Ahead of the second round of the Star Sports and ARC Greyhound Derby 2020, we spoke to local Nottingham trainer and GBGB Trainers’ Representative Peter Harnden about his competition chances. Peter was not expecting to have a shot at the Derby this year but explains how, given the unique circumstances of the past few months, an unexpected opportunity appeared in the form of KILARA ICON:

“Icon came over to us the day after the Irish Derby, so a pretty quick turnaround for us all! I had been speaking to his owner, Gary Hicks, when lockdown began – he mentioned that he had the sort of dog that could grace an English final and asked me if I would take on Icon for it. Obviously, with the travel restrictions being what they are in Ireland at the moment, it made more sense for him to be looked after by an English trainer for the duration of the competition. Having followed Icon’s career and seen what a fantastic dog he was I of course leapt at the opportunity. 

I own the majority of my Salacres dogs, so I don’t usually tend to work with owners, but I had to make an exception for an outstanding greyhound like Icon. He came a very reasonable fourth in the Irish Derby final but I think, with a bit of luck, he could have won it. That’s certainly the dream now for the English Derby.

While I love working with all my dogs and I’ve got some fantastic graded runners in the kennel currently, we’ve all felt a real spark and energy having Icon staying here. Training a greyhound like him is what you go into this game for; it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. It is just so exciting to see what they do next.  

Although it has been a short amount of time to build a relationship with Icon, it has happened remarkably quickly. We are delighted with how he has handled the transition between kennels; within a day or so he was treating the place like home. He has settled into our kennel routine wonderfully and, like any human athlete, he’s ever the professional. I’m delighted that he’s enjoying himself here and, of course, we are making sure he is in top condition and ready to perform at his very best. 

It seems strange to say it but there’s almost an aura about him – he knows he’s good! 

I have only ever had the joy of owning a couple of dogs of Icon’s calibre but they just do things differently. He gets your attention. This difference is something that I’ve spoken to the great Charlie Lister about; you just know when you’re working with something special. 

So far, we’re really just enjoying the ride with Icon on Gary’s behalf and we’ll have to see where the competition takes us. Although Gary’s based in Dubai we’re in regular contact and we’ve been sending updates, videos and photos through to him. We both believe Icon deserves his place in the competition and certainly has a shot at the title. He’s a strong runner, he battles hard every race and is well suited to Nottingham. Like with any Derby contender, we know he’s good enough, but the rest is in the lap of the gods! 

We certainly, however, have stiff competition with the Irish team. We knew that if they were going to come over this year, they were going to bring something special and they’ve certainly proved that to be true. They are a very strong force. GLENGAR BALE in particular is very impressive and is an ideal Nottingham-style runner.

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It is very special to have the Derby at Nottingham again this year, despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought with it. It is wonderful to see top-class greyhounds grace the track and it gives you a solid benchmark for your other dogs’ performance. The fact that we are still having a Derby this year is fantastic and is a real beacon of light in what has otherwise been a fairly bleak year. I’ve spoken to lots of trainers over the past week who are all hugely excited for the next stage of the competition – we’ll have to see where it ends for Icon and me but I wish all trainers and owners the very best of luck. 

Aside from all the Derby excitement caused by Icon, elsewhere in the kennel we have a really promising youngster called SALACRES PIPPY who is looking very special. She is running in the semi-final of Category 1 Jay and Kay Coach Tours Kent St Leger at Crayford this weekend and we are all looking forward to what she has in store.”