Twenty-six of the fifty-seven races that make up the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby are already behind us and yet we are no closer to knowing the likely winner. The opening round was packed with the usual talking points, brilliant performances, shock winners and a number of eye-catching runs in defeat.
Sadly, two of the leading fancies for outright success, Part Blake and Coolavanny Calvn, have been withdrawn from the second round of the classic but the action should be no less dramatic both tonight and tomorrow evening at Shelbourne Park.
The second round will be run over the two nights and it’s safe to assume an equal spread of brilliant performances and shock results. There are certainly plenty of short priced favourites but it’s as certain as death and taxes that a few will have their colours lowered.
The eight opening heats of the round dominate tonight’s card at Shelbourne Park and there will be no fewer than five odds-on favourites. These include Good Cody, who set the standard in the opening round.
He faces a tricky draw in the last of this evening’s heats, however. Drawn in three, the Pat Guilfoyle trained star must come away racing or risk getting squeezed out in the early yards. Galloping Sydney seems likely to cut inwards from trap four and this could leave the favourable vulnerable.
In contrast, Coolavanny Hoffa seems to have a near-perfect draw in the opening heat. With a slow starter in five and Velasco in four, certain to cut inwards, Coolavanny Hoffa will have the room of Shelbourne Park from his outside draw. He can justify odds-on favouritism to see off Wi Can Dream and the fast-finishing Beach Avenue.
The clash of the night comes in Heat 2 where Explosive Boy and his talented kennel companion Magical Kuba take on Laurels and Champion Stakes winner One Time Only. All three have outstanding claims, although reigning Dog of the Year Explosive Boy is likely to start a warm favourite from a draw on the fence.
Heat 3 is another high-quality contest with each of the five runners holding claims of some sort. Bockos Budsit gets the nod on the strength of his tremendous early dash, although Sentimental Lad and Singalong Sally are worthy adversaries.
Elsewhere on tonight’s card, English Derby champion Romeo Magico looks the part in Heat 4, while Droopys Nice One will also take some stopping. In terms of one at a slightly bigger price, Droopys Edison appeals in Heat 7 from a good draw on the rail.
Ballinabola Ed was one of the real stars of the opening round and he is likely to be one of the headline acts in Saturday’s concluding second round heats. Despite walking from traps last weekend, he displayed stunning pace to recover before coming home clear.
With a better start on Saturday, he can run out a facile winner of Heat 13 at the expense of his talented kennel companion Tullig Raven.
Vincenzo may have suffered defeat in the opening round but he displayed enough in defeat to suggest he is a major player in the Derby. He races from trap five in Heat 11 and stands out as a certain scorer. Should the Pat Buckley trained star do things right, it would be no surprise to see him posting a really quick time and potentially see his odds tumble for outright success.
Saturday’s opening heat is perhaps the best of the entire round. Kildare, Born Warrior and Twoinarow are all inside the top ten in the outright betting and all three have strong claims of coming home in front. But there is also a strong chance at least one of the trio will fail to progress.
With the hugely fast duo of Hello Hammond and Barefoot Supremo certain to finish at speed and the very talented Maries Wedding drawn on the fence, anything could happen. Those holding onto ante-pot vouchers on any of the six runners would be happy just to progress in third.
Last word goes to Ballymac Finn in Heat 15. He was one of the most eye-catching in the opening round as he chased home Good Cody. Showing fine pace throughout, he looks a bright prospect and remains open to improvement as a November ’20 whelp.
If he traps on terms from a favourable draw on the fence, he should have little problem leading up his kennel companion Hoodoo Brown on his immediate outside and can assert on the corner before going on to claim a fifth career success.
By the end of Saturday’s action, the Derby field will be down to forty-eight and less than a third of the original entry. Yet the classic is only getting started. Given the incredible strength in depth in this year’s renewal, we could be in for one of the greatest finishes to the blue riband in the long history of the classic.