Things are really starting to heat up in the Star Sports & TRC English Derby at Towcester and Ireland have almost reached parity, in terms of numbers, with the home team. Following the withdrawal of Faughan Rebel from Saturday’s quarter finals, Ireland will be responsible for eleven of the remaining twenty three greyhounds.
More importantly the betting market would suggest that Ireland remain in the driving seat with the top half of the ante-post betting dominated by the raiding party. There are strong Irish runners in each of the four quarter finals with the Pat Buckley trained duo of Deerjet Sydney and Knocknaboul Syd chosen to win their respective heats.
Deerjet Sydney is bidding to become the fifth greyhound in history to successfully defend his English Derby title and the first to win the classic at two different tracks after winning at Nottingham last year.
He lines out in the opening heat where his compatriot and namesake Toolmaker Sydney is seen as one of the main dangers. Expect Deerjet Sydney to flash from trap three before going on to dominate.
Knocknaboul Syd is one of four Irish trained greyhounds in the final heat although he has a very different running style to his compatriots. A fast starter with tremendous early speed, he can challenge for the early lead before taking control into the back straight.
The remaining Irish trained runners in this heat, Ballymac Wild, De Machine and Beach Avenue, will all be finishing at speed and it will be interesting to see how many of the four Irish trained runners can progress.
Three of the five runners in Heat 2 represent Irish shores although it’s one of the home team, track record holder Bockos Belly, that heads the betting. Newinn Session, Unlock Unlock and Gaytime Milo won’t make life easy for him, however.
Unlock Unlock has been in particularly impressive form and is likely to arrive late and fast, while Newinn Session and Gaytime Milo will attempt to turn close to the pace.
Ballymac Fairone and All About Ted are Ireland’s representatives in the remaining heat and both have outstanding claims in what is perhaps the most open of the four quarter finals. Much will depend on how Ballymac Fairone starts from the inside box but All About Ted seems to be hitting peak form at the right time and has an ideal draw in five.
Meanwhile, back on Irish soil Shelbourne Park will feature some outstanding racing on Saturday night with the Shelbourne Champion 550 and the Corn Cuchulainn getting underway. Both competitions are packed with stars and the resulting action should be of the highest quality.
Following his recent elimination from the English Derby, defending champion Ballymac Kingdom is the star name in the Corn Cuchulainn. A greyhound with the pace to challenge and beat the very best in training over four bends, he also stays the 750yd trip and looks a worthy favourite for outright success.
He won’t have things too easy, however, with the likes of Bockos Brandy, Boylesportsbingo, Priceless Jet and Ballymac Wisdom amongst others to contend with.
The Shelbourne Champion 550 also looks red-hot with so many potential and established stars amongst the entry. The competition, which is open to January ’19 whelps and younger, features some massive names including Kirby Memorial champion Stonepark Leo, Produce Stakes runner-up Valegro and Produce Stakes third Deadly Destroyer.
Add to them the Liam Dowling trained trio of Ballymac Ariel, Ballymac Merlin and Ballymac Belvult, the potentially brilliant Romeo Magico, Darbys Delight, Vipers Buzz and the hugely promising Crokers Spirit and there could be some real Derby clues on offer.
The sprinters will again have their chance to shine at Limerick on Saturday night as the Widdess Fitzgibbon Pharmacy Treaty Cup draws to a conclusion. The 350yd contest features a number of Ireland’s best two-bend trackers but Seomra Nate might prove too strong for his rivals if his semi final effort is an accurate guide.