Big Mike can tower over Derby rivals

TONIGHT is the first time this year that all the heats of the Irish Greyhound Derby will be run on the same night and it provides a feast of betting opportunities for punters.

Outright favourite Razldazl George has been the undoubted star of the competition to date but we're only one third of the way through the stake and he will have to maintain that level of performance for four more Saturdays if he's to justify his skinny ante-post price.

Last weekend, the layers seemed very keen to take him on but there wasn't enough strength-in-depth in the race to cause him problems. Tonight, however, looks a whole new ball game for the strong staying tracker. He's odds-on with all firms but, make no mistake, this is tougher than last week.

He led all the way in the first round and had the pace to take the lead at the opening bend last week but it's unlikely that he will be afforded such a luxury this time. Colorful Champ, who won last year's Consolation Derby, has been in terrific form recently and he must be odds-on to lead George early.

Add in Cuil Cougar, who has his draw on the rails and possesses electric early pace, and it quickly becomes apparent that George may have to do it the hard way. Droopys Twirl, who finished second to George last week, could be another thorn in his side.

Melodys Royal, in six, is an accident waiting to happen. The Puppy Derby champion needs to put everything together but when that night arrives, his rivals had better watch out. He stays wide and should not interfere with the other runners but he possesses huge pace and can never be discounted.

The bookmakers got burnt by George last weekend but they're an irrepressible bunch and will be keen to take him on again. For this week at least, I'm with them.

Although the odds are skinny, Meadow Bank Owl is hard to look beyond in the second heat (8.46pm). He resents the inconvenience of having to come off the rails but, given the make-up of tonight's race, may not have to do so this time.

His backstraight and finishing speed is tremendous and an impressive display is anticipated. The fast-starting Bawna Storm, who dives for the rails early, may scupper the chances of last year's English and Irish Derby finalist Krug Ninety Five, and the promising Airforce Roger.

Last year’s Derby runner-up Tyrur Big Mike is yet to rediscover his 2010 form but, nevertheless, he may prove too strong for his rivals in heat seven (10pm).

Drawn in the favourable black jacket, he should have little trouble leading this field.

Champion Stakes winner Uncle Eoin is the obvious challenger, but surely the way to beat the selection is to take advantage of his wide-running antics. Uncle Eoin, being a confirmed wide seed, will have to go around Big Mike and it would take a truly exceptional greyhound to do that. With a clear lead anticipated, Tyrur Big Mike can reward punters at a generous looking 2-1.

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