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Graham Holland runners put the competition to the sword in the opening rounds of the English Greyhound Derby

With the Star Sports English Greyhound Derby already heading into the third round on Saturday, there is plenty of ground to cover. Paul Blake looks back at an exciting couple of weeks of greyhound racing action at Towcester and looks ahead to the Third Round on Saturday.

Round 1

Beepers Lariat recovers after winning his opening heat. Photo: Paul Blake

The first and second round heats of the Greyhound Derby have not exactly followed the script. After a relatively straightforward Thursday night, with Rioja Joey being the only pre-race favourite to fail to progress to the second round, Friday and Saturday totally shook things up. First, Clona Duke set a new track record on Friday, smashing Sword’s Rex’s previous best, recording a 28.73. Then, on Saturday, the 8-1 ante-post favourite Fromposttopillar was eliminated from the competition after being bumped and crowded throughout a messy heat. Cochise impressed for Richard Rees in Heat 24, winning unchallenged by 7 1/4 lengths in an impressive 28.94.

In all, ten greyhounds dipped under 29 seconds. The best times, behind Clona Duke, were Ballymac Marino (28.76) and Brookside Richie (28.84).

Round 2

The defending champion Romeo Magico demonstrated that he is in great form, taking a second win in under 29 seconds, when he won in 28.97. Heading into round 3, who is to say that Graham Holland’s black and white won’t join the likes of Mick the Miller, Patricias Hope, Rapid Ranger and Westmead Hawk by recording his second Derby title. Three other greyhounds (Signet Goofy (Mullins), Maree Champion (Cahill) and Romeo Command (Janssens)) also claimed second wins on Friday night with Seamus Cahill’s brindle looking to be getting ominously stronger as the competition goes on.

The second night of racing resulted in an impressive performance from Swords Rex, who was only the second of two greyhounds to break 29 seconds in round two (28.95). Another five greyhounds remained undefeated, with Faypoint Susie, Clona Duke, Savana Beau, Cochise, and Ballymac Marino retaining their unbeaten tag. The biggest shock was the elimination of Brookside Richie in what became a very messy Heat 9. The second favourite was crowded at the first before being forced to check around the final bend. The favourite, Gaytime Nemo showed his class, qualifying from Heat 9 despite being crowded and forced wide at the first bend.

Round 3 – Preview

The first race of the third round should see Swords Rex and Ballymac Finn progress comfortably through to the quarter final from the middle boxes. Savana Titan (trap 1) and Romeo Top Gun (trap 5) may well be fighting it out for the third and final spot in the next round.

Clona Duke (trap 4) might not have things all his own way in Heat 2. Faypoint Susie (trap 2) is on the track record holder’s inside and may well take a lead into the first bend. Beepers Lariat (trap 1) is another who has a chance from the inside box.

With Tommys Boss (trap 5) and Boylesports Gift (trap 4) likely to ping the lids in Heat 3, Romeo Command (trap 2) may need to find a less conventional way to the front, if he is to progress. The Patrick Janssens brindle (pictured below) has been imperious so far and should find a way to progress from this heat.

Heat 4 may signal the end of the road for Drive On Lad (trap 1) in a wide open contest. If Ballymac Marino (trap 4) pings the lids, as expected, there isn’t a dog in the race who can live with him. The rest of the field are fairly evenly matched on the clock, which gives any of the other five runners the chance to make it through. Even the slowest on the clock, Doghouse Dazzler in trap 6, never knows when he is beaten!

Romeo Command
Romeo Command wins Heat 25 of the English Derby first round at Towcester. 27th May, Towcester, UK. Photo: Paul Blake

Romeo Hanzo (trap 1) is the only dog in Heat 5 to go sub 29 seconds in this year’s competition and he should go through uninhibited on Saturday, if running to form. It’s difficult to pick who might join Graham Holland’s black in the quarters from this field. Perhaps, Blackhouse Harry and Belinda Green’s Ninja Kerry can get out of the boxes to challenge early on. The only wide runner in the race, Forest Icon, should not be discounted either.

Another competitive race is on the cards in Heat 6. Gaytime Nemo (trap 1), Undulation (trap 2), As I Say (trap 3),and the unbeaten Savana Beau (trap 4) all come into this one with fine records in the competition so far. The clock favours the inside traps in this one.

The penultimate race pits the young improver, Maree Champion (trap 1) against the ever consistent Goldies Perryman (trap 3) and the well-fancied Signet Goofy (trap 5). Cochise is unbeaten in this year’s competition and ran a blistering 28.94 secs in the first round. A similar time on Saturday would surely see Richard Rees’ black dog into the next round.

Cochise (white jacket) leaps into Round 2 of the derby with a blistering 28.94. Richard Rees’ black is unbeaten so far in this year’s Star Sports English Greyhound Derby. Towcester, UK. 27th May 2023. Photo: Paul Blake

Last year’s winner and the current fourth favourite to win the competition, Romeo Magico (trap 2), has not been trapping particularly brilliantly in the opening rounds. However, his devastating pace down the back straight and pure strength around the first bend has seen him safely through to this stage. Fabulous Azurra (trap 1) and Mystical Mario (trap 4) may challenge in the run-up to the first bend. If Romeo Magico (2) can avoid these two in the opening stages, he should progress.

Ante-post betting for the Derby: 9/2 Swords Rex, 11/2 Ballymac Marino, 7/1 Clona Duke,12/1 Romeo Magico,16/1 Romeo Command,16/1 Maree Champion, 16/1 Ballymac Finn, 20/1 Gaytime Nemo, 25/1 Romeo Hanzo, 25/1 Boylesports Gift, 25/1 Hurry Up Jordan, 25/1 Signet Goofy, 25/1 Undulation, 33/1 McNeil, 33/1 Beepers Lariat, 33/1 Ballymac John , 40/1 Bar

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