An Ashford-based greyhound racing trainer is dreaming of landing the sport’s most valuable prize when the English Greyhound Derby returns to Towcester Racecourse this month.
Rab McNair has trained greyhounds with his wife Elizabeth for over four decades from their Kent base where they have reached the historic Derby final on three occasions with Eden The Kid (2015, third), Farloe Trent (2014, sixth) and Caulry Fast (2007, sixth).
The couple stand their best chance of landing the £175,000 first prize this year, though, with kennel star FromPostToPillar, owned by the KSS Syndicate.
Aged two, ‘Postie’ has won 10 of his 13 races to date and already amassed over £33,000 in prize money having landed the Cowley Puppy Collar at Oxford, the Coral Olympic at Hove and the ARC Kent Plate at Central Park.
McNair’s talented dog is the competition’s ante-post favourite, but he will face his stiffest task to date when the Derby gets underway on Thursday, May 25.
“The Derby is the pinnacle of our sport and gives every trainer all the motivation they need to carry on working seven days a week all year round,” said McNair. “Postie is probably the fastest greyhound I have ever had the priviledge to work with.
“Not only that, he’s a clever dog too with an outstanding brain and he’s got himself out of awkward situations on more than one occasion in his career to date. It’s exciting to approach the Derby with him in the kennel and we’re doing our best to ensure he’s mentally and physically prepared to the best of our ability.”
FromPostToPillar started preparations for this year’s Derby with a blistering 500m trial at the Northamptonshire venue in 28.61 seconds – an average speed of 39.09mph.
With the first three greyhounds in each race advancing to the next round throughout the competition, McNair is taking no chances with his star dog.
“It’s so important to enter the Derby being fit and ready for the challenges ahead,” said McNair.
“There is so much talent on display and you can’t risk coming up against two or three good greyhounds in Round One and getting knocked out. Right now, we’re exactly where we want Postie to be and he’s ready for action.
“I’m a big lover of the Towcester track. It was running better than ever during our last visit, if those conditions are kept up then we’re in for one of the best – and fairest – Derby’s ever.”
First held in 1927, the English Greyhound Derby attracts 192 of the world’s fastest greyhounds and celebrates its 93rd running this year.
Previous winners include Mick The Millar (1929 and 1930) who was recently inducted into Wembley Stadium’s list of 100 icons to celebrate the venue’s 100-year anniversary, Camira Flash (1968) owned by the late Prince Philip and Westmead Hawk (2005 and 2006) who became the first dog to have his own waxwork created at Madame Tussauds.
McNair said nothing can come close to the feeling of watching a greyhound fulfil its instinct by running at full speed and encouraged first-time racegoers to head trackside.
“You’ll never some anything more majestic in your life than a greyhound in full flight doing what it was bred to do,” said McNair. “They’re beautiful, gentle, animals and anyone trackside will see just how much they adore their racing when they come out on parade.
“The atmosphere on finals night will be out of this world and I haven’t considered what it would feel like to win the competition. Until we’ve achieved it, I’m not saying anything.”
Tickets for the 2023 StarSports English Greyhound Derby Final at Towcester Racecourse on Saturday, July 1, are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.
The competition operates via a six-round format where the top three greyhounds in each qualifying heat advance to the next round. Round One takes place between Thursday, May 25, and Saturday, May 27.