By Rob Abrey

The conclusion of this year’s excellent Greyhound Derby may only be a day away but to help fill that gap between now and then is open racing at Romford. As usual the Essex venue has open races on tonight, with the first one starting from 6.47pm for your enjoyment before the big final at Towcester tomorrow night. With maiden races tonight including a minor maiden stayers competition there are several greyhounds making their Romford race debuts as well as some stepping up in trip for the first time. As ever yours truly has endeavoured to find out more about some of them.

Followers of the Romford open race scene will definitely know the name Droopys Zaza. Trained by local handler Philip Simmonds, the July ’15 whelp has made several appearances on a Friday night this year. What makes tonight different is the son of Tullymurry Act and Droopys Solange is running over 575 metres for the first time. The early paced sort had been plying his trade over 400 metres but tonight sees him over six bends in heat two of the Romford Friday night 500 maiden stayers at 8.06pm. This year he has won an open race and an A1 graded race and looks like he will benefit from a longer distance. Whether that will be over 575 metres, time will tell. From twelve races this year over 400 metres at Romford he has won two and finished second, six times. With him finishing second several times and a recent trial time of 23.96 seconds, makes tonight’s entry over six bends an intriguing one.

Trainer Philip Simmonds on Droopys Zaza said: “I’m not confident he will stay. The jury is out on that one. If it is a fast track on Friday he might get it but we will see.

“He does have early but he looks more of a 515 metres dog than 575 metres but we will see. It would be lovely if he does get it but don’t know if he will. We have decided to give him a whirl and will do our best.

“We are hoping he doesn’t hesitate at the sough as it can happen sometimes when dogs are stepped up in trip.”

Including Droopys Zaza, trainer Simmonds has five runners tonight. As is becoming a regular feature in your favourite read he was asked the cheeky question on who of his five he thinks has the best chance. To that he replied: “I like Walk On Esther. She is in a final and is coming on really well. She looks a nice promising recruit to the kennels and has a nice draw on Friday.

Simmonds also added: “I also like Babs You Go. She was sourced in Ireland and looks a good buy. She now looks like she might do well at open race level.”

Walk on Esther is in the final of the Romford Friday night 500 maidens over 400 metres at 8.38pm. She is currently 7/2 with several bookmakers.

Babs You Go is in a maidens race at 9.11pm and is 5/1 with Skybet.

Yarmouth trainer John Mullins makes his usual Friday night trip to Romford. Tonight he travels to Essex with seven runners. Of those seven runners two are making their Romford debuts and as ever I’ve found out more about both of them.

The first of the two to make their Romford debut is Mute Button. Mute Button is not only making his Romford debut he is also attempting six bends for the first time in the first heat of the Friday night 500 maidens over 575 metres at 7.51pm. The October ’15 whelp has won an A2 at home track Yarmouth over 462 metres but appeared to find the early pace types of A1 a bit to fast to pick up. From four attempts in top grade he came second three times and third once. The step up could be just what the son of Skywalker Puma and Shesagoodone needs.

John Mullins on Mute Button said: “He has been running on at Yarmouth to the pick-up. I think he will get 575 metres and he has a got a bit of early. We thought we would give him a change. The change will do him good.”

The second of the John Mullins Two to make their Romford debut is Swift Gangster. The September ’16 whelp runs at Romford for the first time at 9.26pm in a maidens race over 400 metres. The puppy is coming on nicely at home track Yarmouth with two wins from six over 462 metres in A4 and A3 graded races. The son of Vans Escalade and Swift My Mate had a dabble at Hove recently over 515 metres but on that occasion came fifth. It looks now he is running against higher class greyhounds a shorter four bend trip may be better suited for him.

On Swift Gangster Mullins said: “He is still a puppy and is still learning. He doesn’t quite get 462 metres. 400 metres could be ideal for him. If he gets out and gets on the bunny you never know.”

Like trainer Philip Simmonds who suggested of his five runners who could go best, Mullins was asked the same cheeky question. Of his seven runners who could go best Mullins said: “Romeo Mandate without question. He has trap three and I’m happy with that.”

Romeo Mandate runs in the lucky last at 9.44pm in a stayers race over 575 metres. Coral are currently top price at 7/4.

Regular readers of this column may well have had a nice little winner last week courtesy of Headford Mark at an SP return of 11/4. Headford Mark broke his duck at Romford as did trainer Maurice Rice who up until Friday last week had never won a race around the Essex venue.