Last year’s Greyhound Derby finalist Clares Rocket could be set to come out of retirement in 2018, with the most prestigious race in the sport at Towcester the most likely target for the dog during the next 12 months.
Clares Rocket has not been seen on the track since the quarter-final of the 2017 Irish Derby, where he finished second behind Good News. Unfortunately, a wrist injury prevented Graham Holland’s runner from racing in the semi-final of the competition at Shelbourne Park, which was eventually won by Good News for trainer Patrick Guilfoyle.
Holland has hinted that Clares Rocket has recently returned to training and that he has been impressing around the track. No decision has been made yet on his future but it leaves the door open for a possible comeback in 2018.
If Clares Rocket is entered into the Derby in 2018 his likely challenges are going to be Bruisers Bullet, Droopys Expert and Roxholme Nidge as they are the 20/1 co-favourites with bookmaker Williamhill, who already have ante-post market on the event as well as daily meetings across the year. The next five months will determine which of these three dogs will start the competition as the clear favourite as there will be plenty of opportunities for them to run competitively before the opening round.
Clares Rocket made a slow start to his career as he could only record one victory in his opening six races. The Irish dog then won 13 of its next 14 contests, though, to establish himself as one of the leading middle distance runners in the UK and Ireland.
The multiple open race winner went into the 2016 Irish Derby as the red-hot favourite as he had just won the Champion Stakes at Shelbourne Park, where he clocked 29.29 in the final. Sadly, his Irish Derby bid did not last very long as he went lame in the first round which resulted in a small lay-off.
It was off the track that Clares Rocket made headlines all over the world in December of 2016 as he was kidnapped from his kennels in Golden, County Tipperary. Given his profile in the sport, there were obvious storyline comparisons with Shergar, who was stolen from his stable in 1981. Fortunately, Clares Rocket was found safe and well which allowed him to return to training with Holland in early 2017.
Ireland have not had a great record in the Derby in recent years, therefore a comeback from Clares Rocket will boost their chances in the 2018 renewal. Since 2000, only three Irish trained dogs have been successful in the English Classic. The last dog from Ireland to be victorious was Jaytee Jet in 2016 for trainer Paul Hennessy. He justified favouritism in the last ever Derby to be held at Wimbledon in London before the track was closed.
Holland may also be thinking ahead to the Irish Derby later in the year if Clares Rocket does return and shows the same kind of form that he did in 2017. For now, though, he must monitor the dog at home and speak to its connections on the best move for his immediate future.