We tend to judge the prestige of an event by three things. The prize money, the venue on which it is staged, and its history.
The 2023 Premier Greyhound Racing Eclipse is worth £20,000 to the winner. It is staged on one of the top middle distance courses in the country, the former Derby trip over 500m at Nottingham. While the Eclipse’s history dates back to 1938 when the event was originally staged at Coventry, and its Roll of Honour includes the likes of Some Picture, New Level, Larkhill Jo, Fear Me, Wise Thought, Bubbly Bluebird, Dorotas Wildcat and Ice On Fire, three of whom were Greyhounds of the Year.
This year’s event sees Irish raider Clona Duke heading the ante post market and he sets the ball rolling in the opening heat.
Clona Duke comes into the competition as a worthy favourite having already landed this year’s Jenningsbet Select Stakes over course and distance. He is the track record holder for Towcester’s Dreby course and the joint record holder for Limerick’s 525 yards at 27.95. His recent sprint trial was also a spot inside the same track’s 350 yard clock. He is flanked by two very fast greyhounds, though neither is noted for their consistent trapping ability. Of the pair, Puppy Classic fourth Ballymac John is the obvious danger, particular if he traps at his best. Brinkleys Magic and Romeo Top Gun may inhibit each other’s chances though the latter looks likely to get the better run. 3-4-1
Antigua Eclipse is the first of Nathan Hunt’s seven runners and one of the least exposed. As ‘State Mint’ he impressively won a small competition over Tralee’s lightly used 500 yard trip and has done nothing wrong his his arrival. He was two lengths outside Gougane Jet’s fastest sprint run at Monmore, won both races at Perry Barr and was hugely impressive first look over Nottingham’s 480m course. (Hopefully he doesn’t ease at the pick-up this evening). Derby Plate winner Whyaye Man has more ability than a less than 30% strike rate suggests. He is nevertheless a fast hound and should qualify. With a better draw, 29.47 local One Day Tom would be the alternative forecast option, but his record from this wide isn’t special leaving Atomic Gun as a worthy option. 4-1-2
Something of a Hunt v Henry qualifier, with due respect to Adie McPherson and Chris Fereday. In what appears to be one of the weaker heats, Unreal Bruiser looks the obvious selection. The fastest hound over Clonmel’s 550 yard course this year, when known as Ardera Bruiser, Diane Henry’s 36 kilo black impressed over the 480 course last time out. Given his slow breaking kennelmate on his outside, he looks well set for a clear run. Oaks finalist Droopys Request looks the obvious danger given that Droopys Fidget appears still short of her pre-season form. Hopefully, this race will prove a decent step in the right direction. 5-3-2
Puppy Classic third Newinn Syd has been something of a slow burner having been bought for a significant sum back in March. He is now turned two and typically for a Wallis runner, beginning to show what he is all about. He was unlucky in the Kent Derby qualifiers but trialled well at Towcester and should win this. Hurry Up Jordan has only raced three times since going out of the English Derby in the third round (Hopes Rhino qualified in the same race). But at his best, the wide running giant has plenty of gears. John Lambe’s Laurels finalist has trialled back well at Perry Barr and should get a decent run on the outside. Brockbank is unexposed but has done enough to suggest he can qualify. 3-1-6
The second and fourth in the ante post betting clash here in what would make a great match race in itself between English and Irish Derby runners-up. The books may favour the Irish runner Crystal but its hard to oppose a dog with 29.12 on his card over course and distance. The big striding Romeo Command was let down by slow trapping in the Kent Derby and Select Stakes but he can come away, as he showed when landing, the admitedly less competitive, British Breeders Stakes over course and distance. Graham Holland’s Crystal is the obvious danger. 2-1-3
The weakest of the six qualifiers as can be witnessed by the ante post prices. Nathan Hunt won’t be complaining though with Droopys Google well placed to take advantage. The Derby Plate and Sussex Cup runner-up recently finished fifth in the Champion Stakes and on form and fitness may be too good for these. Savana Beau, a Derby finalist at his peak has little recent form to get excited about, though his trainer has a tremendous record for producing apparently undercooked dogs in top racing condition. Antigua Bingo was unlucky not to make an Oaks Final and should get third. 1-3-2