GREYHOUND DERBY: Security stepped up at Towcester as Clares Rocket comes to town

Clares Rocket pictured with trainer Graham Holland
Clares Rocket pictured with trainer Graham Holland
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A €1million greyhound subjected to a high-profile ‘dog-napping’ could be in line to land the biggest prize in racing when it lines up in the English Greyhound Derby at Towcester.

The likely presence of superstar Clares Rocket in the field for the £350,000 Star Sports Greyhound Derby on Saturday, July 1 has triggered a review of the track’s security operation, with extra staff drafted in to guarantee the dog’s safety.

Clares Rocket was snatched from his yard in Limerick, Ireland in December last year, prompting an investigation which saw police dramatically stop a car during an attempted handover of the dog, with the kidnappers demanding a ‘ransom’ for the canine speedster.

Four men with links to dissident republicans, including one who survived a 2015 assassination attempt, were later arrested.

Security has now been stepped up ahead of the sport’s biggest race – which is being held for the first time at Towcester this weekend.

Kevin Ackerman, chief executive of Towcester Racecourse, said: “These greyhounds are superstars and as such are extremely valuable.

“Clares Rocket is arguably the most exciting of them all and, with a likely stud value of €1m, we need to ensure his safety.

“We have reviewed our security arrangements and no stone is being left unturned to make sure all the dogs involved in the Greyhound Derby are protected.

“Each dog will be escorted from the kennels to the track by its own verified security team and we have invested in an enhanced CCTV system to provide panoramic coverage of the track.

“There will also be a notable police presence on the night.”

The kidnapping of Clares Rocket has drawn parallels with the disappearance of Shergar, the prized racehorse who was stolen from Ballymany Stud in County Kildare by masked gunmen in 1983 and was never seen again.

If he makes the final, Clares Rocket will go head-to-head with five rivals to compete for the £175,000 first prize, with a sell-out 10,000 crowd set to descend on Northamptonshire for the race - the biggest to be staged at Towcester.

The event will feature a live DJ set from Northamptonshire-based DJ Jo Whiley while eight 80-seater coaches are being laid on to provide free transport from Milton Keynes and Northampton. These can be booked on a first come, first served basis.

Free parking is also available at the Racecourse.

Ackerman added: “A night at the races is always an occasion to remember but this is a chance to be part of something special – a chance to see history made – and we can’t wait to see the best greyhounds in the world at Towcester.

Tickets, priced £20 for adults, are available to buy now at www.towcester-racecourse.co.uk while admission for under 16s is free (please note: this is a ticket only event).

Hospitality packages including a four-course meal and private bar are available by calling 01327 353414.