It’s a remarkable achievement from a relatively small initial entry there are four Irish-trained finalists in tomorrow night’s English Derby decider at Wimbledon (9:08pm).
With the first three in the betting, it’s long-odds-on the trophy will be coming back across the Irish Sea for the first time since the late Seamus Graham secured his sole success in the race with Loyal Honcho, in 2008.
Since the Derby moved to Wimbledon in 1985, there have been six Irish-trained winners (Loyal Honcho 2008, Droopys Scholes 2004, Chart King 1999, Shanless Slippy 1996, Farloe Melody 1992 and Lartigue Note 1989) and all bar Droopys Scholes was sent off clear or joint favourite.
At this point the Paul Hennessy-trained Jaytee Jet heads the market, no better than 7-4, and looks like being sent off favourite, though that is no certainty. In terms of pace, there’s no question: he has the ability to win. But I don’t think there’s great value in his price.
He turned close last week but had to keep a wide course, and that proved costly as he finished with a real flourish to cross the line just three parts of a length shy of Droopys Roddick. It was a remarkable display of pace, but there’s every reason to believe a similar scenario will play out tomorrow night. If, however, the inside runners tangle, he will win. Betting on that at 7-4, however, is not for me. The last winning favourite was Taylors Sky, who set a then track record 28.17 when winning in 2011.
Pat Buckley is double represented, with the two youngest finalists: Lenson Rocky and Droopys Roddick.
The former has drawn the red jacket, carrying which he was successful in the semi-finals. Having missed a beat in the quarter-finals he showed terrific pace to lead down the back, but was caught on the line by Cloran Paddy. He posted an identical time (28.23) last weekend when popping out and leading all the way. As a June ’14 whelp he has scope for improvement, but will have to avoid an early clash as he moves middle on the run-up. If he fails to lead Hiya Butt, he’ll face an uphill task.
Droopys Roddick has had to perform some miracles to qualify through some of the heats, but he has been progressing with each round, and doesn’t look badly drawn in the white jacket. He is drawn just far enough away to avoid an early clash with his kennel companion and, if he can hold his position against Peregrine Falcon on the run-up, a big run is on the cards.
Hiya Butt has explosive early pace, and has shown he can trap from a wide draw, as well as an inside one. He is not the strongest of stayers and thus must clear all four inside runners early if he is to harbour any hope of coming out on top. It’s a tall order to get clear from this draw, but odds of 8-1 are seldom skimpy when applied to a runner with the initial speed he possesses.
The Pat Curtin-trained Peregrine Falcon adds his name to the illustrious list of greyhounds to have reached the Irish and English Derby finals, but he is the rank outsider to land this huge prize. That said, I’m sure connections are aware this has been a good race for outsiders in recent years, with Salad Dodger obliging at 16-1 in 2014, and Kinda Ready at 25-1 in 2009. Farloe Verdict, at 12-1 in 2003 (awarded), and Allen Gift, at 16-1 a year earlier, were the other double-figure priced winners since the turn of the millennium.
Cloran Paddy is a modest breaker and fast finisher, but has to improve to take this decider. He got a clear run when picking up sharply to beat Lenson Rocky in the quarter-finals, but needed every yard of the race to snatch a qualifying spot in the semi-finals.
On form he must improve, and is likely to be last to the turn. But he is trained by Charlie Lister, who has won the race seven times (Sidaz Jack in 2013, Taylors Sky in 2011, Bandicoot Tipoki in 2010, Farloe Verdict in 2003, Rapid Ranger in 2001 and 2000, and Some Picture in 1997), and that earns him automatic respect. Nevertheless, he is dependent upon a lot of luck to avoid most of his rivals in the early yards, and that’s not a great basis for a bet.
It’s a very open decider, but Droopys Roddick seems to reserve his best for finals, as he showed with top-class runs in the Kirby Memorial at Limerick and the Puppy Derby at Wimbledon, and that sways the verdict in his favour. He has the pace to turn close, which is vital if he’s to fend off the anticipated late rush of Jaytee Jet.
But that run at Limerick, when he posted 28.09 and had Produce Stakes winner Clares Rocket and Joe Dunne winner and current Oaks semi-finalist Witches Belle behind, sticks out in memory. At odds of 4-1, he makes plenty of appeal.
Pat Dalton’s bitch has been a star over extended trips, and was a shade unlucky when beaten three parts of a length in the semi-finals. She looks sure to turn close, if not in front, and can prove too good for her rivals in this race for the €5,000 winner’s cheque.
Believe it or not, we’re just a couple of weeks away from the start of the Laurels. The heats take place on Saturday June 18, with entries closing at noon on the previous Monday, and the draw for the first round taking place on the Tuesday.
As has become customary for these bank holiday meetings, there will be plenty of entertainment track-side, as well as on the track. There will be entertainment for the kids with a bouncy castle and face painting, while a number of local businesses will also have stalls at the track, and a raffle will take place on the night, with numerous generous prizes.
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