Jonathan Hobbs: Irish advantage for Greyhound Derby

Jonathan Hobbs debates who will be named July's Greyhound of the Month

Good luck to the connections of all Saturday’s Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby finalists.

It’s not the week they expected with the cancellation of the traditional Derby lunch, but despite Tier 3 restrictions most will head to Nottingham at the weekend and enjoy the action, socially distanced and in designated ‘bubbles’.

History beckons for one set of connections, of course, with a new name added to the most famous roll of honour in the sport. And, as ever, the stories about each of the runners are great and form the narrative of another superb Derby.

Once again the Irish have the numerical edge coming into the final. Just as last year, four Irish-trained runners take on two home-trained finalists and the visitors are definitely eyeing another 1-2-3 in this year’s final!

However, the Richard Rees-trained, Jeremy Hayes-owned Southwood Jet remains the only unbeaten runner in the field and will once again travel up from his Surrey base looking to make the most of a plum red-jacket draw in the final.

The Rees name is already on the roll of honour through Richard’s father and grandfather - and so is the name Seamus Cahill. The trainer of 2017 Derby hero Astute Missile has the improving Smurfs Machine for owners Rick Martin, Myles Simmons and George Williams.

So to the Irish finalists and Deerjet Sydney runs for Pat Buckley and owner Kenny Glen. Buckley has gone close to English Derby glory in the past with Droopys Roddick and Mind The Net, although is an Irish Derby-winning trainer via the brilliant College Causeway.

Graham Holland has two finalists overseen by his wife Nicky and the Englishman has three Irish Derby wins on his CV and, having guided Newinn Taylor to Shelbourne glory, could achieve something that has never been done before on Saturday.

No trainer has won both the English and Irish Derby in the same year - some have gone close! - but in Easter Cup champion Wolfe for the Moloney family and Ballydoyle Valor for Justin and Pat Muldoon could rewrite the record books come Saturday.

Last but by no means is Coolavanny Chick for owner and trainer Noel Hehir. Noel has been part-owner of an Irish Derby winner in Shelbourne Aston and now sends out the two-year-old aiming to become only the sixth bitch winner of the Classic.

It’s set to be a fantastic race - and a great night all-round with a superb supporting card at Nottingham - catch all Ian Brindle’s advice here at sportinglife.com.

Hitting the jackpot prize

With the cancellation of the Night of Stars at Shelbourne, Swindon was free to bring the Oaks forward to avoid a clash with the Brighton Belle at Hove.

Shoehorning events into a truncated year because of lockdown has been difficult but generally achieved - and confirmation of the Oaks details came at the eleventh hour. Now everyone’s happy in terms of avoiding a clash - well almost!

Incidentally, once again well done to big-race sponsor Colin Davey through his Property 192 company. A £15,000 first prize plus £5,000 to the winning trainer is superb.

Anyway, if 2020 has been hard, 2021 could be even trickier given where tracks stand in terms of crowds, which might then impact on sponsors.

Efforts are being made now to formulate a calendar of events, principally around the Classics, although the hosting - and timing - of the 2021 Greyhound Derby will be central to this. Questions will no doubt be asked after this weekend.

Battle of the tracks

Talking of major events, did you enjoy the old Bags Track Championship or Supertrack before it?

It’s probably too much for racing offices to think about just now, but I’d love to see it return, perhaps late next year or 2022 - when supporters can get involved!

The rivalry between tracks was superb and those grand finals days were some of the best attended and biggest in the racing year.

In terms of PR they rivalled the Derby for coverage because the giant-killing stories and the travelling support - think FA Cup!

But how would it work now?

If it was launched tomorrow, it might look like this in terms of three groups of tracks, with the top two heading to finals day:

Group 1 Central Park, Crayford, Harlow, Henlow, Hove, Romford

Group 2 Monmore, Nottingham, Perry Barr, Swindon, Towcester, Yarmouth

Group 3 Doncaster, Kinsley, Newcastle, Pelaw Grange, Sheffield, Sunderland

Sky Bet are paying three places instead of two for the Greyhound Derby

Breeding British

Well done once again to Liz Mort, chair of the British Greyhound Breeders’ Forum.

Liz continues to push hard for support for British-bred races and, with the support of the the Greyhound Board and the Fund, has managed to compile a regular series of races over various distances - and another is on the horizon.

Running alongside the British Breeders Stakes at Nottingham will be the 18-dog BGBF Midlands Sprint over 305m, plus a batch of supporting races for British-breds will be run on finals’ night at Colwick Park on November 23.

Before then, of course, Nottingham stages the Derby final - and completing a superb weekend will be the semi-finals of the Colossus Bets Grand National at Central Park on Sunday.

There is not huge strength in depth when it comes to hurdlers, but Sunday’s two semi-finals are top-drawer and, while Ricky Holloway has a huge chance of winning a fourth Grand National, don’t rule out Jim Reynolds’ pair of runners.

As ever, catch all the action on RPGTV.

Big Vinnie

Great to see Vinnie Jones kicking backside in the Star Sports Greyhound Derby Media Challenge.

The owner of back-to-back Derby finalist Smoking Bullet at Wimbledon in 2000/01 still loves the dogs and has fired in a few winners in this year’s Nottingham showpiece. He currently lies in third in the tipping competition, representing easyodds.com.

A glance at his latest column on the site tells us Vinnie is currently working on a new film Rise of the Foot Soldiers: Origins - and if you know those films you’ll know only the brave will take him on! However, one man is standing up big-time and that’s John Benbow.

The ex-Sporting Life man, known as ‘the Admiral’, is still well ahead heading into Saturday’s 12-race card and is surely over the line.

He is 71.77 in profit ahead of the Racing Post’s Tony Bullen (+21.90), then Jones himself who is showing a healthy 16.85 profit. Also deserving of a mention are Jim Cremin (+13.32) and RPGTV’s Jason Barrasford (+13.13).

Good work all-round guys and, once again, fair play to Ben Keith of Star Sports for getting all the so-called experts in one room to battle it out.

See how they all get on this weekend, and check out the scores via Bags Racing.

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