah at 13/8.

However, following the Monday draw at the Derby lunch the duo went in their separate directions, the consensus that King Memphis had fared well in drawing three directly inside his chief rival in four eventually seeing them sent off SP's of 11/10 and a scarcely-believable 5/1 respectively.

The rest, as they say, is history with King Memphis beaten to all intents and purposes the moment traps opened and he came out a clear last, while De Lahdedah was quickly chasing fast-starting Churchfield Syd and then diving inside to take command off the second.

Boylesports Bob made it a 1-2 for the Irish with Whyaye Man third and, just for good measure, the winning time of 28.58sec saw De Lahdedah join Droopys Clue and the vanquished King Memphis as co-track record holder thus emulating Taylors Sky in 2011 as doing so in a final.


Dowling, then, landed his first English Derby title in the fourth final in which he had been represented, going one better than the second place Ballymac Tas claimed behind Priceless Blake at Nottingham in 2019.

And if you had any doubt what it meant to him, watch the gentleman in the white shirt holding his jacket . . . well holding it for a while anyway.


Here's to doing it all again at Towcester in 2025.