Leonard The Legend Powers To Derby Victory

2020 has been a peculiar year. The greyhound racing calendar has undergone numerous changes. The New Zealand Oaks took place in August and the Derby in September instead of their usual April time slots. Legendary caller Peter Early has since retired giving way for Aaron White to commentate his first New Zealand Derby on the back of George Simon calling the heats a week earlier. Amongst the numerous changes, the quality of greyhound racing and the competitive contests, especially on feature nights, have if anything, grown stronger.

The undercard for the main event showcased some very talented dogs. Thrilling Norman for Karen Walsh blitzed his opposition on debut with a quality 21.12s run over the 375m. Portland Berty for Lisa and Tracey Craik demonstrated his raw speed and continues to prove why he is one of the best up and coming sprinters in the country with an effortless 20.89s victory. Last years New Zealand Derby winner Trojan Hoarse took out the Cambridge Cannonball Sprint for Lisa Cole in a 21.04s. He has been an outstanding greyhound and was rewarded Saturday night with New Zealand Sprinter of the year honours.

Five years separated New Zealand Oaks victories for Lisa Cole, and similarly, it was half a decade between drinks for Craig Roberts in the New Zealand Derby. Dyna Vikkers had a grand year in 2015 taking out the New Zealand Derby and the New Zealand Cup, Leonard Bale is showing comparable potential after two feature race victories inside a month. The Mike Stent Decorators New Zealand Derby for 2020 encompassed eight of the best young dogs from north and south islands each vying for their shot at Group One Glory and a big chunk of the $45,000 stake. The heat was on early as the boxes opened, Bigtime Cooper flew out to his characteristically great beginning, however, Leonard Bale was right on his tail early putting on some immense pressure. Heading to the corner, Cooper looked like he had momentarily shaken off Leonard Bale but the striking brindle dog showed incredible ticker grinding past Bigtime Cooper just short of the line. On the one turn horseshoe tracks Bigtime Cooper is incredibly hard to run down if he finds the early lead, Leonard Bale is one of very few to run him down in this manner. Thrilling Morris backed up his heat win with a very strong finish coming from well off the pace to finish second nosing out a brave Cooper who was a close third. Karen Walsh has trained the runner up in back-to-back New Zealand Derby’s with Thrilling Talk coming within a small margin of Trojan Hoarse in 2019.

Leonard Bale for Craig Roberts and Jan Wheeler has taken his stakes to over $50,000 in just 17 New Zealand races after a fourth on debut at Ballarat earlier this year.  Leonard Bale’s victory in the GRNZ Nationals Middle distance Final was impressive in itself, but to win the prestigious New Zealand Derby after only one look at the Cambridge track and to run down a high calibre dog in Bigtime Cooper is truly remarkable. 

 Written by Shane Kendall

Posted on 14 September 2020

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