Ian Brindle looks ahead to the semi-finals of the English Greyhound Derby where the two market leaders have been kept apart in the draw.
England may expect this Saturday night in Rome but at Towcester, the home team have been a distinct second as the Star Sports and TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby reaches its semi-final stage.
The Irish remain very much in the ascendancy and with eight contenders spread across the two races, it is still possible that the visitors could secure all six slots in the final.
As at this stage in 2020, Deerjet Sydney and Knocknaboul Syd have managed to avoid each other though neither set of connections will be hoping for a repeat of the conditions that turned Nottingham into a quagmire.
In last week’s quarter-finals, Deerjet Sydney did what he needed to do in order to find the rails and he is the only unbeaten runner left in the Derby.
Knockout competitions, by their very nature, allow little room for error and the reigning champion will need to defy an unfavourable draw in order to book his place in next week’s final.
Saturday’s rivals will include the two dogs he defeated last weekend, but of more pressing peril are the pair from Liam Dowling’s kennels.
Ballymac Wild is a noted competition performer and has proved in this Derby that he doesn’t lack for courage, while Ballymac Fairone is the youngest dog standing and he’s exhibited a jealous streak when setting his sights on the lure.
Knocknaboul Syd was ten spots slower than his kennelmate last weekend but that doesn’t really tell the tale. The manner of his quarter-final victory was highly taking and his trapping has come into its own since switching to a middle seeding.
On paper, his semi-final appears the weaker of the two but connections will be taking nothing for granted.
Patrick Janssens managed to get three of his team through to this stage and fate has seen the trio drawn together.
Thorn Falcon appears the most obvious threat on the formbook to repel the Irish raiders, though Bockos Belly and Kilara Lion are still very much there.
Graham Holland has two in the race and not many would have initially nominated Gaytime Milo as the dog most likely to end his Derby hoodoo.
That said, his quarter-final victory was on merit and he could be coming to hand at the right time. Newinn Session has always been a big-ticket performer in Ireland and despite being below his best at Towcester; it takes only one run to turn a campaign completely around.
The first three from each semi-final will progress to the £175,000-to-the-winner final.
1. Deerjet Sydney
Thoroughly genuine and dodged potential banana skin to retain unbeaten record; this is not a draw his supporters would not have wished for
2. Ballymac Wild
Vastly experienced type that has worked tirelessly during last two rounds; finishes well but will need to be primed to pop out quickly
3. Toolmaker Sydney
Impressed in opening heat though not much luck in running of late; return to the winning most trap will need to make the difference
4. Ballymac Fairone
Two heat wins in the Derby and highly progressive; got no run last week but draw looks favourable if he can endeavour to make use of it
5. Cold As Ice (m)
Winless in Derby though has scored at Towcester previously; solid effort last week and his fastest clock to date
6. Beach Avenue (w)
Still yet to build upon impressive Derby Trial; stays purposefully but will need to take his form up another notch from what he’s produced thus far
Deerjet Sydney was able to ‘cheat’ an unfavoured draw in the third round but connections will be delighted if he can emerge unscathed from the first couple of bends. Ballymac Wild has had a mixed series so far but he will be a danger to all if firing that 37kg frame out from the boxes. BALLYMAC FAIRONE didn’t get the run of the race last week and tonight’s draw will offer a chance of a clear shot at the bunny. Toolmaker Sydney needs his wits about him while Cold As Ice and Beach Avenue will relish any bother upfront. 4-1-2
1. Newinn Session
High-quality performer in Ireland but questions to answer at Towcester; hope springs eternal and inside run could be possible were his neighbour to gravitate to middle
2. Bockos Belly
Broke track record in second round yet trapping has gone awry since; sees trip out strongly and hasn’t stopped chasing when things have not gone totally to plan
3. Kilara Lion
Third in each round so far and kept on once again on Saturday; sent off at big odds on that occasion and bookies will be happy to oppose
4. Knocknaboul Syd (m)
Emerged as a big player in this competition during last fortnight and draw appears ideal; modest trapper next door should offer necessary elbow room
5. Gaytime Milo (m)
Lightly raced (due to injury niggle) prior to Derby but no fluke about quarter-final victory; moves off right from the boxes so bravery is likely to be under scrutiny
6. Thorn Falcon (w)
Almost 39kg though combines power and speed with exceptional balance; winner of six from seven at Towcester and very much a crowd favourite with the locals
KNOCKNABOUL SYD has ensured this Derby isn’t just about the reigning champion and connections can have few complaints about this draw. Thorn Falcon is a joy to watch and he’s not afraid to impose himself on the race. Bockos Belly needs to bounce back and the start will be crucial to his prospects. Newinn Session hasn’t totally convinced around the track though it would be folly to rule him out. Gaytime Milo has crept in under the radar and could be anything. 4-6-1
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