Ian Brindle looks ahead to the weekend's Greyhound Derby action as we enter the quarter-final stage at Nottingham on Saturday.
Nottingham will host the quarter-finals of the Star Sports, Arc & LPS Greyhound Derby on Saturday evening.
The dogs were literally fighting for qualification last Friday night, and with Swift Jim disqualified in heat four for deliberate interference, a vacant trap would ordinarily have gone into the drum for the next round.
Fast forward to the seventh heat, and with the judge unable to split Front Edge and King Sheeran for third place; the stewards found themselves making an unprecedented discussion as to whether both could progress into the quarter-finals in spite of two somewhat contradictory rules in the book.
With common sense prevailing, a full complement of 24 greyhounds will head to the boxes this weekend.
The Irish will fancying their chances as they have 10 of the remaining runners, but the English have an exceptional team left, and the star of the third round was Droopys Verve.
Angela Harrison's ace got his campaign back on track with a time of 29.14 seconds, and last year’s runner-up is very much a contender.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual for Dorotas Wildcat and Magical Bale as the kennelmates made light work of their rivals.
The races will be shown live in the majority of betting offices and the full card is on Racing Post Greyhound TV (Channel 431).
20.29 First Quarter-Final
1. Roxholme Jim
Lightly-raced Steel City Cup finalist; winner of two Derby heats and far from disgraced behind Dorotas Wildcat in third round.
2. Priceless Blake
Scottish Derby semi-finalist and regular winner over 480m at Shelbourne Park; draws have been kind at Nottingham so far (won twice) and more will be needed.
3. Roxholme Glory
Progressive at Shelbourne Park and has shown a likeable attitude; chased home an impressive winner last week and improvement still possible.
4. Droopys Verve
Proven Category 1 performer and right back to his best in third round; draw seems favourable though trapping will still be under scrutiny.
5. Wildfire Jimmy
Solid performer for Liam Dowling back in 2018; missed trouble to qualify last week and hasn’t shown enough to suggest he can get off the mark here.
6. King Sheeran (w)
Trafalgar Cup winner; never really got into his stride last week but blessed with considerable potential and will get competitive as the contest develops.
Connections couldn’t have hoped for a better draw for DROOPYS VERVE as Roxholme Glory and Priceless Blake could prove a hazard to each other. Roxholme Jim has won from the red jacket at Henlow in the past and he can progress. King Sheeran will stay on for minor money. 4-1-6
20.45 Second Quarter-Final
1. Lemon Shane
Better known over shorter trips in Ireland and served up two smart victories in opening rounds; faded quickly last week and best watched.
2. Ballymac Tas
Kirby Memorial finalist in Ireland; hasn’t won a heat but did produce her fastest time of the Derby last weekend.
3. Droopys Expert
Showed he was no back number during Steel City Cup; accounted for Dower Rory in second round and claims if getting any sort of run at the first bend.
4. Dower Rory
Appreciates the track (third in the Eclipse) and not unfancied when scoring at 14/1 last week; can be slowly away and will be running on when others have cried enough.
5. Magical Bale
Irish Derby finalist and highly impressive during the last two rounds; sectional times suggest he has a chance to dictate terms.
6. Worseforwear (m)
Under the radar before smashing out in a 4.91 sectional in the second round; slightly disappointing last week though cannot be written off given trainer’s record
MAGICAL BALE has never won from trap five but the draw has pitched him either side of two runners that should grant him enough room for manoeuvre. Ballymac Tas could be a danger if she can get across to the rail and the likeable Dower Rory will be attempting to pick up the pieces. 5-2-4 (NAP)
21.01 Third Quarter-Final
1. Front Edge
Hung on grimly for surprise first round victory; easy to back on two subsequent starts and likely to be same again tonight.
2. Queen Beyonce
Pocket sized though did not shirk the issue when pushing her way through to win her third round heat; runs the track well and can give another good account
3. Paganini Show
Polarised opinions during his first round victory and has moved off sharply from the boxes; not likely to lead and opposable.
4. Ballyanne Sim
Reigning Irish Derby champion; well held behind Clonbrien Prince in third round and a big ask for him to reverse the form from this draw.
5. Clonbrien Prince
Easter Cup runner-up and the only unbeaten dog left in the Derby; times have gone the right way and his chance looks obvious on paper.
6. Antigua Romeo (m)
Shown ability around Hove prior to this competition; duly respected from a high class kennel but needs a career best effort for the win.
Clonbrien Prince has been one of the stars of this year’s Derby and he’ll be priced accordingly. Low draws have been no barrier to QUEEN BEYONCE and she represents value at the odds of reward. Ballyanne Sim may have to avoid the attentions of Paganini Show so Antigua Romeo is a tentative tricast call. 2-5-6.
21.17 Fourth Quarter-Final
1. Nice Charmer
Made all for his second victory in the competition; previous winner of a trial stakes from this box and will need to find a fair amount of time on the clock.
2. Skywalker Logan
Irish Cesarewitch winner though not devoid of pace; broke track record in opening round and has struggled to reproduce figures like that since (trainer reporting him a little ‘off colour’ last week).
3. Master Reed
Regular visitor to Nottingham in minor Opens; difficult to recommend him at this level.
4. Dorotas Wildcat
Reigning champion and continues to serve up a spirited defence of his crown; comfortably had matters under control last week and difficult to get away from in this heat.
5. Lemon Ronald (m)
Consistent Open race performer in the North; won his first round heat though hard to see him emerging as a gold medallist today.
6. Jaytee Taylor (w)
Irish Derby finalist and has relied upon that touch of class to keep qualifying; track hasn’t favoured wide seeds and hopes will rest upon his powerful back-running.
DOROTAS WILDCAT continues to defy the doubters and the champ will be a warm order to score tonight. Jaytee Taylor is no mug and would be a player if he consents to trap out smartly. Skywalker Logan and Nice Charmer can fight out the remaining semi-final spot. 4-6-2 (NB)