Irish hopefuls begin Wimbledon adventure
There has been a lengthy build-up ahead of the William Hill English Derby, but the wait is finally over as the eagerly-awaited classic, worth £250,000 to the winner, gets underway this evening.
The Irish last tasted success in this events back in 2008, when Loyal Honcho won for the late Seamus Graham.
It has been a long wait for further success, but hopes are now high that a very strong, well-prepared raiding party could bring back silverware this year.
With a record entry of 255, the opening round will be run over four nights, with tonight's opening session consisting of ten heats.
Eleven Irish-trained runners take their chance and there's reason to believe it could be a good night for quite a few of them.
Pat Buckley sends out two of his biggest stars in the opening heat.
2014 Newcomer of the Year Lenson Sanchez and Gain Dog Food Cesarewitch champion Paradise Maverik are both capable of going far in the competition, provided the breaks go their way.
Only two qualify from each heat, however, so Buckley will be hoping his pair can avoid traffic problems.
If they do they should have too much ammunition for the home representatives.
For quite some time, Farloe Blitz has been spoken of enthusiastically as a potential Wimbledon dog, although he faces a tough introduction in Heat 5. Owen McKenna is sure to have his charge well-primed, however, and should he produce one of his trademark fast starts he can launch his campaign with a victory.
His opposition includes fellow Irish runners Millbank Stevie and Jaytee Dutch.
Last year's English Derby third-placed finisher Crokers Champ makes his return from injury in Heat 2 and if recent trials are to believed he is ready to do himself justice. Peter Cronin will be hoping his 2014 Sprinter of the Year can make every yard.
Easter Cup runner-up Slippery Fred holds outstanding claims in Heat 3 from an ideal draw on the fence, where Barefoot Apollo is amongst his rivals, while the lightly-raced Jaytee Jet is one to keep a close eye on in Heat 7.
The Paul Hennessy-trained Jaytee Jet displayed real promise at Enniscorthy in his previous starts and looks destined to go on to bigger and better things.
Bellmore Neymar has only had one start, but his connections have decided to take a punt with the young son of Droopys Scolari. He has his first start for Craig Kelly in Heat 9.
Despite his inexperience he looks likely to go close as he is drawn on the inside of his two main rivals, On Alert and Ballymac Vickson.
Kirby Memorial finalist Ivy Hill Bart represents Noel Hehir in Heat 6, but only a career best effort would suffice for him.
All the Derby action can be viewed on channel 212 on the Sky platform this evening.