Ian Brindle considers the state of play in the Star Sports Greyhound Derby ahead of the quarter-finals at Towcester on Tuesday.
The whiff of Derby glory will be firmly in the nostrils of connections as their charges sit just 11 days away from Finals night, and with three runs inside a week, the sport’s premier classic switches its accent towards the resilience of both greyhounds and trainers alike.
As ever, the competition has not been without its talking points, but the combination of fine weather and a fast track last Saturday evening meant that punters could finally eliminate much of the guesswork that the prevailing going has provided during the earlier rounds.
Some 24 runners are to compete across four quarter-finals, with the first three in each progressing to Saturday’s semi-finals. A total of 13 railers have made it to this stage, with five middle seeds and six wides.
Alas, there will be no representation from the class of 2017 as Tyrur Shay and Murrys Act both exited at an early juncture. That aside, there appears a heady combination of established competition performers and rising stars, and a significant number hold championship claims.
The bookmakers are long odds-on about a British triumph with just four Irish runners remaining.
Given the proliferation of Irish winners in the first round, this has been one of the more surprising aspects of this year’s competition.
The layers will have been grateful to dodge two of their biggest liabilities in Droopys Biker and Droopys Davy, although Crossfield Will announced himself as a player with a smart effort in the third round. Pinging the lids and meeting the first bend in a 5.09 sectional, the son of All About Ya looks to be coming to hand at the right time.
Luckily from an ante-post perspective, my Irish-trained ante-post fancy, Borna Gin (advised 33/1) is still in the hunt, as is the locally-trained, Rising Brandy (25/1).
Matt Dartnall’s dog has had a succession of tough draws and he’s taken them very much in his stride. A tremendous buckle against Dorotas Wildcat in the first round being matched by a masterful dispatch of Bruisers Bullet in the third. He’s available at just 6/1 in the outright market and Tuesday’s draw appears helpful.
Dorotas Wildcat is the current ante-post favourite at a general 4/1, and given the decisiveness of his victories in the last two rounds, his position at the head of the market is understandable.
Last year’s Derby Plate winner was hardly going to be tested by inferior opposition in the third round, but Kevin Hutton’s charge convincingly justified odds of 1/6 with an eight-length rout.
The much-touted Droopys Buick never seemed to take to Towcester, yet a year later, Angela Harrison’s kennel has another serious chance with Droopys Verve.
The June 16 whelp is the youngest dog left in the Derby and he stopped the clock on Saturday in the fastest time of the competition.
The purist will question whether going so close to the track record is ideal at this stage; a middle seeding ensures that he will be virtually guaranteed a favoured draw.
We are left with just one member of the fairer sex in Oioi Upenalty.
Advised in our competition preview as one to note in the specials, those that backed her in the ‘bitches only’ market have already collected their winnings. Her three performances suggest she’ll struggle against the top boys, though Astute Missile didn’t win a single round until Finals night so she cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Mark Wallis is the most represented handler at this stage with three runners including Bruisers Bullet and Bombers Bullet. Kevin Hutton, Charlie Lister, Carol Weatherall and Peter Cronin all have two. Team Wallis may not have the greatest of luck in the third round but with qualification the name of the game, the sometime poker player has a very strong hand to play.
There’s still plenty of mileage in the outright markets with the majority of bookmakers offering each way terms for the first four places. Check out the latest prices with Sky Bet.
The remainder of the Derby will be shown on Racing Post Greyhound TV (Sky Channel 431) and streamed live by the majority of betting offices and online bookmakers.