Following the Third Round of the Irish Greyhound Derby, Graham took time out to speak to the Greyhound Star website.

We started out with 16 runners in the Boylesports Irish Derby and after Clares Rocket was withdrawn, and then we had some scouring in the kennel, I was beginning to think that fate was conspiring against us. It still might be, but we had ten running on Saturday night, I would have settled for getting five through to the last 24, but ended up with seven.

We had two runners in the first heat, Skywalker Manner and Slippery Louise. Manner missed his break unfortunately, ran really well to get among the pack early on, but then faded as expected late on. It was disappointing, but only the result, not the performance, I thought he ran well. But the big surprise was Slippery Louise who led all the way to win by six lengths in 29.68.

I really thought she would be out of her depth by this stage and I almost gave her a 750 trial. It is great having the high profile dogs, but being surprised by the progress of one of the supposed lesser lights has been a great buzz, both for me and owner Larry Dunne. Nicky has told me that I keep predicting Louise to be eliminated and she keeps defying me. She is insisting that I remain consistent. So, on record, I don’t think she can make the semi finals!

Sidarian Pearl was magnificent in heat two. She absolutely flew the traps and showed great early pace to lead all the way in 29.58. The buzz from Pearl winning is slightly different because she was born here and we reared her here until she was about six months. The dam had been bred by Harry Sharp from Northern Ireland and he was entitled to a pup from the litter. He picked Pearl from the litter and she left us to finish her rearing and schooling when she was known as Greenhill Pearl. The Sidarian Syndicate saw her run in a bitch stake and that’s how she ended up back here.

Jo Jo Fantasy finished third in his heat. As I have explained before, this really isn’t his distance. He is best over around 600 yards and has won over 750, but he is game and always gives you a performance. To get him into the quarter finals says a lot about his guts and consistency – and he might not be finished yet.

We lost Milldean Puma from the third heat. He clashed at the traps and was bumped again at the bend but like the rest of the runners, he is fine this morning which is all that really matters.

I think we rode our luck a bit with Rural Hawaii who won the sixth heat. As I have said before, Hawaii gets himself in a bit of a state and I normally gallop him on the morning of the race to take the edge off him. Of course that brings its own risk and we decided to take a chance this week and not gallop him. By the time we reached the track we realised our mistake. He was spring-loaded. We could barely control him getting him out of the kennel and he was so worked-up that he missed his break. Fortunately, there was a bit of crowding at the bend and he managed to shoot clear around the outside. We got away with it but a lesson learned.

We had second and third behind Lenson Rocky in the seventh heat. The leader soon went clear with our two pursuing him. Highview Event and Skywalker Rory followed him and going into the third bend I thought Rory might get into second and take on the leader. Rory checked a little but they both ran on to qualify.

Sonic ran particularly well in the last heat to record the fastest time of the night (29.36). He is a young dog who continues to improve every time goes to traps and has really grown up in this Derby. He has been a huge bonus for the kennel.

At this stage you are just happy to be there so I can’t really have too many complaints about trap draws.

Looking ahead to the Quarter Finals, Highview Event is ideally drawn in six in the first qualifier. In his heat, the five dog was making a real racket in the traps which may have caused Highview to miss his break. If he traps like normal, I would expect him to qualify.

The second heat is a different matter. We have four in it, and as I said to Shelbourne racing manager Declan Carey, I am just viewing it that we are guaranteed at least one runner in the semi finals. Sonic is only a young dog and will be okay as long as he keeps trapping. He doesn’t have enough experience to know whether he is a railer, middle or wide if he gets behind. My big hope is that Skywalker Rory and Sonic can avoid each other. Rory is a bit tired the morning after the race and I plan to get him checked over. He is not lame, but a bit slow to get off his bed. I wouldn’t expect Jo Jo Fantasy to go with them to the bend, so hopefully Rural Hawaii will get his run too. As to who will qualify, your guess is as good as mine.

In the third Quarter Final, our two bitches are ideally drawn with Sidarian Pearl in Trap 1, and Slipper Louise in Trap 6. I was very impressed with Holycross Leah in the heats and she must be our biggest danger. At this stage, winning isn’t important, qualifying is everything!