🐶 The start of the Star Sports Greyhound Derby this year was different to any before, with the lack of a crowd outside to cheer them off as the traps opened for the first heat. Instead, restaurant goers were kept completely separate from those of us who were trackside. But thank goodness it’s happening at all. With Nottingham now being threatened with lockdown, I am praying we can, at least, get to the end of the competition.
🐶 The first round definitely belonged to the Irish. Pat Buckley sent out three out of three winners on Friday night, his final runner obliging on Saturday. Also, Nicky Holland managed to get all five of her Saturday night runners through with some eye-catching performances.
🐶 We can, frankly, draw a line through all the form from Saturday night. The track was incredibly heavy with puddles on the rail after relentless rain all day in Nottingham. It was up to a second and a half slow by the end of the meeting, which may well have been telling in how Bockos Doomie was passed after leading the final heat. Newinn Session (pictured below), the ante post favourite won that particularly hot contest and Kilara Icon ran from last at the second bend to pick up second place late on, no mean feat in such heavy going. Session has been rewarded with a far from ideal draw in trap 5 in the first, second round heat on Saturday, outside kennel mate and 2019 Irish Derby hero, Lenson Bocko and Knocknaboul Syd on the inside of those two. The later posted the fastest sectional of the first round, 4.88sec on the better ground of Friday night. It’s tough, but Session did win his only ever start from trap 5 at Clonmel and confidence in the dog hasn’t been dented at all. He is still 13/2 ante post favourite with Star Sports.
🐶 For me, Kilara Icon was definitely the most eye-catching dog not to win a heat. On a night when it was difficult to come from off the pace, the dog put in an incredible run. The Irish Derby finalist is now fully English, in the hands of trainer Peter Harnden. I spoke to Peter this week about how highly he rates the dog and what we can expect from him for the rest of the competition. What an exciting time for Peter as well. Have a watch.
🐶 I was on RPGTV with Ian Fortune on Wednesday night and there he was waving his cocktail stick Irish flag, gloating as I expected. And well he might. Fair enough. Us English will take it on the chin and bid to up our game! Notably, Ian spoke very highly of a dog that I think is going under the radar a little, Feudal Spirit who goes in heat 5 on Saturday. He looks to be the all round package and it will be interesting to see what he can do on better going. Ian thinks he is too big at 25/1. And he’s not a bad judge…if a tad smug! 😉
🐶 The Irish dogs are also proving to be popular in the Star Sports markets. Glengar Bale has been heavily backed to win his heat and is now 8/11 to win. He’s been punted in the ante post market as well and is now just 11/1 to get Pat Buckley that title he is so desperate for. We’ve also seen good money for Buckley’s Deerjet Sydney to win his heat and also Deanridge Rapid to show what he can do.
🐶 It isn’t all about the Irish though. There were some eye-catching runs from a couple of English contenders that have seen money since. Gonzo (main pic) is one of those. Julie Bateson was so proud of her boy who looks to have an ideal draw and make-up for his next round race, as does Blue Tick George who seemed to thrive on the gallops of Nottingham. Those two are now 16/1 and 20/1 in the betting respectively. Southwood Jet is a dog that Richard Rees has spoken highly of for a long time and he is yet to lose a race here in England and has a great chance in a slightly weaker heat on Saturday. He is also now 20/1 with Star Sports.
🐶 I feel so sad for Carol Weathall that her Distant Star is out of the Derby after an impressive heat win. An old wrist injury flared up meaning he has had to be withdrawn, much to the disappointment of connections, who were thrilled with him at the weekend. Trap 1 in heat 2 on Saturday will now be vacant as will trap 3 in heat five after Little Emir was withdrawn today for reasons yet to be revealed. UPDATE: A sample taken from the greyhound LITTLE EMIR, trained by Gary Carmichael, from the first round of the Greyhound Derby has returned a positive result. Under GBGB Rule 173(ii), a greyhound is disqualified from the competition at the stage of the competition.
🐶 The Derby seeding panel reviewed the placings of five dogs after the first round. There were requests to switch to rails from middle for Sparta Master, Newinn Jacko and Tommys Panther while Lenson Bocko and Swanley Chick were also in the spotlight considering their current rails seedings. All have been kept to or made rails, whilst Jumeirah Sprite will be seeded middle. I spoke to Sharon Thompson about her Sparta Master and she was philosophical. The dog definitely moved left from the boxes but then runs more of a middle course around the first turn. As she said to me, ‘there isn’t really a right answer.’ The draw has worked out well for Master in trap 4 for round two.
🐶 I felt so sad for James Gaskin on Friday having his first ever runners in the Star Sports Derby and being particularly excited about Waikiki Keano who he had only had in the kennel a couple of weeks. Sadly, the dog broke his leg when finding trouble at the first bend. He’s been looked after really well since, going home that night with the Nottingham vet and, after an operation, he is now out and about, recuperating at Chris Akers kennel. His racing days may well be behind him but it sounds like a place on James’s sofa is waiting for him. Happy retirement Keano!
🐶 There was good news this week regarding the Star Sports Derby prize money after Nottingham confirmed that all deductions previously implemented have been scrapped. Thanks to the introduction of the Greyhound Retirement Scheme, the deduction towards homing is no longer required as homing is funded through the GRS. The 15% retention for trainers has also been deemed to be a matter between trainers and their owners.
🐶 Good luck to all runners in the second round at Nottingham and I’m sending a little extra luck to the track staff at Nottingham who had to work incredibly hard last weekend. Fingers crossed for them that Saturday night will be dry!
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