The Irish love affair with the English Derby began all the way back in 1929 with one of the most famous greyhounds in the history of the sport, Mick The Miller, coming home in front at White City for Irish handler Paddy Horan.
Since then, the Irish have captured the title a further thirteen times, including last year when Priceless Blake came home clear for Paul Hennessy. That’s was the first English Derby to be run at Nottingham and, with four of the six finalists representing these shores, there’s a very strong chance they could add a fifteenth on Saturday night.
Standing in their way are the two UK trained runners Southwood Jet and Smurfs Machine. Both greyhounds are in fact Irish bred and started their careers on these shores but, as they are now trained in the UK, represent the home team.
Southwood Jet, in particular, has strong claims and will likely start favourite from a rails draw although the presence of Ireland’s Deerjet Sydney in trap two is a major concern. The Irish team is completed by Ballydoyle Valor in trap three, Wolfe in four and Coolavanny Chick in the outside box.
Strong claims can be made for all four Irish trained runners although Deerjet Sydney and Wolfe are the most prominent in the betting. In many ways, Deerjet Sydney is the key to the race. The Pat Buckley trained star has outstanding pace from start to finish and has been in brilliant form over the past four weeks.
He is clearly a leading fancy, especially if striking the front early, but his tendency to shoot for the fence is an important factor to keep in mind. Should he clash with Southwood Jet, who races from trap one, in the early yards, it throws this contest wide open.
Wolfe is probably best equipped to take advantage. A star performer for almost two years, he remains at the peak of his powers and there’s a growing feeling this could be his time to claim a Derby success.
Wolfe is a rare beast with incredible pace from start to finish. His passage through the Derby has been pretty spectacular and he has shown that age is just a number. Just a month shy of his fourth birthday, he would be a popular winner of the classic.
Coolavanny Chick is the sole bitch in the line-up and her owner Noel Hehir is hoping she can provide him with another incredible memory in the sport. Hehir, who was joint owner of 2008 Irish Derby winner
Shelbourne Aston, also trains Coolavanny Chick and she has really fallen in love with Nottingham and is certainly worthy of consideration.
Ballydoyle Valor completes the Irish team and he too has massive pace and power. If the aforementioned pair of Southwood Jet and Deerjet Sydney clash in the opening strides, Ballydoyle Valor could be perfectly positioned to capitalise from trap three. If he were to strike the front in the early stages, it’s highly unlikely he would be picked up. That is very much a ‘what if’ scenario, however, as he does lack a yard of early speed.
In truth, there were would be no shock winner in this contest. All six greyhounds have outstanding claims and it promises to be a tremendous finish to what has been a wonderful competition but the vote goes to Wolfe to bare his teeth.
Meanwhile at home the classic action continues to come thick and fast. After some superb opening round displays, the second round of the Sporting Press Irish Oaks at Shelbourne Park should allow some of Ireland’s fastest ladies to again strut their stuff.
Droopys Curio is a bit special and it’s no surprise to see her installed a warm favourite to claim Oaks glory in three weeks. Certainly, if she comes away racing from a perfect draw on the fence this evening, it would be no surprise if she were to break the magical 28 second barrier at Shelbourne Park.
The classic action doesn’t end there as Limerick plays host to the opening round of the 2020 Irish St Leger. As you would expect there are a number of massive names amongst a top class entry and favourite to land the famous classic is Irish Derby finalist Ballymac Wild.
If he were to do so he would be handing Kerry handler Liam Dowling his second win in the competition following the 2019 victory of Ballymac Anton last year. The latter is back to defend his crown and, given his liking for the galloping nature of the circuit, it would be no shock if he went close.
There are some really top class trackers standing in their way, however, including the likes of Newinn Session, Black Parachute, Great Name That, Feudal Sprit and Bull Run Norris amongst others. Whatever happens in the coming weeks, it should be a tremendous competition with a deserving winner set to be crowned at the end of November.