Rural Hawaii rules supreme in Irish Derby final
Trainer Graham Holland has dreamed for years of winning a Derby final, but it had proved elusive until Saturday night, when Rural Hawaii gained a trap to line victory in the final of the Boylesports Irish Derby in front of a massive Shelbourne Park crowd.
Holland went into the final with three dogs and one of them, Sonic, was the solid evens favourite. However, the young tracker mistimed the start, possibly affected by the traditional Derby roar, and instead it was his kennel companion Rural Hawaii who flashed out of the outside trap in front.
Rural Hawaii was chased to the bend by the two bitches, Holycross Leah and the third Holland runner, Sidarian Pearl.
The bitches bumped on the bend and Sidarian lost out. Meanwhile, Rural Hawaii led by two-and-a-half lengths into the back, but Holycross closed all the way to the third bend.
As usual, Rural Hawaii ran very wide off the final bend and now the Gerry Melia trained Holycross Leah was challenging strongly on the inside. The two dogs were wide apart, but Rural Hawaii is very strong and he crossed the line with a length in hand of the gallant Holycross. It was another length to Sonic back in third.
For Holland, it was a night long in the planning and for owners Helen and Mike O'Dwyer it was also the realisation of a dream.
Helen reared the dog in her Clonmel kennel and son Mike watched the progress in faraway Maui, in Hawaii.
Mike arrived home on Saturday night to learn that the dog had qualified for the final and celebrated with his family and former colleagues in the Shannon College of Hotel Management, as they enjoyed a reunion in a Shelbourne suite.
The winner, a son of Head Bound and Duck Fat, was home bred and, while no firm decision has been made, the odds are that the May 2013 whelp will be retired.
Although Rural Hawaii was a 4/1 chance on the night, he is a worthy champion and has won seven of his last eight races.
The celebrations went on well into the morning, but Team Holland joined the party only briefly before heading for Tipperary. There wasn't much rest to come, as the winner was paraded in front of his local followers at Clonmel Track last night.
It was a massive night for the sport, with a huge crowd thronging the venue and the bookmakers reported terrific betting through the night.
There were smiles on their faces, too, as the majority of the favourites were beaten!
The Consolation Derby was won by the Peter Cronin trained Ela Alecko, which took over from Roxholme Barkley between the final bends and ran out a two-length winner from Cahir Castle in 29.76.
This was the second leg of a double for Cronin, as Imperial Express had earlier obliged in 28.53 for the 525 yards.
Trainer Holland had a treble on the night. His other winners were Slippery Louise in the opening 575 in a brilliant 31.02, while Riverside Oscar saw off Razldazl Tierna in 28.60.
This was the third year of Boylesports sponsorship and the John Boyle-owned Boylesports Duke was a 20/1 winner of the concluding 600.