By David Raleigh
One of the country's top greyhounds stolen in a robbery which was likened to the infamous kidnapping of champion racehorse Shergar, has been found safe and well.
Clares Rocket, tipped as a favourite for the 2017 English Derby with a prize of upwards €300,000, was stolen last Sunday night, Monday morning, from Riverside Kennels, owned by respected Tipperary trainer Graham Holland, at Athassel Abbey, in Golden.
Sources had indicated the dog's potential stud value was worth an estimated €1m.
Four men have been arrested and are being questioned about the theft.
A Garda spokesman said: "Following a Garda Operation on the 6th of December 2016, four males have been arrested in relation to the theft/possession of a greyhound from Athassal Abbey, Golden, Co. Tipperary on the 4th/5th of December 2016."
"Two males are detained at Tipperary Town Garda Station while two are detained in Clonmel Garda Station under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984."
"The dog was found safe and well, no further information at this stage," the spokesman added.
The four suspects were arrested last night, according to another Garda source. It is unknown if any ransom demand was made for the dog.
Sources yesterday said the stolen dog, like all competition dogs, would have been tagged and microchipped, which may have helped determine its whereabouts.
A number of sources in the sport, wishing to remain anonymous, described Clares Rocket as "one of the country's most elite" competitors.
One insider said: "That dog was second favourite to win the English Derby. He has broken track records in Ireland. He's one of the best dogs in the country, by a mile. He's definitely in the top three dogs in the country." "He's two and a half years old; In the prime of his racing career."
The garda source added: "It's the Shergar of greyhound racing, that's what it is. They just went in and took him. Luckily enough they didn't meet anyone in the kennels. They must have known where he was in the kennels. You'd have to know what your looking for."
Clares Rocket, which has won €53,000 in prize money, is a previous winner of the Champion Stakes and Produce Stakes.
The theft of the dog was likened to the IRA kidnapping of champion racehorse Shergar from Ballymany Stud in Kildare, on February 8, 1983.
On his debut Shergar won the Epsom Derby, before adding victories in the Irish Derby and the King George.
Having covered 35 mares in his first season in stud, at fees up to £80,000 a time, Shergar was syndicated for £10m. His body was never recovered.
A Limerick syndicate, which owns Clares Rocket, could not be reached for comment.