'Highview' looks banker bet for Derby semi-finals
For many owners and trainers the initial target before the BoyleSports Irish Derby commences is to reach the semi-finals at least.
The thinking behind this is that qualification means guaranteed participation in the final night at the world's most famous greyhound racing venue.
Twenty-three dogs will go to traps tonight for the quarter-finals with the prize of a semi-final place in the premier classic virtually within touching distance.
The figure of 23 has been guaranteed due to the unfortunate withdrawal of the well-fancied St Leger winner Skywalker Rory.
It was cruel luck on the part of owner Ray Patterson but trainer Graham Holland has the unprecedented luxury of having half a dozen other contenders for the world of greyhound racing's most valued prize. With three runners in the five-runner second heat, he is guaranteed at least one semi-finalist from this contest but it will be a shock if he doesn't end up with at least three in next week's penultimate stage.
It would be no exaggeration to predict that Holland may win three of the four heats this evening and he looks sure to have the three favourites.
His banker of the evening can be the well-drawn Highview Event (9.12) in the first heat. This dog is running out of his skin and only just lost out an epic battle with Lenson Rocky last week. He clearly has the early pace to lead around the bend and his proven stamina would do the rest.
It could be quite a battle in behind with Urban Gossip and Droopys Tee well capable of following him through.
The inexperienced Sonic (9.27) has been the revelation of the classic and he can win a very competitive second heat.
His early pace can seal a first-bend lead and the major dangers can be his kennel companion Rural Hawaii and the reigning champion Ballymac Matt.
A feature of the Derby has been the progress of the bitches and no fewer than three females are involved in the third heat. Here I anticipate victory for Holland's Sidarian Pearl (9.42) but it can be tight from Holycross Leah and Doctor Zhivago.
Pat Buckley's Lenson Rocky (9.57) has really matured into a high-class tracker and the English Derby finalist can lead all the way in the concluding heat. Well-drawn Gyp Rosetti and Escapism are the other likely qualifiers.
Big race in the provinces is the final of the €5,000 Greyhound & Petworld Stake at Curraheen Park where the James O'Dea-owned Jims Classy Pick gets the vote to win a very tricky race from Drive On Tipp and Jayms Storm.
The final of the Gain Cambridgeshire 750 tops the Limerick card and Pat Dalton's great staying bitch Tradition could even break her own week-old record with Hovex Grace her main rival.