Graham Holland: BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby Semi-Final Preview

We sat down with leading trainer Graham Holland earlier to preview this weekends BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby Semi-Finals.

Graham Holland  is hoping his Bockos Crystal can make it through Saturday’s semi-finals of the BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby – keeping alive hopes of landing a fourth victory in the famous race.

Holland, a Tipperary-based Englishman, has won in the Classic with Rural Hawaii (2016), Lenson Bocko (2019) and Newinn Taylor (2020) and has once again teamed up with Lenson Bocko’s part-owners Bev Lochead and Graham Box with Bockos Crystal, whom Box bought from breeder Ronny Wuyts.

The three-year-old daughter of Droopys Sydney and Vigorous Hilary lines up in a red-hot second semi-final of the Irish Derby against leading contenders De Lahdedah and Coolavanny Hoffa – but Holland feels this experienced and talented tracker can play her part in what is a top-class contest.

“Look, it’s all about qualifying at this stage,” he says. “There’s no margin for error in semi-finals and it’s always a case of being so close, yet so far perhaps. We’ve been lucky enough to win Irish and English Greyhound Derbys so know how good success feels, but we’ve also suffered disappointments along the way. Never count your chickens.

“Bockos Crystal has always been top class. She won the Shelbourne 600 last year, reached the Easter Cup final this year, and has beaten the likes of Ballinabola Ed and Bobsleigh Dream, both brilliant greyhounds, so Saturday’s challenge will not faze her.

“She’s taking on De Lahdedah and Coolavanny Hoffa, two greyhounds who have pretty much dominated the betting on the Irish Derby from the off – I’ve been especially impressed by De Lahdedah – but Bockos Crystal has mixed with the best throughout her career.

“She starts and stays well and, if anything, has come back after a break showing a lot more early pace. That’s serving her well and we’re drawn the right side of The Other Kobe who definitely prefers the rails – if she breaks well she’ll be fine.”


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It’s time there was a Netflix-style series to bring new fans to the sport

“You can see what they’ve done with motor racing and golf and those Netflix-type series. You might not be a fan of those sports, but those programmes engage you, tell you interesting behind-the-scenes stories, and draw you in. They grow the fan base.

“Maybe there’s something in this sport for those guys. Greyhound racing is fast and thrilling and the action on the track, in particular, could come across really well – and there’s always stories to tell in greyhound racing. It is full of characters!”

The industry generates millions – owners, trainers and breeders need a return on their investment 

“Owners, trainers and breeders need to get a return on their investment – these greyhounds are racing for an industry which generates millions of euros and pounds, and giving them more means they can employ more staff to look after the greyhounds – that’s a welfare positive in itself!

“Some breeders will go out of business if things don’t change at grassroots level. You cannot breed and rear litters of pups for 12 to 15 months then see them change hands for next to nothing. I believe there should be a minimum to what any greyhound can be sold for, whatever the level he competes. Otherwise, that breeder is finished. Simple.”

“I really do feel boosting prize money is essential. Welfare gets most of the funding and remains hugely important, of course, it does, but we’ve reached a level there. Standards are higher than they’ve ever been and now it’s about pushing on – and more prize money will also have a positive knock-on effect for welfare, too.”

The antis are sad people – they’ll never understand the passion and love we have for dogs 

“To be honest, I think they’re just very sad people – and are paid to be there anyway!”

“But whatever their feelings and opinions, I’m inviting anyone thinking of protesting at Shelbourne Park to the kennels to see what we do.

“Be sure these are the same people who’ll go after horse racing, show jumping, even fishing down the line. They’ll never understand the passion and absolute love we have for the breed – they are fantastic animals and a joy to be around every day.”

My dogs are cared for better than humans – they don’t have to endure long waits to see a GP!

“My animals are looked after in the best possible conditions, fed the best food and cared for better than humans!

“They want for nothing, have full run of the paddocks for much of the day and any veterinary issues they have are treated straight away – there’s no waiting list for an appointment like at your local GP!

“Unfortunately though, you’ll never convince some people or change their opinions.”

The BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby Semi-Final is on Saturday and our very own Sarah Kinsella has a preview of the night here

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