Ian Brindle provides an in-depth look at the antepost Greyhound Derby market, with the gambled-on Swords Rex well worth getting on-side.
2pts e.w. Swords Rex at 10/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Bockos Palace at 100/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Undulation to be top bitch at 10/1 (Ladbrokes, bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4)
Thursday sees the start of the 2023 Star Sports & TRC English Greyhound Derby at Towcester and this year’s renewal carries a tremendous sense of anticipation.
At the time of writing, over 180 participants stand their ground and following five qualifying rounds, the denouement is scheduled for Saturday July 1.
The biggest competitions in sport ordinarily start with the reigning champions in the curtain raiser and Romeo Magico will commence his defence in the second heat of the opening session.
A first English Derby winner for Graham Holland, his campaign in 2022 was a masterclass in how to prepare a dog for the prize. A slow burner in the opening rounds being brought to the boil as the honours were decided.
Just four dogs have been able to deliver back-to-back Derbys with Westmead Hawk the last to do so in 2005/2006, and the son of Magical Bale is rated at 20/1 to join that band.
Alongside him from the Class of ‘22 are runner-up Kildare – who is now known as Mr Chelm – and sixth placed Savana Beau.
Despite the absence of a couple of their leading trainers, the Irish are strong favourites to lift the trophy with the sponsors offering just 4/6 about the eventuality.
The aforementioned Holland is the obvious powerhouse of the raiding party and from a team of eight, the Riverside Kennels are responsible for a further pair of likely big players.
SWORDS REX could have been backed at odds of 50/1 just a matter of months ago but he’s been a major gamble and it’s easy to understand why.
The son of Droopys Sydney appears to have it all, and the decision to resist the temptation of running here last year after his success in the Kirby Memorial has been vindicated. Victory in this year’s Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park saw him defeat our reigning champion on two occasions.
Earlier this month, he was to take out the track record at Towcester on just his second look around and while one-off flash times won’t win the Derby, the performance proves he handles this circuit.
Clona Duke is just past his second birthday and was to enter the Derby picture having obliged as a 20/1 outsider of six in the final of last year’s RPGTV Juvenile Derby at Shelbourne Park.
He’s still open to improvement and equalled a long-standing track record at Limerick in the first round of the Kirby Memorial before impressing in the Select Stakes at Waterford.
Liam Dowling and his Ballymac prefix have reached Finals night on a regular basis and the market suggests he holds live claims with Ballymac Finn and Ballymac Marino.
Finn is proven in top company in Ireland. Second in last year’s Irish Derby, he has reached the Finals of the Kingdom Derby at Tralee and the Easter Cup.
Marino is another son of Vulturi – a sire that Dowling has enjoyed particular success with – and he went unbeaten through the Juvenile Classic at Tralee in March. The bookmakers are as low as 4/1 about him being the puppy to progresses furthest.
The Irish provided the bitches that went deepest in last year’s competition and UNDULATION seems a very fair price in that specials market.
Brendan Matthews’ bitch is a daughter of 2021 quarter-finalist Unlock Unlock and last weekend’s trial suggests she’s strengthened up since participating in the ill-fated Puppy Derby.
Fromposttopillar has been the domestic standard bearer during 2023 and he is favourite with the majority of the bookmakers.
Much has been made about the decision to seed him wide and it means he should avoid the sort of scrimmaging that he’d potentially risk if tagged middle.
Bagging the Puppy Collar at Oxford and the Olympic at Hove last year, Liz McNair’s dog secured the Kent Plate at Central Park in March.
Unfortunately injury means we won’t see Hopes Paddington reoppose but in his wake on Finals day were RPGTV Juvenile winner, Arkady and lively outsider Droopys Google.
Patrick Janssens took the 2021 Derby with Thorn Falcon and Romeo Command sits high in the antepost lists having won nine races since switching to the handler, including the final of the BGBF Breeders Stakes at Nottingham.
Alongside Janssens' more established performers is Bet Shop Boy. The youngster won an unraced stake at Shelbourne Park as Jacktavern Dash but was barred from participating in the Final as his time was superior to the standard allowed.
This is a massive leap in grade yet the puppy possesses incredible pace and potential.
Hove has one of the more demanding four bends and their strength is well represented in this affair.
I’ve had the pleasure of calling a couple of races involving Maree Champion at the south coast track and the youngster looks of championship calibre. He’s trained by Seamus Cahill – who won the Derby at the ‘old’ Towcester with Astute Missile – and has had numerous big priced performers reaching the minor medals in the past.
The KAB Maiden Derby has been a decent 'trial' for the main event and Drive On Lad is respected. It took a while to finally break his duck in country but the penny has dropped for Richard Rees' inmate, and he’s owned by the connections responsible for former Nottingham finalist, Southwood Jet.
Bradys Bullet disappointed in the RPGTV Juvenile but that’s a one-off race and Belinda Green’s pup earned his stripes when obliging in the PGR Puppy Derby at Monmore in a flawless campaign.
Looking north, it would be remiss of one not to mention Sheffield’s Distant Podge.
Tipping over 36kg ahead of his racing debut, he rewarded the patience of connections with success in the Puppy Classic at Nottingham and has won three Trial Stakes en route to the main event. It’s a decade since Barrie Draper was training the likes of Pay Freeze and Ballymac Eske but this greyhound could provide a welcome return to the big time.
Droopys Fidget ensured the home team didn’t keep this year’s Steel City Puppy Derby to themselves and supplied a first Category 1 winner for Nathan Hunt. She will take her chance here despite the initial reservations of the trainer.
It’s not uncommon for dogs approaching their fourth birthday to reach the closing stages as they bring their experience to bear.
Brookside Richie seemed to have the world at his paws when securing the 2021 Romford Puppy Cup though he’s had documented issues along the way. A winner of the Northern Flat Championship for Jimmy Fenwick, he won pleasingly on a return to action a fortnight ago and could be a player if staying sound.
BOCKOS PALACE is another to have been winning in Derby Trial Stakes and bet365’s quote of 100/1 appears generous.
He probably got lost in the pecking order at Graham Holland’s kennels at a time when they were stacked with champions but Kevin Boon is a capable handler with the right ammunition, and the former football manager showed in 2017 with Murrys Act that this minnow can upset the big boys when it comes to knockout competition.
Posted at 2125 BST on 21/05/23
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