Ian Brindle looks ahead to a star-studded renewal of the BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby at Shelbourne Park.
1pt e.w. Ballymac Ariel at 25/1 (Betfred 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Priceless Jet at 50/1 (Betfred 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)
The cream of the Irish greyhound world will descend upon Shelbourne Park this weekend for the opening round of what has been touted as the strongest BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby for some time.
Such a moniker may take plenty of living up to, but a grand total of 150 entries went into the drum ahead of the first round and we will ultimately see a champion crowned on Saturday September 18.
Coronavirus protocols have sadly led to an understandable lack of British runners but Ireland’s premier classic will be appointment to view stuff with the bookmakers streaming every race and Racing Post Greyhound TV commencing coverage at the third-round stage.
The English Derby form will predictably come under scrutiny given the exceptionally high number of Irish-trained runners that reached the latter stages, and three of the Towcester finalists head to Dublin along with a number of the semi-finalists.
Explosive Boy didn’t make the journey across to Northamptonshire and connections will hope that their decision to bypass the English Classic can pay off.
One of the current antepost favourites, he certainly has the pedigree to win this as Pat Guilfoyle also trained his father, Good News, to Derby glory in 2017.
Luck may have deserted him in the final of the Kirby Memorial at Limerick but he’s put that disappointment behind him with successes in the Produce Stakes at Clonmel and the Race Of Champions at Tralee – smashing the track record in the heats that preceded the main event.
The ‘Kirby’ has proved a perennial source of future winners and runner-up De Machine has already gone on to land a hot renewal of the Champion Stakes.
With Shelbourne 550 winner Deadly Destroyer and regular Grade 1 finalist Ballymac Wild coming together in the final, Brendan Matthews’ dog secured a dream run, and as his efforts at Towcester illustrated, he has an incredibly potent finish.
Spring Time was the last of the fairer sex to win the Derby some 22 years ago but that anomaly could be under threat given the fine crop of bitches on the Irish circuit.
Front Amani will face off against Tralee Juvenile Classic winner, Singalong Sally in the first of Friday night’s heats, while Irish Oaks winner Susie Sapphire has avoided a number of the big names on Saturday.
Billys Diva impressed when securing the Shelley Fennelly Memorial off a flawless campaign and she has some valuable experience against the big boys.
The buzz around BALLYMAC ARIEL has been constant and if she can piece a run together during this competition, Liam Dowling’s bitch holds exceptionally strong claims.
Despite an eyecatching set of trials, things never panned out as anticipated at Towcester but this is her track, and with luck and a fair wind, she has the ability to go far.
Six years have passed since Ballymac Matt snared the competition for the Ballymac Kennels and they have a strong squad for this year’s Derby.
The ultra-consistent Ballymac Wild will attempt to reach yet another Grade 1 final, whilst the lightly-raced Ballymac Fairone is bidding to atone for a lukewarm display in the English Derby final.
Graham Holland has been the trainer to follow in recent years and the Riverside Kennels have supplied three of the last five winners.
The Wiltshire-born handler has selected a mixture of unexposed and tried performers for this year’s renewal including recent recruit Knight Tornado but Jackslittlething has been the market buzzer.
Another son of the peerless Droopys Sydney, he was precocious enough to pick up the Rural Hawaii Stake at Clonmel though he’d largely gone under the radar until securing the Champion Plate in a very decent clock.
Also highly featured in the outright betting is Dromara Bucko though it could be argued that his position is based on potential rather than performance. Mark O’Donovan’s youngster is yet to race competitively at Shelbourne Park nor indeed over the Derby distance, but he’s been blazing around Curraheen Park in the style of a smart dog.
Last year’s Derby was lit up by the unadulterated pace of Pestana and there are plenty of speed merchants in this renewal including John Kennedy Jnr’s Good Cody and dual-English Derby finalist, Deerjet Sydney.
That said, there appears a distinct vibe from the entry that trainers are viewing the staying of the trip with increasingly more regard.
Last year’s Derby fourth Kilara Icon has no stamina issues and he has rejoined Robert Gleeson following a spell in England. Having served notice with a speedy trial figure around Tralee, there has been much to like about his three runs since returning to competitive action.
Beach Avenue was quietly touted for the English Derby and Paul Hennessy’s dog was far from disgraced in his labours but at the odds of reward, I prefer his PRICELESS JET.
Admittedly, the Corn Cuchulainn hero hasn’t been handed a free pass in the first round yet there are three qualifiers progressing from each heat along with the 21 ‘fastest’ fourths, so if surviving the potential banana skin, he is the type that will keep on qualifying.
With bookmakers paying out each-way bets on finalists, Priceless Jet looks worth siding with at the standout 50/1.
Posted at 0715 BST on 11/08/21
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