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Five weekends and a Tuesday: it's showtime
THE next five weekends, plus a random quarter-final Tuesday on May 15, are all about the williamhill.com Greyhound Derby with the chase for a record £125,000 first prize getting under way over 480m at Wimbledon on Friday.
There is something magical about the start of the Derby with so many dreams still alive, and relatively few will be crushed with only around 30 greyhounds now required to be knocked out to provide us with the requisite 96 for round two.
Personally, I’m not too concerned that entry numbers were down because we are constantly being reminded just how tough times are economically and the greyhounds missing from the event would have merely been making the numbers up in the main – and at £250 a go.
Of course, it does mean that round one is something of a phoney war with the threat of elimination relatively minor, but that is no bad thing either as it allows a gentle introduction into this most demanding of competitions and should ensure that the line-up for round two is just north of stellar.
Having somehow neglected to back defending champion Taylors Sky at 20-1 at the back end of last year when it was clear that a light pre-Derby campaign meant he could only shorten, and also stood wondering why Razldazl Jayfkay had been given a dismissive 50-1 quote around the same time while it disappeared in front of my eyes, my ante-post portfolio to date is not a large one.
I have had a small each-way bet on 2012 finalist Bright Redcliffe, whose trainer John McGoldrick is bullish about his charge’s condition and who has every right to be excited having seen the dog end an 18-months wait for a win when taking the Perry Barr trial stakes and then coming here to beat Scottish Derby runner-up Mill Bling Bling in a fastest-of-session trial.
He is the sort to keep on qualifying and the each-way terms offered by most firms of a quarter the odds six places means that just getting to the final again will guarantee a sizeable return at current treble-figure odds.
But there is no need to panic in terms of betting strategy as one of the beauties of this competition above all others is that there is still fantastic value asthe rounds progress. Taylors Sky, for instance, was still 20-1 after two rounds last year and that despite an excellent effort in defeat by Blue Artisan first up then a smooth win next time out.
Barefoot Allstar is a player for outright honours, of that there is no doubt, following his Bettor.com Scottish Derby win at Shawfield, a victory which would have come as no surprise to anyone in the vicinity of trainer Paul Hennessy leading up the race.
There was an unmistakeable confidence, reflected perhaps in a huge gamble from a morning 9-2 into an SP of 7-4, about the dog opening his account in the event when it mattered most and he never really looked in danger of defeat after trapping in front.
Wimbledon’s long run to the first bend will certainly play to his early-paced strengths and Hennessy can once again knock on the door as he bids to complete his own personal treble of English, Scottish and Irish Derbys.
Other recent big-race winners Blonde Snapper [Golden Sprint] and Young Sid [Blue Riband] also take their chances with the first-named around five times the going into this year’s event that he was in 2011.
He has had a far better preparation too with Mark Wallis delighted with how he is taking his races, but he is showing such early pace these days that there does to have be some doubt about just how well he will last the 480m now – don’t let anyone tell you that Wimbledon doesn’t take a bit of getting.
I do think the 480m record will come under serious threat during the competition, weather permitting, so any 2-1 about it going looks a worthwhile competition-long investment, but otherwise sit back and enjoy the ride. You won’t be disappointed.
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