English Derby format not punter friendly

The stg£250,000 winner’s prize for the William Hill English Greyhound Derby has lured so many entries the first stage will have to be run over four nights rather than the usual three.

English Derby format not punter friendly

The final figure for entries is 273, resulting in the opening-round heats being scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week.

With 96 to be confirmed for the second phase, the onus is on the organisers to reduce the field by 177 in just one round. To effect that, it seems likely just two greyhounds will qualify from most of the heats.

If that is the case, it could be construed as a quick way to separate the wheat from the chaff. But, there are bound to be numerous high-profile casualties, and that’s not only an issue for those owners investing quite a few pounds/euros to take their chance, but also a deterrent for punters.

It also shows the importance of preparation for this event, specifically experience of the track and the trapping equipment for those coming from different tracks or countries.

With the cost involved, it would be a gamble to leave a greyhound’s progress through the first round to chance, regardless of how much ‘dead wood’ there will be in the long list.

Given the possibility of a similar entry in future years, there has been talk of only reducing the field to 192 after the first round. What that would entail is an extra round, bringing it to an eye-watering seven – a quarter of a million pounds doesn’t come easy.

This year’s renewal has attracted 43 Irish-trained runners, which makes up almost 16% of the entire field. Of those, Clares Wonder and Gaytime Hawk earned their place in the line-up by winning qualifiers at Shelbourne Park and Curraheen Park respectively.

There have been 11 Irish-trained winners of the competition, the last of which was Loyal Honcho, trained by the late Seamus Graham.

Favourite to come out on top at the end of the marathon event is Droopys Nidge, who is now in the hands of Matt Dartnall, having been with Robert Gleeson. Whether or not there’s any value in backing any greyhound at 20-1 or shorter in a stake as uniquely demanding as this is another matter altogether.

While Dartnall is clearly an extremely capable handler, getting this fellow to win a six-run stake over a course that’s unlikely to suit would surely rank high amongst the great achievements in this sport in recent years.

On the Irish tracks he has already competed at the long run to the bend has often caught out Droopys Nidge — the last 20 or so yards into the turn being where he has been finding trouble. If that happens at Wimbledon, he’ll face a real uphill task to make up lost ground.

Given where the dog has come from, I don’t expect improvement from him, but what will be in Dartnall’s favour is the immense talent of the dog. Is it enough to justify his price? Not in a field of this size, and not at this track.

As previously, the sponsors are giving backers a second chance, with all bets on greyhounds knocked out in the first round to be refunded as a free bet to be placed on a greyhound prior to the second round. The final of the marathon event will take place on Saturday, June 27.

There have been, and will be further withdrawals before the competition gets underway, but it’s worth pointing what a good job has been done to keep followers informed of trials over the past few weeks.

The fact each trial has been recorded and made public, with summary notes, is a great help. Also noted is each the time the bowser was sent out and the subsequent regarding of the track. It’s a great effort to keep followers informed, as best as can be.

Closer to home, the Barry’s Tea Open 750 gets underway this weekend at Curraheen Park, with five first-round heats. Fraser Black’s two runners, Droopys Oddysey and Droopys Bomber head the long-odds list, at 7-2 and 5-1 respectively.

The busy Ballydoyle Honey is 4-1 favourite to add the Sporting Press Irish Oaks to her Red Mills Unraced Stake and Puppy Oaks successes. The Oaks gets underway on Saturday night, at Shelbourne Park.

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