THE EVOLUTION OF THE SHELBOURNE 550YD RECORD

Ian Fortune

Pestana became the latest greyhound in an illustrious list to hold the Shelbourne Park 550yd record after posting a scarcely believable 28.99 on Saturday night.

It’s a far cry from the record of Buzzing Dick which was set in 1934.  

After finishing runner-up in the Irish Derby in September ’34, Buzzing Dick became the first official 550yd record holder when posting 31.66 in October of that year. He didn’t hold the record for long, however, as the brilliant bitch Chicken Sandwich recorded 31.59 in the final of the St Leger later that month.

At that time the Leger was moved each year until finding a permanent home at Limerick in 1944. Chicken Sandwich later went on to capture the 1936 Oaks at Harold’s Cross, establishing herself as one of the great performers of the 1930’s.

DANCER HOLDS RECORD FOR 30 YEARS

Her record lasted for almost two years until Irish Derby runner-up Negros Equal took some .30sec off the record in 1936.

The son of Slanebeg posted 31.29. He was to hold the record for almost three years until Ballydancer posted 31.25 in 1939.

Ballydancer, a ‘37 son of Will Somers, went on to win “the Key” over six bends around Wimbledon and also set figures at Brough Park for 520yds but it was his Shelbourne record that lasted the test of time.

PRIDE GIVES GER THE CLOCK

Ballydancer held the record for a full thirty years until the great Own Pride posted 30.60 in the Shelbourne Leger of 1969.

 It means that over fifty years before Owen McKenna trained Pestana to break the record, his legendary father Ger McKenna had achieved the same feat with one of the great greyhounds of the past century.

BRILLIANT FLASH

It took another great performer to wrestle the record away from Own Pride with the Paddy Keane trained Ivy Hall Flash posting 30.37 in 1971.

He won the Shelbourne Leger, Laurels and Dundalk International as well as reaching the final of the 1971 English Derby during his illustrious career.         

SON TAKES FATHER’S RECORD

In in the mid-70’s the record was shared for the first time.

Remarkably, it was a son of Ivy Hall Flash that broke his own record. Tommy Astaire, who won both a Shelbourne Leger and Guinness 600 during his career, recorded 30.35 in September 1975.

Just a year later, Jerpoint Paris (the Grand Silver/ Jerpoint Lizard) equalled the mark of Tommy Astaire. The pair shared the record for over a decade until Wise Band posted 30.23 in the early rounds of the Shelbourne 550 in July 1985.

PRINCE NEARS 30 SECOND MARK

Wise Band’s record lasted a year until Lodge Prince got ever closer to the 30 second mark.

He actually posted his 30.03 record from the 525yds traps making his record slightly different to those before, although his mark lasted almost a decade until a famous night in July 1995. It’s worth pointing out that the Derby switched to 550yds in 1986 making it even more remarkable that the Lodge Prince record lasted for so long.

TRADE AN OFFICIAL HISTORY MAKER

The honour of becoming the first greyhound to break the 30 second barrier fell to Trade Official who posted 29.99 in the semi-finals of the 1995 Champion Stakes.

John Tuohy’s brilliant tracker was a special greyhound and this was him at his very best.

Just a month later, Dew Reward bettered the mark with a 29.97 return in the quarter finals of the Derby. He went on to finish third to Batties Rocket in the decider.

RECORD TUMBLES TO DERBY CHAMP EYEMAN

In the subsequent years the record was fair game.

Subsequent Derby champion Eyeman equalled the record of Dew Reward in the early rounds of the Derby in September, 1998 before bettering the mark with a brilliant 29.92 return three weeks later in the quarter finals.

A year on in the semi-final of the Champion Stakes the talented Santa Paolo equalled Eyeman’s record with a 29.92 return but, before the end of the year, there was a new track record breaker.

Frisby Flashing posted a wonderful 29.89 in the final of the Millenium Club just over twenty hours ahead of the turn of the century.

DEAL AND PRIDE SWAP RECORD IN 2000 DERBY

The 550yd record changed hands twice during 2000 Irish Derby.

With leading UK based tracker Greenfield Deal posted 29.74 in the quarter finals before Judicial Pride went over a length faster in the semi finals, recording 29.66. He, of course, went on to capture the Derby a week later.

WHAT A PERFORMANCE

The following year, in the second round of the 2001 Derby, both Droopys Vieri and Cool Performance posted a wonderful 29.57 to better the mark of Judicial Pride.

It was one of the final races of Cool Performance’s career as he was retired after capturing that year’s Derby.

BYWAY SMASHES CLOCK IN DERBY DECIDER

Bypass Byway created history in 2002 becoming the first greyhound to set the 550yd record in a Derby decider.

Producing one of the great performances on the biggest stage, the brilliant son of Spiral Nikita raced to a sensational victory in 29.42. His record was to last some seven years until a certain College Causeway appeared on the scene.

SENSATIONAL CAUSEWAY

One of the most powerful greyhounds to hit the track in recent memory, the Pat Buckley trained star smashed the record in the opening round of the 2009 Derby.

Getting loose in the early yards, the sensational black produced one of the most incredible displays ever witnessed at Shelbourne, racing further and further clear to eventually stop the clock in 29.21.

He became the fourth dog since the start of the decade, and the fifth in total, to break the 550yd track record on his way to Derby success. It was thought at the time that the record would last for many years. 

VAN GAAL A LIGHT THAT SHONE BRIGHT

Fast forward to 2015 and Tyrur Van Gaal displayed his brilliance.

 An incredibly fast greyhound with an interrupted career, he got loose in the opening round of the Derby plate and raced away from his rivals to record an incredible 29.10.

He missed almost a year after picking up an injury in his next start and won just two more races, but he will be forever remembered for the night he went faster than any greyhound in history for 550yds at Shelbourne Park.

PESTANA CREATES HISTORY

That was until Pestana did the unthinkable on Saturday night. It’s hard to believe his mark will be bettered any time soon but, as history suggests, you never know.

Who knows, it could be Owen McKenna’s charge that lowers the mark further.