Ian Fortune

Lenson Bocko is the 2019 Boylesports Derby champion.

Many were expecting to hear those words when they poured through the Shelbourne Park stiles in their thousands on Saturday night, but few could have expected what was to unfold before their eyes as the Graham Holland trained superstar displayed incredible courage and determination to earn his place in history.

This was a race for the ages. From the outset it was clear the five runners were going off-script. Mucky Brae, as he did in the semis, shot from trap three to lead early, but both Lenson Bocko and Run Happy were soon in full stride.

The last named flew up the fence to take charge on the turn. Mucky Brae was now under pressure from both sides and Lenson Bocko moved second despite taking a bump. Behind the front three Killmacdonagh sat fourth with Boylesports King bringing up the rear.

The race was now on. As he did in the Champion Stakes decider, Run Happy set a blistering gallop at the head of affairs. Lenson Bocko was now clear second and right on the tail of the leader as they entered the back. There was a two length gap back to Mucky Brae with Killmacdonagh in fourth. Still Boylesports King sat at the rear.

Run Happy increased his lead to a length and a half into the third turn and his supporters were starting to believe. But still Lenson Bocko chased him hard in second and he started to close the gap as they hit the final turn. By Now Boylesports King was starting to advance, but he remained lengths off the pace.

Killmacdonagh and Mucky Brae clashed between the last two bends and that left Boylesports King to shoot around the outside to go third. Up front, Run Happy remained in control but Lenson Bocko, despite swinging wide off the final turn, was carrying plenty of momentum.

The decibel level was now in danger of lifting the Shelbourne roof. Lenson Bocko advanced on Run Happy, the pair bumped seventy yards from home as the favourite finally mastered the long-time leader, but still Boylesports King kept coming.

Finishing like the proverbial train, Boylesports King was closing fast on the front two. To a deafening roar, the trio flashed past the post locked in battle. To the eye it looked as though Lenson Bocko had just contained the potent finish of Boylesports King and the judge confirmed it.

Graham Holland had claimed his second Derby victory. Lenson Bocko held on by a neck to enter the history books as the 2019 Boylesports Derby champion, stopping the clock in 29.40. Boylesports King went to agonisingly close in second with Run Happy just a head away in third after running the race of his life.

There were joyous scenes on the presentation area as owners Beverly Lochead, Austin Whelan and the hugely popular Len Ponder were joined by family and well-wishers. Lenson Bocko, who was bred by Patsy Collins in Ballylongford, will go down as a brilliant Derby champion. And at just over two years of age the good news is we will be seeing plenty more of this canine superstar in the future.

Conor Gray CEO BoyleSports (Sponsors) presents the trophy to Austin Whelan and the connections of Lenson Bocko after his victory in the final of the 2019 BoyleSports Irish Derby at Shelbourne Park. Also included are Ger Dollard CEO IGB, Frank Nyham Chairman IGB, Andrew Doyle Minister of State at Dept of Agriculture, joint owners Len Ponder and Graham Box, trainer Graham Holland, Nickey, Rachel, Timothy and Christopher Holland.    Pic: Imelda Grauer


After a series of superb performances through the Michael Fortune Memorial Derby Plate, Blue East produced yet another foot-perfect effort to claim the €5,000 prize for Graham Holland and Larry O’Rourke.

From the outset it was clear Blue East (Droopy Jet/ Lemon Bolt) was on his way to victory. He flew from the inside box and quickly built a clear lead over his kennel companion Clonbrien Prince. Manuka Man turned third and the order never altered.

Maintaining a tremendous gallop throughout, Blue East ran out a thoroughly deserving winner, crossing the line three parts of a length ahead of the staying on Clonbrien Prince in a very quick 29.39. 

Rita Fortune presents the trophy to Laurence O'Rourke after Blue East won the Michael Fortune Memorial Derby Plate at Shelbourne Park. Also included are Mary O'Rourke, Ian and Niamh Fortune, Thomas Maurice Roe, Mary McGrath and handler Timothy Holland.      Pic: Imelda Grauer 


The Peter Cronin trained Sophies Man again showed that he is a potent force when he wears red as he captured the Consolation Derby with a superb display.

Driving up the fence to force his way to the front on the turn, he was always going to come home clear thereafter. Albert Putnam’s son of Droopys Jet and Badminton Maid went clear of Droopys Pension and maintained his advantage to the line, eventually running out a three and a half length scorer in 29.73. 

Shirley Kilmartin presents the trophy to Chloe and Roisin O'Sullivan after Sophies Man won the 2019 BoyleSports Irish Greyhound  Derby Consolation. Also included are trainer Peter Cronin, handler Michael Cronin, breeder David McGrath, Brenda Powderley, Paul Smith and Barry O'Sullivan.     Pic: Imelda Grauer


This was perhaps the greatest night of Graham Holland’s long training career.

Lenson Bocko and Blue East will rightly attract all the column inches, but he actually won the final five races on the night with Ballyhimikin Jet, Slippy Cian and Lenson Blinder all emerging superb winners of their respective races.


Ballyhimikin Jet was Holland’s second string in the eleventh race but he produced a fine display to first reel in Great Eastern before going on to contain the late charge of Jaytee Taylor.

Great Eastern flashed from the inside box and set a strong pace, but was always under pressure once Ballyhimikin Jet slipped around second.

Owned by John and Billy Dunne, Ballyhimikin Jet ranged upsides between the last two bends and quickly shot to the front before racing on to a wonderful two and a half length victory over Jaytee Taylor in 29.52.


In the very next race Slippy Cian (Crash/ Global Liberty) was one of the more straightforward winners on the night as he dominated over 575yds.

Appreciating the longer run to the turn, Slippy Cian shot to the front on the run up and was three lengths clear entering the back.

Dromrich Altair gave chase in second but there was little he could do to stop the Graham Holland juggernaut. Slippy Cian, owned by the Mad As Hatters Syndicate, maintained a tremendous gallop to the line to eventually see off the gallant Dromrich Altair in 31.03. 


Holland finished his memorable night in style with Lenson Blinder dominating over 600yds.

Despite taking a bump at boxes, Len and Pat Ponder’s charge was soon in control. The son of Crash and Global Liberty led Lemon Ozzy around the turn and thereafter was never going to surrender his lead. Lemon Ozzy did show big pace to close on the leader into the third turn, but Lenson Blinder is exceptionally strong and he powered up the straight to eventually come home two lengths to the good in a fast 32.20.  


The seventh race over 750yds was billed as the one of the races of the night and it certainly provided one of the best winners of the year in the form of Redzer Ardfert.

Not only did the son of Paradise Madison and Have You One leave a quality field in his dust, but he also smashed his own track record by an incredible .20sec but he smashed the national record, becoming the first greyhound to dip under the 41 second barrier for the six bend trip.

Skywalker Logan came away well to challenge in the early yards, but the Brendan Maunsell trained Redzer Ardfert was also in the firing line and he drove the turn to take charge. Once going to the front there was nothing to get near him. Pulling further and further away from the fourth turn he eventually came home eleven lengths clear of Boylesportstwink in a scarcely believable 40.86. It was perhaps the greatest display of distance running ever seen on these shores.  


One of the loudest roars of the evening was predictably reserved for the 2018 Derby champion Ballyanne Sim as he produced a fabulous display of front running to win the fifth race over the standard trip.

Eamon Cleary’s brilliant son of Confident Rankin and Freedom Shadow was backed as if defeat was out of the question and he duly obliged in fine style. Flashing from the inside trap, he flew up the fence to dominate from the start. To a huge ovation throughout, the Mark Robinson trained star ran out a most impressive two length winner over the staying on Clona Star in 28.25.   


Boylesports Xtra was a superb winner for Derby sponsor John Boyle in the third race over the standard trip.

This was a display of incredible professionalism. The Paul Hennessy trained son of Droopys Jet and Droopys Adelaide was electric at the boxes, flashing from three and soon clearing those on his inner.

It was pretty much a procession from that point on. The October ’16 whelp clocked a sensational 15.75 to the third turn on his way to a brilliant two length victory over the fast finishing Clona Dream in a sizzling 28.06.


Fifteen minutes later Myles Roban’s Elite Black produced a very similar display to Boylesports Xtra as he too made every inch to win in style.

The talented son of Laughil Blake and Loher Baby shot from trap three and was always in command despite the persistent challenge of Doona Buck.

Elite Black certainly appreciated the step back to 525yds as he stayed on well to emerge a comfortable and most impressive length and a half winner over Doon Buck in a fast 28.28.  


The sole sprint provided a thrilling finish with Peter Harnden rewarded for bringing his talented sprinter Salacres Punch (Zero Ten across the water.

Blame The Game was the hot favourite in the stripes and he looked likely to win when finally getting to the front on the turn, despite making a tardy start.

As he entered the home straight the complexion of the race changed slightly. Monbeg Me daddy was now challenging in second spot with Salacres Punch starting to draw closer in third. Monbeg Me Daddy was forced to check wide and he just caught the heels of Blame The Game.

He remained in front, but Salacres Punch was now in full stride and, in a thrilling finish, the UK raider got up in the dying yards to deny the favourite by a head in a fast 18.66. It was a tremendous run by the winner and it has yet to be seen if his connections may journey back across the water for the Night of Stars.     


By the time the sixth race came along, it was no surprise to see a fast starting trap three runner make every inch.

This time it was the turn of Michael Hogan’s recent Munster Oaks winner Grangeview West.

The Guilfoyle trained daughter of Zero Ten and Portumna West became the second member of the litter to win on the night following the victory of Salacres Punch in the sprint. She too displayed massive early dash, taking charge before the bend and quickly opening a race-winning advantage. Fahrenheit Lor was quickly in chase but there was no stopping the leader, who went on to cross the line a length and a half to the good in 28.23.


Glory Gold kicked off proceedings with a fine effort over 575yds.

Despite fading badly in his previous start over an even shorter 550yd trip, the strapping son of Chenzhou Boy and Glory Kitten went to traps the 7-4 favourite and he duly obliged in gutsy fashion.

Owned by Sheila Duncan and James Kirby, the massive brindle displayed fine pace into the turn to assume control but Harriestown Star turned a close second and looked a big threat throughout. As they turned for home Harriestown Star looked an even bigger threat but he ran into the back of the leader and that proved decisive. Glory Gold stuck on gamely to cross the line a length and a half to the good in 31.24, with Vaguely Noble flying home to grab second on the line.