Mark Pierrepont continues his assessment of the first round with a preview of the Friday night heats.
Half of Thursday night’s ten winners were favourites though Mark picked six winners highlighted by Jumeirah Sprite (5-1).
It would be a major surprise if Pat Buckley’s superstar Knocknaboul Syd (2-5) were not to not only win this heat but to not win it well. He should be away and gone from this field from a plot draw in trap 2 and will be looking to go one step further than when reaching the semi-final of this competition at Nottingham last year. Robert Gleeson’s fellow Irish raider Toolmaker Sydney (9-2) finished fourth in his semi-final of the Irish Derby last year before going on to finish runner up in the consolation on final night. He’s got huge pace from halfway and will prove an extremely tough greyhound to keep out of the frame in any race which he lines up. He’s selected to fill the forecast spot here whilst Julie Bateson’s Gonzo (6-1) can qualify in third. Others: Sharp Darcy (12-1), Bubbly Jubbly (14-1)
Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Ariel (8-15) really is a bitch of the very highest calibre. Advertising her ability very early in her career when going unbeaten through the IGOBF National Puppy at Shelbourne in late Nov/Dec she subsequently broke the 28 second barrier at the track two weeks running when recording sensational times of 27.94 and 27.96 in her first and second round heats of the Christmas Oaks. Her 29.11 (+10) trial last week was some run but when you take into account it was her first look at the track you realise we’re talking about one of the fastest bitches we’ve ever seen. That trial was backed up with a 29.15 (normal) effort on Sunday and she obviously heads into her heat in top condition. Ariel can soon take command here but will need to be at her best with Glengar Bale (7-2) likely to prove tough opposition. Pat Buckley’s greyhound was just 3/4 length away from a place in last year’s Irish Derby Final and latterly reached the quarter final of the English equivalent at Nottingham. He’s selected to finish second with Fatboyz Fury (12-1) taking third for John Mullins. Others Savana Cody (12-1), Aussie Captain (6-1), Savana Darn Hot (20-1)
Pat Buckley’s pacy Bull Run Norris (5-4) can smash out and make all here. He trialled well in 29.71 (-10) but gave the impression that there is plenty more to come. He’s likely to be given most to do from Graham Holland’s Gaytime Milo (9-2) who also left the impression he’d improve for the look round whilst the Liz and Rab McNair trained King Louis (7-4) is no back number who even having turned 3 years of age appears to be improving. He’s well housed on the outside of the track and will be very difficult to keep out of a qualifying position. Others: Ballymac Slapup (10-1), Detroit (14-1)
Patrick Janssen’s Bockos Belly (8-13) set tongues wagging last November when winning a Central Park maiden in 29.17 (-70) by fully 12 lengths. The slow going could maybe put a warning flag against the run but with Tenpin having stopped the clock in 29.21 (-70) when easily winning his Kent Derby heat on the same night it put the run into some context. Belly unfortunately collided with the rail shortly after the finish of that race and for some time afterwards didn’t quite look himself despite showing definite signs of a return to form when finishing runner up in the Puppy Derby Final at Monmore. A short spell in Ireland for an unsuccessful tilt at the Kirby with Graham Holland has done his confidence no harm judging on his most recent trials around Towcester with a 29.49 (-10) run last time out catching the eye. Well drawn in trap 3 here he can hold off the persistent challenge of Julie Bateson’s Toast Of Sydney (5-2) with Dave Mullins Troy Firebird (10-1) qualifying in third place. Others Longrange Dick (12-1), Luminous Socks (8-1)
Gemma Evans probably raised an eyebrow when seeing her Droopys Addition (6-5) and Newinn Jacko (2-1) drawn in the same heat however all being well they look booked to finish first and second. Preference is for Addition who can get round the bend in front and hold off the persistent challenge of kennelmate Jacko. Carl Jackson’s Hopes Doggy (6-1) is a live danger to the Evans pair , he trialled extremely well here when stopping the clock in 29.45 (-10) and comes into the competition in top condition for a trainer on the up. Others: Little Venture (5-1), Boynepark Drill (12-1)
Tom Heilbron’s Pacemaker Ted (3-1) couldn’t be in better form heading into the Derby having ran out a very impressive winner of the Northen Flat Final up at home venue Newcastle just a couple of weeks ago. His 29.89 (-10) trial around here was decent enough but there is without doubt plenty to be shaved off that. He’s superbly well drawn and can’t fail to be involved at the finish. He’s selected to get the better of Mark Wallis’s Ivy Hill Skyhigh (13-8) with Kevin Hutton’s Magical Silas (3-1) staying on strongly for third. Others; Savana Marno (7-1) Knighganny Lad (14-1), Luna Rocket (6-1)
An absolute match between Liam Dowling’s Irish star Ballymac Wild (11-10) and the Hayley Keightley’s Roxholme Sheikh (11-8). Wild is a narrow pick based on the draw but this could well be one of the races of the first round with a terrific battle in prospect between the two. Angry Tornado (11-1) can take third for Peter Cronin. Others: Soul Warrior (25-1), Droopys Status (12-1), Mister Brentford (20-1)
Liz and Rab McNair’s superstar bitch Queen Beyonce (11-4) looked well in need of the blow out on what was her first four bend run in 18 months a couple of weeks ago. Her 29.61 (-10) trial last week was much more like it though and she’s going to take a lot of beating in this if breaking in her usual style. Sparta Master (3-1) for Sharon Thompson is a class act and has saved some of his very best performances for this course and distance. He’s sure to put up another solid display and he’s taken to claim second with Nathan Hunt’s Dapper Donnie (9-4) staying on strongly for third. Others: Churchill Holly (9-1), Auxerre (7-2)
A very competitive heat in which Mr Roo (12-1) looks set to lead for a long way. He can hang on to qualify to Lee Field but I fancy that Jacks Solution (9-2) for Patrick Janssens can come through to claim him late on with Queen Dolly (11-4) who trialled superbly for Liz and Rab McNair last week taking third. Others: Sweep the Yard (3-1), Bramble Oliverj ()14-1, Magical Arrow (2-1)
Seamus Cahill’s Surprising (6-4) showcased his undoubted liking for this venue when going unbeaten through the Puppy Derby here in December. He’s yet to win in four starts since despite being sent off at short odds each time. He’s in good form though with a 29.69 (-10) trial here last week showing his wellbeing. He’s ideally drawn here in trap 3 and can hold off the strong late challenge of Paul Hennessy’s Beach Avenue (7-4) with Tom Heilbron’s September pup Anynamewilldo (6-1) taking third. Others: Coom Leo (10-1), Buttsys Blackie (12-1), Ritzy Flyer (14-1)
Liz and Rab McNair’s July pup Havana Class (1-1) was distracted and subsequently eliminated from his Northern Flat semi-final at Newcastle on his last competitive outing. Prior to that however Class showed that he possesses some of the finest early and middle pace in training and he can get back to winning ways here. Two sub 16 second sprint trials of 15.95 and 15.93 here in recent weeks show him in top form and he can lead all the way to take the final heat of Friday evening. Little Emir (7-2) for Newcastle’s Gary Carmichael can follow him round and hold on for second from Hopes Bullet (6-1) who can qualify for Henlow’s Mark Wallis. Others: Shortwood (12-1), Shelbys Memory (8-1), Santro Duke (5-1)