AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

Time to stop the sniping and enjoy our Derby

THE MONDAY COLUMN

BY JONATHAN KAY

Article reproduced with kind permission of the Racing Post (originally appeared on Monday 15 May)


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e COULD be around ten days away from the start of the Star Sports English Derby at Towcester and it is high time everyone got behind the competition instead of taking petty potshots.

Of course it is going to be a different type of Derby just as Wimbledon was different to White City when it took over in 1985 but, if the state of entries is any guide with more than 140 names down so far, there are plenty of connections ready to chance their arm.

The perception that railers are favoured at the track has doubtless led to the massive bias, numbers-wise, in unseeded entries.

However, time and again the trial stakes have shown that those on the outside are capable of not just winning but also of winning from off the pace.

PJ Fahy’s impressive Tyrur Shay became the latest case in point on Saturday as, although middle seeded, he took a very scenic route late on.

You get the impression that some people are just willing the competition to fail which says as much about greyhound ‘fans’ as anything else. Sadly, despite awarding the Derby rights to Towcester, the GBGB has also seemed lukewarm in its helpfulness.

Sometimes you have to wonder who the GBGB is for because the noises emanating out of HQ do not suggest it is enamoured at the prospect of an additional qualifying round yet, without exception in my experience, that is what those taking part in the competition wanted if it meant that at least three qualified from every heat.

The Derby is the pinnacle of the sport and is entitled to special treatment even if that may put one or two other noses out of joint. What would the problem have been way back in January acceding to the wishes of the greyhound community and allowing qualifying round details to be published rather than the current charade of requiring discussions when exact numbers are known?

It is not as if the greyhounds currently being readied for the Derby were likely to appear at other tracks in the meantime as they are all at Towcester and staying there. And the extra round mooted will only make the Towcester version of the Derby as long as the Irish Derby given the unique nature of the three runs in a week third round, quarter-final and semi-final schedule.

Towcester has already proved brilliant in many regards as Derby host as it just looks and feels like a top-class venue, while the live streaming of trials and race meetings puts every other track in the UK to shame.

Personally, I am concerned about the amount of squeezing up there seems to be straight out of the traps and the fast-up dogs may not be able to extricate themselves from tricky positions following poor starts as they could at Wimbledon, while the jury is out about whether the recently renewed banking will help keep wides in to the extent it is hoped.

But Towcester is the only game in town so far as the Derby is concerned and, at a time of turmoil over the Irish Sea and a certain apathy at home, a brand new venue is just what greyhound racing ordered.

There will be controversy, hard luck stories, doubtless some anger but it was ever thus and they are subplots which make the Derby so special.

I do think punters will be well advised to tread a little warily first up which is another reason why a qualifying round could be a good thing as it gives the chance to see everything running under race conditions but with a little margin for error with relatively soft qualification conditions.

The 192 greyhounds who go in round one, whether straight up or after a qualifying run, should be really starting to get to grips with conditions and this could be a competition which gets better and better as it progresses.

The track record has remained at 29.04sec for a couple of weeks but there is scope for a considerable chunk to be taken off that before the final on July 1 as when you look at the quality of the field already assembled it really is a who’s who of the greyhound world.

Forget any reservations, and enjoy.

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