After weeks of preparations the stage is now set for the start of the StarSports/ TRC English Derby at Towcester next Thursday. The opening round draw for the classic was made by this scribe on Thursday afternoon in central London and a total of 192 names went into the hat.
In all there are 43 Irish trained runners as they seek to end the Towcester hoodoo. The Northamptonshire venue has hosted the Derby on three separate occasions and the Irish have yet to win there despite having the favourite in the decider in two of those three years.
Only last year, Ireland actually provided four of the six finalists only to be left in the dust of the Patrick Janssens trained duo of Thorn Falcon and Kilara Lion. The former is back to defend his crown this year and stands out as the best of the home challenge but he will be severely tested by a very strong Irish team.
The final is set for June 25th but there will be plenty of exceptional racing, a number of shocks and some real heart ache before then. The best of luck to all involved.
Back on this side of the Irish Sea, there is a huge amount of top class racing to keep greyhound racing enthusiasts engaged. This evening’s fare is a prime example with quality racing on offer at Tralee, Newbridge, Shelbourne Park and Kilkenny.
The Lee Strand 550 is the feature of Tralee’s action and the clash of Ballymac Finn and Tullig Cryname in the opening heat is worth the price of admission alone.
The Friends of Newbridge A1 Derby continues at the Kildare venue and impressive opening round scorers Jirano Supreme and Hawkfield Breeze clash in the opening heat. From a favourable draw on the fence, Jirano Supreme might just get the better of the argument. Paradise Moldova and Grangeview Dec are selected to win the other heats.
On one of the quieter weekends of the year at Shelbourne Park, the semi finals of the Islandbridge Open Sprint are the undoubted highlight. There were a few shocks in the opening round and both heats look very competitive this evening.
Ela Supremo may have suffered a surprise defeat last week, looking a little flat in his effort, but he can bounce back to form to win the opening heat at the expense of last weekend’s impressive winner Mccools Boy.
The second heat is even more competitive. Two Amigos, Gizmo Cash and Off The Pitch are firmly established amongst Ireland’s best over two bends and all three have strong claims, while the rapidly improving duo of Not A Bot and Evo Thunder can’t be dismissed either. The vote narrowly goes to Gizmo Cash but he needs to repeat his latest foot-perfect display.
A number of potential stars will be in action at Kilkenny this evening in the second round of the Champion Open Unraced. The undoubted star of the opening round was Hes The Greatest. He flew around in 28.94 and it will be interesting to see if he can follow up this evening.
He faces a tougher test this evening but looks a really bright prospect and is selected to lead home the likes of Luminous Trigger. Others worthy of a mention include Pablo Escobark, who was a real eye-catcher last weekend. Cheque For Sir, Another Holiday and Grangeview Port are worth following in their respective heats.
Burgess Josie will take some stopping in the final of the Limerick Oaks on Saturday evening, especially if repeating her latest impressive semi-final display. The Pat Buckley trained bitch has fine speed throughout and is chosen to see of a top-class field.
If justifying favouritism, she is likely to be aimed at the Sporting Press Irish Oaks which commences at Shelbourne Park next weekend.
The top-class action doesn’t end there. Clonmel should attract a big crowd on Sunday afternoon for the opening round of the Larry O’Rourke National Produce Stakes. There’s a really top-class entry for the classic and recent Con & Annie Kirby Memorial winner Swords Rex is favourite for outright honours.
He won’t have things all his own way, however, as the likes of Droopys Nice One, Newinn Homer, Carrauntoohil, Magical Kuba, Future Tune and Juvenile classic winner Wi Can Dream ae amongst the most exciting y9oung trackers in training.