JONATHAN KAY: Ahead of the Greyhound Derby semi-finals, read Jonathan’s betting advice and hear about his selections
The quarter-finals of the Greyhound Derby could hardly have been more dramatic. It was all action from the word go, as Priceless Jet flashed out of the supposedly cursed trap six box to set a new 500m track record of 28.78sec in the opener. The excitement continued when Paul Hennessy’s Irish raider was regaining the accolade having been track record holder for precisely a week in May 2021 following a 29.11sec effort which was then bettered by Warzone Tom’s 29.08sec and he was eclipsing Lautaro’s 28.84sec mark set in round one this year. Consequently, Priceless Jet’s performance was not a shock to register even though he was sent off 6-1 however, the same couldn’t be said for the subsequent victory of kennelmate Hello Hammond in the second quarter-final. It was not so much that he was 14-1 but that ante-post favourite Ballinabola Ed crashed out in fifth place having been challenging for the lead turning for home. In truth, he had burned a lot of fuel getting into that position alongside Aussie Captain after making his worst start of the competition and, while his recovery was spectacular, it did leave him vulnerable to the powerhouses turning in.
A nightmare night for Ballinabola Ed’s trainer Pat Buckley, which had started brilliantly with a sensational sprint track record for his Flashing Willow, would continue with elimination for his other two Derby hopefuls. Bobsleigh Dream was never at the races behind Graham Holland’s Romeo Magico but Singalong Sally, my long-term outright pick, looked to be coming to collar Signet Goofy in the finale, only to get her challenge wrong, lose momentum and fail agonisingly by a neck to survive into the semis. Credit, though, to John Mullins’ Signet Goofy who once again employed catch-me-if-you-can tactics off a flying 4.03sec sectional. They couldn’t catch him, and he now boasts the unbeaten record after four rounds of this gripping and unpredictable Classic.
Patrick Janssens, who sent out first and second in the 2021 Derby courtesy of Thorn Falcon and Kilara Lion, can give himself a chance of emulating the feat by landing both semi-finals at Towcester on Saturday.
Deelish Frankie is far from an obvious pick in the first on bare analysis of his latest efforts, even if they have to be lauded for the durability he has shown in continually qualifying. But, in a race where the strong likelihood is that unbeaten Signet Goofy will again crack out and lead, he might just get first crack at him. Whereas the draw is probably irrelevant for Signet Goofy as he has five for the fifth time in the event, trap three really could work for Deelish Frankie in terms of breaking as virtually all the fast starts he has made previously, have been when placed in midfield. Conversely, trap two could be an issue for Romeo Magico especially as Savana Beau, although no speedster, will likely turn right into him straight away unless he pings out, and the Irish raider is made the lay of the round on that basis.
In the second semi, Janssens’ Lautaro might have lost his track record to Priceless Jet, but he can exact his own revenge by beating him. Switching back to trap five could be massive for him and we all know how quick he is when he gets racing room. The danger may be Kildare who ran just as well as could have been expected behind Priceless Jet, who might struggle to hit those heights so soon again.
As for the Derby Plate semis, John Mullins’ Chelms Fred is just preferred to fellow heat winner Innfield Trojan in the opener, while that dog’s trainer Tom Heilbron can take the second with Freedom Alibi, even if a draw anywhere but trap one would have been better for him.
Race 1 – T3 Deelish Frankie (NAP) – LAY T2 Romeo Magico
Race 2 – T5 Lautaro
Race 1 – T4 Chelms Fred
Race 2 – T1 Freedom Alibi