Romeo Command recorded the fastest time in Round 3 of The English Greyhound Derby on Saturday night at Towcester. As a result, bookies have slashed his odds from 16/1 to 7/1. And for good reason. Patrick Janssens brindled dog has won all of his heats in a streak that has seen him beaten only once in fourteen outings, at an invitational event in April. Romeo Command’s run in Heat 3 was as emphatic, as it was surprising. Pinging the lids for the first time in this year’s Derby, he left the field in his wake to win by a comfortable 8 1/2 lengths.
Swords Rex demonstrated why he has been installed as the clear favourite. After showing plenty of early, he turned into the bend ahead before storming home in 28.93 seconds. He would be the first of four dogs to go sub 29 seconds in this round.
After the first few races went according to form, there were plenty of surprises in the later heats. In Heat 6, Barrie Draper’s Distant Podge avoided trouble on the inside to win. Very quickly away from Trap 5, Podge avoided carnage as Undulation moved off line from Trap 2, taking Supa Nova (Trap 6) and As I Say (Trap 3) wide and effectively ending all 3 dogs’ chances of progressing to the quarter final stage. Out in front Podge claimed the rail to win in a sprightly 28.96 as Savana Beau (Trap 4) and Gaytime Nemo (Trap 1) closed quickly.
Then, in Heat 8, last year’s champion, Romeo Magico was eliminated from the final stages. A very slow start put paid to Graham Holland’s hopes that he would have a two-time winner on his hands with the black and white sired by Magical Bale. To his credit, Romeo Magico almost managed to battle back into contention, but in this class – and at this stage of the competition – missing the break is fatal.
Perhaps the real hard-luck story of the round was Maree Champion’s exit from the competition in Heat 7. In a messy race, he was unable to find any room at all. He was crowded at the first as Cochise showed a little more early pace from Trap 4 and cut across his path. Then, just as Seamus Cahill’s charge was making up ground going into the third bend, he was involved in a 3 dog shunt and was badly baulked. As a result, Burj Khalifa in Trap 6, took the long way round to win ahead of Jacktavern Bella (Trap 2) and the rampaging Cochise (Trap 4).
Overlooked by many, including me, is Brinkleys Magic. Magic romped home in Heat 2, ahead of course record holder Clona Duke, after an incredible split of 4.09. Tom Heilbron’s black dog, a pup sired by Magical Bale out of Bobsleigh Jet, has probably exceeded expectations so far and won in a time of 28.79, four spots off Romeo Command’s best of the night.
Another of Graham Holland’s string, Romeo Hanzo, made light work of Heat 5. He was quickly away and always led. As a result, Aero Arran (trap 2) had a clean run in the space left behind and ran a solid race to finish in 2nd at 33/1. Richie Taberner’s black dog, sired by Droopy’s Sidney, stayed on well to see off the attentions of the wider-running Ninja Kerry.
Heat 4 saw 2/7F Ballymac Marino take charge of his heat to remain unbeaten in this year’s competition. The eye-catcher of the race was Drive On Lad, who overcame some serious crowding at the start to claw himself back into contention. The KAB Maiden Derby winner has placed his way through to the quarter-final stage. It might just be beyond the realms to expect to see him lining up for the semis in a couple of weeks. Jason Heath’s Hopes Rhino ran on well to claim his spot in the next round behind Ballymac Marino.
Latest Odds: 11/4 Swords Rex, 11/2 Ballymac Marino, 7/1 Romeo Command, 15/2 Clona Duke, 16/1 Ballymac Finn, 18/1 Brinkleys Magic, Gaytime Nemo, 20/1 Romeo Hanzo, 25/1 Bar