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.