After reaching the third round of the race, Ian Brindle gives an update on the Star Sports & TRC English Greyhound Derby.
Rex strikes out against opponents.
The top classic in greyhound racing reaches a significant turning point on Saturday when all of the surviving competitors run on the same evening for the first time.
The good weather has prevented some of the variations that have plagued recent Derbys, but the sponsors’ chances of barely 1/7 that the raiders will win the trophy on July 1 indicate the persistent strength of an Irish threat.
Making his imprint is Marino
Although he didn’t match the pyrotechnics of the first round, Ballymac Marino (19:10), trained by Liam Dowling, has always been regarded highly. His strength has been his capacity to speed himself. The young athlete received a spot in one of the less competitive heats as compensation.
Maree Champion is listed next to him as the “top puppy” on the ante-post rankings.
Although Seamus Cahill’s dog is a few months away from turning two, he is now acting normally and advanced into this stage by a substantial three lengths. Heat seven (20:05) presents him with competition from Cochise, a much-improved horse, and Signet Goofy, a semi-finalist from the previous year, so there is no space for complacency.
Rex is favored to win.
Swords Rex has been outstanding in both of his Derby performances thus far and is currently a general 4/1 favorite.
Although Irish Derby second Ballymac Finn is present, I was surprised that his most time in round two wasn’t rounded down given the surface seemed to be running slowly. He will also have short odds in the first heat (18:20).
Supporters of Clona Duke will be hoping he hasn’t used up all of his luck in the second round. Previous Derby champions have occasionally benefited from a little luck during the qualifying stages.
After breaking the track record in the first round, he made a huge mess of things last weekend. It was this kind of recklessness that led to his elimination from the Kirby Memorial earlier this year.
There is plenty of early speed around him in Heat Two (18:35), so it won’t be a walk in the park if he misses the kick. It’s noteworthy that the layers have tried to push him in the outright market as a result.
Romeo Magico, the current champion, has been one of the major market movers and is currently short at 8/1 after being readily available at 20/1 before to the tournament.
The dog avoided a potential banana skin in the first round, but in the second round, when he picked up our ante-post top bitch choice, Undulation, he was back in business, and the third round draw has been fair so far.
He will be pitted next to his litter sister, Fabulous Azurra, in the final of the eight heats (20:26).
In heat six (19:48), the aforementioned Undulation will get her opportunity, and much will depend on her ability to hold off Gaytime Nero until the first curve. However, 2022 finalist Savana Beau gave notice in round two that trouble may be lurking.
The Diane Henry-trained athlete apparently suffered from muscular problems that stopped him from competing frequently, but last Saturday’s victory was a start in the right way, and few will be finishing this race better than him.
Janssens pursues excellence in command
Romeo Command (18:50) still has to improve in a few areas, but Patrick Janssens has pushed him over the edge, and tournaments are never won by one-off clocks.
Few would object to this son of 2018 Derby winner Dorotas Wildcat getting the chance to go far given the tumultuous campaign the Belgian-born handler has experienced thus far with kennel mainstay Lautaro tragically fracturing his hock.
There will be plenty of thrills along the road, perhaps fewer spills than usual, as the top three from each heat advance to the next round.
This year’s Derby will be shown live on Sportystuff.tv (Sky Channel 427, Freeview 264, Freesat 250) and by SIS in the betting shops and online across the majority of UK and Irish bookmakers