Friday night was reckoned to be the weaker of the three first round sessions of the opening round of the Star Sports English Greyhound Derby – though nobody told Droopys Verve (Loughteen Blanco-Droopys Cyclone, Jun 16).
Angela Harrison’s Ladbrokes Puppy Derby runner-up (T6) stamped the form for what always appeared to be a dual with King Kid (T5) in what would prove to be the fastest Derby qualifier to date.
Heat 11 followed the formbook – almost – as the local A3 runner and last Harolds Cross Puppy Derby winner Droopys Wilbury (T4) was turned over by second favourite Jaytee Jaguar (Droopys Jet-Kilara Belle, Jan 16). Despite running wide throughout, Paul Hennessy’s lightly raced Irish runner was a worthy winner.
Heat 12 featured another of the event’s big hitters in Bruisers Bullet (T3). He won last year’s Derby Invitation off a 5.14 split. He had won his previous outing in a calculated 28.77 of an identical sectional. So when he missed his break (5.32), he would always have to show another side to his ability. Here he chases home his versatile kennelmate Saleen Ash (Royal Impact-Lystoll Ash, Aug 15). But take nothing away from the Peter Bussey Memorial winner who clocked a 5.22 sectional and took full advantage. The unlucky dog was the seeded Clobrien Hero who was nudged into the inside rail when looking set to qualify.
Swithins Brae (Kinloch Brae-Full Of Beans, Sep 14), runner-up to Bruisers in the Derby Invitation, had a bit too much class for the opposition in heat 13. Although only clocking a 5.33 sectional, he was soon able to dominate in a race where at least a couple of the remainder seemed to run well below their best. It was the third heat winner to date for Irishman Peter Cronin.
Heat 14 appeared to be one of the weakest on the night though few would have though it could be won in 29.98. It would be dominated by two locally trained runners. Punters naturally veered towards Mark Wallis’ A1 winner Boylesports Duke (T6) while overlooking his A4 winning trackmate God Of War (Superior Product-Wee Bee, Apr 15). Heather Dimmock’s runner, whose recent successes have been over 575m at Romford, was never challenged.
When 28.68 (480) Central Park winner Lenson Wilson hit the front in heat 15, most favourite punters would have been expecting to collect. But the recently adapted hurdler found one too good in Honour Turbo (Lemon Rumba-Lemon Velvet, Mar 15). The 29.33 (483m) Doncaster winner got up by a head.
Derby winning trainer Seamus Cahill has suffered a nightmare year with injuries and few would resent the return to form of one of his remaining stars, Sporting Dave (Ballymac Vic-Sporting Dame, Dec 15). After blasting away in a 5.18 sectional, the 2-1 chance came home well clear of centurion Shaneboy Freddie who missed his break and was crowded out of contention on the run-up.
Deanridge Boffin (Vulturi-Coyote Queen, Apr 16), who, as Ballymac Coyote reached last year’s Kingdom Puppy Derby Final at Tralee, made a winning UK debut for Alison Kelly-Pilgrim. In a messy race of slow breakers in which Ballydoyle Maura (T4) appeared particularly unlucky after leading up in a 5.37 sectional (!) – Boffin ran on well to clock the slowest time of the night – 30.01.
Whoever suggested that four runner races can’t be as entertaining as six dog events. The final heat of the night featured the battle of the ‘Alfies’ – which if translated to athletics would be Usain Bolt v Mo Farrah over 400m. Kent Derby winner Bockos Alfie (Droopys Scolari-Ballymac Scarlet, Jul 14), who has won between 400m and 515m and still has a career strike rate approaching 1:2 played the role of The Bolt. Nottingham crowd pleaser Alfies Prince, known for his stunning finishes, played the part of Farrah. Alfie would clock the fastest sectional of the night – would it be enough. . . ?
All footage courtesy of RPGTV