Ireland’s pursuit of a sixteenth English Derby victory continues at Towcester on Saturday night and all evidence would suggest the ball is firmly in the Irish court. After three stunning displays in the previous rounds, Ballinabola Ed is an even hotter favourite to capture the blue riband.
In fact, six of the top seven in the betting are trained in the emerald isle and most of the half dozen are expected to progress into the final twelve. It is the Pat Buckley trained Ballinabola Ed that is the one to beat, however, and that will also be the case in the quarter finals. He has been handed a kind draw, be it in a hot contest, in the second of the four heats.
Should he start on terms, he can again make his superior pace count to halfway before emerging a comfortable winner over his compatriot Ballymac Fairone.
He isn’t Pat Buckley’s only hope of English Derby glory as Singalong Sally is also performing at the peak of her powers. She outgunned the UK’s Greyhound of the Year Signet Ace in the third round and is expected to come home in front in the last of the four quarter finals.
Drawn in four, the brilliant bitch, who ran up last year’s Irish Derby, should have the early speed to clear those on her inner before having too much strength for likely pace-setter Signet Goofy.
Ireland also has a strong hand in the remaining qualifiers. Kildare, Cape Cloud and Priceless Jet all have realistic claims in the opening heat, while Bobsleigh Dream and Romeo Magico are two of the big hopes in Heat 3.
Kildare is favourite for Heat 1 and has an ideal draw on the fence should he start on terms but the prospect of Cape Cloud diving inwards from trap four could leave the door open for the wide drawn Priceless Jet. A former track record holder at Towcester, he could represent value.
Bobsleigh Dream and Romeo Magico take on the current track record holder Lautaro. The latter faces a tough draw in the stripes, however, and the Irish duo could take advantage. Much will depend on the start but at the likely prices, Romeo Magico is selected to just get the better of Bobsleigh Dream.
The action on this side of the Irish Sea over the coming days is also of the highest standard. The aptly named Race of Champions is the highlight of tonight’s action and features some many of the very best greyhounds in training anywhere on the planet.
The twelve runners boast seven classics between them, although three of them belong to the 2021 Derby and Oaks champion Susie Sapphire, who added another classic to her tally earlier this year when running out a tremendous winner of the Easter Cup.
She is housed in trap two in the easier of the two semi-finals, although must take on the reigning Sprinter of the Year and one of the very fastest in training Good Cody. The latter is stepping up to 550yds for the first time and will need to be at his electric best to lower the colours of Susie Sapphire.
The second heat is considerably more competitive with all six greyhounds capable of challenging and winning at the very highest level. To highlight the strength of the line-up, Gaston Pecas, who captured the Produce Stakes last weekend, will be one of the outsiders.
Explosive Boy is the defending champion and track record holder highlighting his claims but he needs to be at his sharpest in the early yards as his old foe Skywalker Barry has the best of the draw on the fence, while Part Blake is a very special greyhound with things click. Add in the hugely fast Scarty Yank, the early paced Bockos Budsit and the aforementioned Produce Stakes winner Gaston Pecas and it is a line-up that would do justice to any classic decider.
The highlight of tomorrow’s racing on these shores comes at Shelbourne Park where Ireland’s fastest females line out in the semi-finals of the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks. This year’s classic has produced some wonderful racing and Saturday’s action could be even better with the potential of some real drama.
Despite suffering defeat last weekend, Scooby Duchess remains favourite for outright success. The Jenifer O’Donnell trained star is slowly finding her form after a seasonal rest and can get first run from trap four to see off Droopy Nextone and Ballymac Art in the second heat.
Droopys Gloss must come away on terms in the opening heat but, if doing so, has the early speed to lead around the turn. It would take something supernatural from one of her rivals to deny the Juvenile Derby champ thereafter. Ballymac Whispa and Raha Mofo are selected to follow her home.