Ian Brindle looks ahead to Saturday's Greyhound Derby semi-finals, where his antepost selection Swords Rex faces a big rival.
Swords Rex will head into Saturday’s semi-finals as a general 6/4 favourite to scoop the Star Sports and TRC English Greyhound Derby but it will be no cakewalk for the market leader as he faces leading British hope, Romeo Command in the second of the two contests (20.26).
The pair are both unbeaten in the competition so far and Graham Holland’s charge is one of four qualifiers from the Riverside Kennels as the exiled Englishman appears to have built an iron grip upon proceedings at Towcester.
Gaytime Nemo and Clona Duke represent Holland in the first of the semi-finals (20.05) and the outcome of this race appears less clear cut. The layers could easily perm the pair with Burj Khalifa as potential co-favourites of three when the hare is set in motion.
Jacktavern Bella (also trained by Holland) is the only member of the fairer sex to proceed to this point, while Ballymac Marino, who was eliminated last week, finished as top puppy by virtue of posting a faster clock than Untold Zloty in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere on the card this Saturday, the Derby Plate is underway and Fromposttopillar has put down an early marker for honours.
The one-time Derby favourite is involved in the second semi-final of that competition (19.30) and faces no shortage of early pace with Brookside Richie and Rioja Joey likely to force the fractions from the off.
Let’s look at the semi-finalists for this year’s main event...
Fighting fit post injury and posted Derby best latest; defeats in both races from T1 but clock reads positively
High-class performer when getting it right; strong running has ensured progression despite modest trapping
Third in each round of the Derby; runner-up in Irish Derby though has struggled to make same impact around Towcester
Back ran rivals to qualify last week; beat T6 in opening round but tonight’s draw appears demanding
Pinging the lids presently and won well on Saturday; no fluke about how he beat T2 and odds won’t reflect
One win and three runners-up spots so far; stuck on well last Saturday and respected if finding a little more on the clock
There’s never such a thing as an easy semi-final but connections of Clona Duke are probably grateful to have avoided the big two in the market. Gaytime Nemo was impressive seven days ago and is coming to hand at the right time but BURJ KHALIFA didn’t lay down easily in the quarter-finals against a superior rival and there may be more to come. Mystical Mario should give him a target to chase if he pops out and sets a ferocious early pace.
Romeo Top Gun withdrawn lame
Finalist in last year’s Derby; showed he retains ability with victories in first two rounds though well held when a staying-on third in quarter-finals
Last lady standing; stays well and middle draw suits but there will be no hiding place in this affair
Has managed 13 wins from 14 runs in UK and unbeaten in this competition; fast trapping winning friends and has been consistent in his work
Fresh from fastest clock of the quarter-finals; draw not ideal but his flashy breaks have propelled him clear and another ping will suffice
No wins in the competition albeit has faced decent opposition so far; needs to show pace from the boxes in order to utilise track position
SWORDS REX has been imperious in this competition and though he’s only ever raced once from trap five in the past – winning over at Cork – the sectionals suggest he should be able to cover it. Romeo Command was just two spots behind him on the clock and is very much coming to hand. He can course middle early but there is no early pace to his inner so connections of the big two will hope he heads left. Ninja Kerry is no forlorn shout but Savana Beau is the better stayer if keeping out of bother around the first couple of bends.
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