Ian Brindle looks ahead to the semi-finals of the Greyhound Derby, providing his 1-2-3 verdict for each of the two heats.
Pat Buckley continued to dominate proceedings in the Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby at Nottingham.
The last of Saturday’s quarter-finals delivered a grandstand finish as Knocknaboul Syd prevailed over Deerjet Sydney in the battle of the “Syds” but qualification has always been the name of the game and the trainer will have been delighted to see the pair kept apart in the semi-finals.
The latter has drawn the resurgent Wolfe in the second semi-final and a number of pundits have suggested that he would have preferred to have been on the inside of that rival.
Graham Holland’s charge has enjoyed more than his fair share of good fortune during this year’s Derby and with Deanridge Rapid edging left from the black jacket last Saturday, he took the opportunity to exploit the resulting gap.
Southwood Jet was another to overcome an apparent bad draw and Richard Rees’ runner is now 6/6 for the kennel. Considered the major British hope, he’ll be in the red jacket in the opening semi-final.
Somewhat unusually, connections with rails seeded runners may not believe that to be a particularly advantageous draw at all.
Outside of the second octet of first round heats (where the going deteriorated to minus 130) only one other heat has been won by a runner in red and last Saturday saw the jacket draw a complete blank throughout the whole 12-race card.
The bookmakers will have warmly received the eliminations of Lenson Bocko and Glengar Bale though arguably the unluckiest runner of the night was Blue Tick George. Jim Daly’s inmate tends to do his best work in the second half of his races and bad luck saw rank outsider Final Mad teeter into his path at the time when he needed it least.
Elsewhere, the RPGTV Derby Plate has reached its semi-final stage.
Hopes Bullet confirmed the resurgence of the Mark Wallis kennel in recent weeks and their recent recruit will take on hot favourite, Doolin Duke, in what will now be a five-runner affair.
Catunda Logan was visually impressive when demolishing his field in the first round and he will face a tough examination from Waikiki Lad (Ted Soppitt) and Bower Luke (Pat Rosney) in the second semi-final.
But let’s return to the feature and look at the Derby semi-finalists…
20.36 Semi-Final 1
1. Southwood Jet
Unbeaten in the Derby and doing everything right at present; 3/3 from this box at Nottingham though his sectionals have been notably slower from this post.
2. Ballydoyle Valor
Classy individual on his day; slightly disappointing last week though hasn’t really handled Trap 1 so connections will be delighted to have avoided it
3. Deanridge Rapid
Some way below the trials that preceded his Derby campaign; looks hard to fancy off the evidence we’ve seen thus far
4. Knocknaboul Syd
Arrived under the radar following modest Irish Derby campaign; unbeaten so far and powerful early pace matched by tenacious display to win his quarter-final
5. Distant Village (w)
Represents kennel that provided Derby finalists in 2009 and 2012; has to reverse form with a couple of tonight’s rivals but stays well enough to potentially hit the frame
6. Coolavanny Chick (w)
Lightly-raced but useful bitch; showed impressive early pace in second round and needs to clear T5 early in order to create qualification chance
Southwood Jet and KNOCKNABOUL SYD bring unspoilt records to the table but the draw appears to favour Pat Buckley’s dog and he should have enough pace to glean a path to the rails. Coolavanny Chick was modestly away last week but were she to gravitate inwards to the first bend, she could make that space count. Ballydoyle Valor is almost the forgotten dog despite two early victories and he’ll need to bravely hold his line under pressure. 4-6-2
20.52 Semi-Final 2
1. Churchill Holly
Yet to win a Derby heat but delighted the locals with her early pace; winner of five graded contests from red though her trapping is less consistent from this berth
2. Lenson Whelan
Sent off at big prices and will be so here; moved right from this box during quarter-finals and while not devoid of pace, he’s struggled to hold his pitch
Solid competition performer on his day; good record from this box in Ireland (5/7) – ordinarily plotting left - and needs to be extremely alert to potential peril
4. Deerjet Sydney
Much improved and lost no face in quarter-final defeat; moved markedly left from this box in round 1 though awesome sectionals have facilitated previous successes
5. Smurfs Machine (m)
Under the radar despite two victories and holds T1 on last week’s meeting; represents 2017 Derby winning handler and very much on the improve at the right time
6. Troy Firebird (w)
Chased home three top-class performers in as many rounds; decent all-rounder with both early pace and stamina and no forlorn hope if turning handy to leaders
DEERJET SYDNEY will attempt to shoot directly left from this draw and plenty of connections will be hoping that he clears a path without incident. Wolfe ordinarily takes a few strides to gain momentum and that may mitigate against him finding early bother. Churchill Holly isn’t out of this if engineering one of her better breaks but Troy Firebird is preferred to Smurfs Machine despite the latter’s improvement 4-6-3