Ian Brindle looks ahead to Saturday’s Star Sports Greyhound Derby semi-finals at Towcester.
It was a great night for followers of the column on Tuesday with the four selections striking at cumulative odds of 20/1, and our two ante-post selections progressing onward into the semi-finals. As gratifying as that was, this could count for little as the Derby reaches a pivotal point.
This year, many of the pre-competition favourites remain in touching distance of Finals night, and the improved weather conditions have seen the speedsters, such as Droopys Verve, come to the fore.
Angela Harrison’s youngster was able to fend off a two-pronged attack from Bruisers Bullet and Saleen Ash on the way to the first bend in his quarter-final, and he didn’t appear to be stopping at the finish.
He will start a hot favourite for the opening semi-final of the evening and is pitched against our long-range selections, Rising Brandy and Droopys Gin.
Rising Brandy did prevail by five lengths when the pair met in the Puppy Derby Final at Monmore, and while he’s had a tremendous Derby, Matt Dartnall’s charge comes into Saturday’s race under much speculation as to his fitness.
Dorota’s Wildcat has avoided the market leaders in the second semi-final, though his luck didn’t extend to getting his favoured red jacket or avoiding Bruisers Bullet on his inner.
To an extent, the contest will bear all the hallmarks of an archetypal Derby buckle. The two local heroes going head-to-head against a pair of supposed no-hopers and a couple of unexposed sorts from Ireland.
There won’t be many times you’ll hear connections raising the roof as their pride and joy finishes a distant third, but this is one such honourable exception.
Saturday's undercard also sees the start of the Derby Plate and the Champion Hurdle.
The former is a consolation event for greyhounds eliminated from the Derby, and Droopys Expert will be popular. His Derby campaign ended in first round failure as he was turned over at odds of 2/5. A recent rout in an Open at Nottingham saw him back to winning ways and he’ll be tough to beat.
Ricky Holloway will be strongly represented in the Champion Hurdle. Lenson Wilson has been one of the most exciting recruits for many a year, and the Springbok winner should be spot on for this competition following a couple of runs in the Derby and a trial.
21.06 Derby semi-final 1 (Three qualify for final)
1 Bombers Bullet
Scrambled home behind Rising Brandy in spite of significant interference at last bend. A notably slow starter and qualification rests upon him securing a late run.
2 Rising Brandy
Highly progressive and another pleasing display to win his quarter-final. Reportedly cramped after those exertions and market vibes have been negative since. Draw position suits and an obvious player if fit enough to take his chance.
3 Borna Gin
Had issues with a split dew claw in the third round and his competition experience has seen him through. Ran tenaciously to win his quarter-final from an improbable position and rest will have done him good.
4 Droopys Verve (m)
Not far off the track record in his last two starts and showed maturity beyond his years in his latest display. Clearly in very good nick and a fast start will make him very difficult to catch.
5 Saleen Ash (w)
Hard to see him reversing form with Droopys Verve and he will be priced accordingly. Needs to exit with similar alacrity to maintain any hope of marching onward.
6 Dorotas Vic (w)
Friendless in the market on Tuesday and stayed on from another county to qualify. Plenty to find on the clock and probably needs bother to occur upfront.
Verdict: Difficult to get away from DROOPYS VERVE after two impressive efforts and he can secure a deserved place in the final. Rising Brandy has had some very tough tasks and he can grab first use of the rail. Borna Gin hasn’t looked a total natural around Towcester though he lacks nothing in terms of desire. 4-2-3
21.22 Derby semi-final 2 (Three qualify for final)
1 Bruisers Bullet
Surrendered his status as Derby favourite on the back of two defeats. A class act on his day and whilst he hasn’t trapped with the fluency he showed last term, the make-up of the race is in his favour.
2 Wildfire Legend
Turned the formbook on its head to reach this stage of the Derby and his early pace has proved a potent weapon. Trainer a dab hand with big priced runners and there could be a potential upset on the cards if he cuts to the rails.
3 Dorotas Wildcat
Arguably has had the easiest campaign of the market leaders. Highly capable and advertised his championship credentials with imperious effort in the third round. Won from this trap at Towcester previously and capable of overcoming the draw.
4 Oioi Upenalty (m)
Last lady standing. Yet to win a round and a never-nearer third on Tuesday. More required against a significantly tougher level of opposition.
5 Whoops Jack (w)
Impressive starter in the earlier rounds and far from disgraced behind Rising Brandy in the quarter-finals. Respected though would have made far more appeal had he got the stripes.
6 Innocent Times (w)
A credit to connections with his consistency, and possibly a little unlucky not to win again on Tuesday. Still seems to be improving and could have a say in this race if able to avoid his fellow wide seed.
Verdict: BRUISERS BULLET may have fallen out of favour with some of the experts but his record around Towcester is second-to-none and he is worth another chance from this draw. Dorotas Wildcat has a potential hazard to avoid on his inside and he’ll need to quickly accelerate into top gear. Innocent Times is lightly raced and should not be underestimated. 1-6-3
The full card will be shown live on Racing Post Greyhound TV (Sky Channel 431) and in the majority of major betting offices.