English greyhound racing has a long, storied past, stretching back to the 1920s. Perhaps no event is more strongly associated with the sport’s history than the English Greyhound Derby. Seen by many fans as the pinnacle of the sport, few events are more popular with punters than the Derby.
The highlight of the sporting calendar, it’s a perfect opportunity to take in the atmosphere at the track, mingle with the crowd, and place a greyhound bet. Having been around since 1927, the race’s history is intertwined with that of the sport more generally.
The race was run for the first time in 1927 at White City Stadium, recently acquired by the Greyhound Racing Association. The first race, run over 500 yards, was won by Entry Badge. Throughout the race’s history, it’s been run over a mixture of distances, and from 1928 onwards the distance was 525 yards. History was made in 1930 when Mick the Miller became the first hound to win the Derby more than once, having also won it in 1929.
Although nobody could know at the time, it continues to be a very impressive achievement, with only four runners ever winning the Derby more than once. Mick the Miller went on to be an icon of the sport. The race continued to run at White City until 1940. The event began as normal but, with the outbreak of the Second World War, racing was banned at White City after the first round had taken place.
The remainder of the competition continued at Harringay Stadium, with GR Archduke winning the race. That was the last Derby for several years, with the event on hold during the remainder of the war. In 1945, the Derby returned to White City, albeit with only 24 greyhounds racing across three rounds. Ballyhennessy Seal took the win.
The race continued at White City in the post-war period. In the ‘70s, Patricias Hope became the second hound to win the Derby more than once, winning the event in both 1972 and 1973. The distance changed in 1974, from 525 yards to 500 metres. It was an increase in distance by almost 50 yards. The event continued to be held at White City until 1984, Whisper Wishes winning the last Derby to be held at the stadium.
From 1985 to 2016, the Derby was held at Wimbledon Stadium, over a distance of 480 metres. The stadium became synonymous with modern greyhound racing, and many punters will have fond memories of checking greyhound tips today before heading out to the track.
Wimbledon saw two more hounds win the Derby more than once. Rapid Ranger managed the feat in 2000 and 2001. He was trained by Charlie Lister, the trainer’s second and third Derby wins. The most successful trainer in the history of the Derby, Lister has won it seven times in total. In 2006, Westmead Hawk became the fourth hound to win the Greyhound Derby more than once, having also won it in 2005.
The Derby’s time at Wimbledon came to an end in 2016, when it once again had to find a new home. It moved to Towcester racecourse in 2017, and the event was held there again in 2018. The racecourse went into administration, however, and the event was once again on the move.
The 2019 and 2020 editions of the Derby took place at Nottingham Greyhound Stadium, before Towcester found new management, and the event returned in 2021, with Thorn Falcon taking the win. Although the Derby has a long history, including a world war, it’s suffered from a tumultuous few years as it settles into a new home. However, with the support of greyhound racing fans across the country, the English Greyhound Derby will continue to build on its long history, and go from strength to strength.