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Weblog: At large in the greyhound world

Tough competition suddenly made tenser

WITH just the first two likely to qualify from up to 15 of the 37 first round heats of the William Hill Derby (the other 22 heats would see the first three through), the record entry for the £200,000 prize involves a marked drawback.

Some trainers, especially those hoping for a soft early heat as their dogs get used to the track, have been summarily taken aback.

This is what happens when you operate an unlimited entry - trainers had got used to circumstances in recent years which produced some heats where, for instance,  the first four might qualify. But the last time the field reached this type of level of 200-plus (in 2010) the same issue emerged. Unless an extra round is introduced - which in itself is hardly helpful - there is no answer to mathematically securing the required 96 second round runners other than in this manner.

At least the draw for the affected heats in made randomly before the runners are known, so it is all down to pot luck. But if you have trialled a dog several times, paid a £250 entry fee, and eagerly looked forward to the competition, the thought of going out in third place, perhaps by a short-head, is indeed horrible.

It means runners will be need to be sharper than many trainers intended, and in those heats where only two qualify, the sudden death element will add markedly to the tension.

It remains to be seen how many heats are affected as it depends on the actual numbers and the balance might yet be altered by a number of withdrawals from the current field of 222 between now and Sunday.

A number of them are trialling before racing Friday and Saturday, and any withdrawal before Sunday's draw involves a total refund.

It all means three first round heat nights next Thursday - Friday  - Saturday, and all the action will be shown live on RPGTV, which also covers the second round; Sky Sports takes over from the third round onwards.

We will ask RPGTV viewers to nominate a performance of the round award for those first two rounds, with a silver salver going to the winning owner, a bottle of Laurent Perrier Rose for the trainer, and a meal for two in the restaurant for the successful viewer. Last year it was the best case that was made by viewers which caught our panel's eye.

Good luck to everyone involved. It is going to be tense but intensely exciting. £200,000 has made it all considerably tougher than expected.

You can follow the heat by heat draw as it is made on Sunday via this website . . . and yours truly bashing it in!