Jonathan Hobbs on greyhound racing including heats for Greyhound Derby

Nottingham has been hosting racing behind closed doors

The 2020 Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby is upon us . . .

The eve of the 2020 Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby and a chance for greyhound fans to immerse themselves in all things Nottingham. Some 96 greyhounds lining up for a split first round across Friday and Saturday nights - with canine immortality the real pot of gold at the end of a traps-coloured rainbow.

It’s unusual, of course, to be contemplating an English Derby in October, but 2020 has been anything but usual. If anything, the fact we have a Derby is a huge bonus given the amount of other major sporting events that have been lost, but greyhound racing has been very much a constant since June 1.

A behind-closed-doors policy has existed for much of the time since, although owners and a restricted amount of customers are being allowed in - and the Nottingham restaurant is very much open for business, albeit with social distancing measures in place.

Get set then for five rounds of top-class action. The entry has been capped to 96 which means one round less than is usually the case - which means the event slots within the month of October and allows for others to be shoehorned into a GBGB Calendar truncated by three months in 2020.

The new schedule has worked well so far and pretty much the best four-bend performers from both sides of the Irish Sea will be competing for a £50,000 first prize - yes, a lot less than the Irish Derby but nevertheless a decent if not mind-blowing amount. Again, most in the sport are just delighted we have an English Derby.

Moving forward is another discussion for another day - probably starting November 1. Until then enjoy the action which will be covered in its entirety by RPGTV who will have reporters - even yours truly! - at the Colwick Park venue for each and every contest in the 2020 Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby.

So who wins?

Well that’s a tough one. Despite having less than half the number of entries that recent Derbys have attracted, this year’s renewal looks even more difficult! Graham Holland’s talented Newinn Session is favourite and should go well, of course, but the Irish raiders lack Nottingham experience and that could be a negative.

It hardly mattered last year, however. The Irish landed a brilliant 1-2-3 as Paul Hennessy’s Priceless Blake led home Ballymac Tas (Liam Dowling) and Skywalker Logo (Patrick Gulfoyle) and, even if you take into account a disastrous draw in the final for Magical Bale, it was still Irish domination of the famous event.

Could it happen again? For sure.

The Irish entry looks a decent one, but singling out two or three runners for an ante-post wager is far from easy. The schedule being changed so the English Derby follows the Irish is one thing, the October weather another. Can early pace win out for five runs, or will stamina outweigh speed as the competition unfolds?

All wonderful vagaries of this great game - and exactly why there’s a whole host of possible winners being put up by pundits and some fantastic speciality markets. The sectional market, especially, has seen something like half the field punted report Ladbrokes. I’ve had a small bet on Mark Wallis’s Hopes Bullet for what it’s worth.

Outright is just as trappy, but Bockos Doomie and Roxholme Kristof should give us a run for our money. Doomie has a tough first-round encounter with Newinn Session, but his mid-season form would have made him favourite for an earlier Derby. Patrick Janssens’ dog arrives fresh as well after a light campaign of late.

Roxholme Kristof could be anything - and is something already. A 480m Sheffield track record on his UK debut on his way to a complete domination of the Gain 3 Steps at Sheffield showed promise and potential - and some. No greyhound has got the juices flowing at the Keightleys’ Newark base like this two-year-old.

He has a tricky first-round draw also - and qualification is definitely the name of the game on Saturday.

Ready for the Challenge

Whoever you fancy, make sure to catch how the ‘experts’ are doing in the traditional Star Sports/GWA Derby Media Tipping Challenge.

All the usual suspects are there and here at we are relying on a good performance once again from Ian Brindle. He went well in 2019 and has been studying-up for a good while now. Good luck Ian, whose antepost selections are here.

You might also notice a certain Vinnie Jones in the mix.

Vinnie loves his dogs and famously part-owned Smoking Bullet, twice a Derby finalist for Derek Knight in 2000 and 2001 and those heady days at Wimbledon. He also won a Services to Greyhound Award around that time.

The ex-footballer now film star has taken the tipping plunge before - and it’s brilliant to welcome him back.

Vinnie Jones - It's been emotional

Best of British

Great to see the British-bred events being scheduled with Harlow and Newcastle in the midst of their own.

The BGBF are doing a fantastic job with the support of the British Greyhound Racing Fund and, with the British Bred Derby scheduled for December at Sheffield, it promises to be a strong finish to the year - impressive given the scheduling difficulties post-lockdown.

Central Park, Hove and Romford also have major GBGB Category One competitions to come, although these will principally serve southern-based trainers.

Perry Barr stage the RPGTV St Leger in November, with the midlands venue set to attract both runners from the north and south - but major open-race nights at the northern venues in the remaining months of 2020 would definitely be welcomed.

There is better news about the Grand National in the offing, with the hurdlers’ jewel in the crown definitely being staged this year, although The Oaks remains a conversation still being continued. In a tough year, a slot for the bitches’ Classic would be hugely welcome.

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