2021: A recap of the year’s best Greyhound races

While we are only just getting underway in terms of the 2022 greyhound calendar, we can look back at the year that was and remember a plethora of entertaining races. Spectators returned to the track, eager to scour the latest form guides and make a bet on greyhounds, making for a terrific atmosphere for some of the sports showpiece events. With that in mind, we thought we’d look at some of the best Category One races in 2021.

The Puppy Derby

Wolverhampton’s Monmore Green was host to the year’s Puppy Derby. Not to be confused with the Romford Puppy Cup, this race is a 480-metre race for dogs that are between 15-24 months old. It was a momentous victory for the Graham Rankin-trained Jaguar Macie, crossing the line four and a half lengths clear, beating the likes of Bockos Belly and Matt Dartnall’s Dannid in the process with a finishing time of 28.04 seconds.

Rankin was clearly impressed with the puppy’s performance, full of praise post-race saying: “I’m delighted with her – that really was a fantastic run. She got it right on the night, when she most needed to from trap four.

“We bought her and her sister at ten months old from Ireland and sent them initially to Richard Rees at Hove just to give them experience – and he did a great job.”

Irish Greyhound Derby

Certainly, Ireland’s most popular greyhound race, the Irish Greyhound Derby, hosted at Shelbourne Park in South Dublin, has a long history dating back to the 1920s. Despite the 2020 race being held behind closed doors as Newinn Taylor picked up first prize, expectations were high for this one and spectators felt anything was possible after the best part of 18 month’s worth of racing was spent without anyone in attendance. Owen McKenna’s Susie Sapphire took home top prize, a cool €125,000 and denying Graham Holland a third successive title.

Gold Cup

Back to Monmore now for the Gold Cup, certainly a race to keep your eye on this year given what unfolded in the August sunset in Wolverhampton. 480=metre races are so often tough to predict but it was Kevin Hutton’s favourite Signet Ace who dropped the ball when overcrowding at the turn allowed Newcastle trainer Stuart Tighe to secure his first Category One victory with Minglers Popeye — picking up £10,000 in prize money in the process.

A fast start and mistakes from the big hitters allowed for a surprise victory, one that Minglers Popeye has really used to kick on in form, winning five of the eight races since. Now attention will be turned towards more Category One success and an outside shot at the English Greyhound Derby.

Champion Stakes

Form is such a big factor in greyhound racing, and Stephen Rayner’s Nightime Danny used a win at the St Leger to really kickstart a Category One career off in style with victory in the Champion Stakes. The manor of victory is what is still so impressive, strolling to that £10,000 prize to rectify his shortcomings in the recent Stayers’ Classic at Perry Barr.

It was a much closer affair in Birmingham compared to this display in Romford, where after a strong 575-metre showing, Rayner heaped on the praise for the three-year-old: “He’s a fantastic dog to have in the kennel and I’d like to thank Donal Brennan for sending him over to me” He said: “He had plenty to do right from the start, but has come through really well.”