Ian Brindle looks ahead to the 2021 Star Sports And TRC Events & Leisure Greyhound Derby as the competition returns to Towcester, and he is struggling to see past another Irish winner.
1pt e.w. Knocknaboul Syd 16/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt Bockos Belly to be 'Best of Patrick Janssens' at 7/1 (bet365)
Back to its full complement of six rounds and with a first prize of £175,000, it’s no surprise to see that this year’s Greyhound Derby has attracted a buoyant entry and following two 'greenwashes' in as many years, the Irish have assembled a strong raiding party with 40 runners set to head across the water.
As we head into the competition, the layers appear convinced it's advantage Ireland despite the much respected commentator Ian Fortune suggesting that Towcester is less of an ‘Irish-style’ circuit than Nottingham.
The home team have the numbers but Ireland are around 1/3 to have the winner on July 10 and some firms offer just 12/1 about the Emerald Isle supplying all six finalists.
Pat Buckley’s Deerjet Sydney was to prevail on Finals night last October and he will attempt to become the first dog to win back-to-back Derbys since the legendary Westmead Hawk.
The 2020 Derby may have lacked some of the superstars that campaigned in the Irish equivalent but Deerjet Sydney showed he handled the rigours of competition well. He won its very first heat and more pertinently, the race where the big cheques were handed out.
Though eliminated in the opening round of this year’s Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park, he was to fare better in the Select Stakes at Waterford, ultimately finishing third to the highly regarded Skywalker Barry.
He faces a wait until Saturday to commence his campaign and while noted for his tendency to edge sharply towards the rails at pace, he stays strongly and that will be critical for any dog around Towcester.
It’s hardly surprising that KNOCKNABOUL SYD has attracted so much market interest as he has been the form dog of 2021.
Sloppy going stole his chance of Derby glory at Nottingham but he arrives into this assignment as a much better prospect and was imperious when prevailing by four lengths in the final of the Easter Cup.
Last week’s trial was not the fastest by any stretch though he was entirely purposeful in his work and all eyes will be on the opening contest of Friday’s session. He looks the best bet at 16/1 with six places meaning we'll be paid out if, as anticipated, he makes the final.
Wiltshire-born Graham Holland has won three Irish Derbys but this competition has eluded his grasp despite a number of high profile participants.
Newinn Session proved a disappointing ante-post favourite for last year’s competition but he was the only dog to inflict defeat upon Knocknaboul Syd during the Easter Cup.
Connections have been predictably meticulous in their planning and the dog shaped as if he’d come on plenty for his first competitive look around Towcester.
Native Maestro has always been held in some regard and Towcester inevitably looked to be the aim once leading owner, Graham Box acquired a share. The September 18 whelp remains lightly raced for his age and though he’ll need some luck with the draws, he proved during his trial stakes that if he can get on the bunny, he could potentially go far.
Box has also brought Lenson Bocko back into the Derby fold. The 2019 Irish champion had embarked upon a stud career but a decision to trial him at Towcester a couple of weeks ago has facilitated a remarkable comeback attempt.
Ballymac Ariel has been the big noise in the market during the last seven days and that’s no surprise given the manner in which she convincingly saw off kennelmate Ballymac Wild during Sunday’s trial session.
History tells us that it’s difficult to win a Derby with a member of the fairer sex but her trainer, Liam Dowling, went agonisingly close with Ballymac Tas a couple of years ago - and Coolavanny Chick finished a highly respectable third last year.
In a post-Brexit era, there’s some irony that a Belgian-born trainer appears to provide the leading hope of a British winner.
Thorn Falcon is a son of 2018 winner Dorotas Wildcat and he entered the reckoning with victory over course-and-distance in the KAB Maiden Derby.
A winner by four-and-a-half lengths in the final, he showed versatility throughout the competition and was impressively resolute in the semi-finals when everything wasn’t quite going to plan.
Were this preview written six months ago, BOCKOS BELLY would have been a name that figured highly but his star lost some of its sparkle following two frankly dismal performances in the Kirby Memorial at Limerick.
Those corresponded with a switch to Graham Holland for the competition but back in more familiar surroundings, his recent trials have been fair and the draw has been kind on the opening weekend.
It would be some training performance for him to improve enough to win the Derby but bet365 rate him as 7/1 to be the top Janssens runner (in a field of eight) and that price is simply too big.
Richard Rees had the favourite as they went into the traps for last year’s final so that has meant that Hilight Arkle has not had the luxury of flying under the radar.
The son of Good News has participated in two of the stronger trial stakes; beating Newinn Session in the first before being overhauled close home by Beach Avenue in the second. Life won’t be easy in the opening round with two lively Irish outsiders in Boylesports Bingo and Knight Tornado pitched against him.
Tenpin carried all before him as a puppy and David Mullins’ inmate was a convincing winner over his peers on finals night at Nottingham.
That particular competition has a fine history of providing Derby winners as Rio Quattro progressed onward to win the 2015 Derby having obliged the preceding year.
Withdrawn from the Northern Flat at Newcastle due to a disagreement regarding seedings, his route to the Derby has been via one-off races at Nottingham and Central Park.
The draw is crucial in greyhound racing and while he has the rails in his opening round heat, backers get involved in the knowledge that his chance will be highly dependent upon it.
Hayley Keightley has one of the smaller strings in the competition but that hasn’t stopped a quiet momentum behind Roxholme Sheikh.
Keightley has a rich history of producing hardy competition performers including dual English Derby finalist, Hiya Butt. That dog was noted for his pace, and the son of Droopys Roddick is no slouch having registered the fastest figures of the year around Perry Barr during the ARC Laurels.
Posted at 1420 BST on 01/06/21
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