Champ can lead Irish charge to Derby final
Four Irish-trained greyhounds will go to traps for the semi-finals of the English Derby at Wimbledon tonight and they all have genuine chances of making it through to give Ireland a numerical advantage in next Saturday's €200,000-to-the-winner final.
It is a hugely exciting prospect, but confidence should be tempered by the realisation that around the tight Wimbledon circuit just about anything is likely to happen.
Peter Cronin goes into the opening semi-final with his two runners, Crokers Champ and Metro Jack, in action while Paul Hennessy has Ecclestone out in the six box.
Crokers Champ is possibly the most natural breaker in training right now and a trap-six draw will cause him few problems as he can easily clear the three British dogs on his inner to the corner. If Crokers Champ (8.45) gets his usual start then he would represent nap material as he is also staying very strongly.
Metro Jack can also go up fast and should have the legs on his neighbours to turn second. Ecclestone, on the outside, should have buckets of room in which to operate and has a cracking chance of being in the frame.
So, all three Irish should qualify from the first semi and our only runner in the second heat, Pat Buckley's Mind The Net (9.05), should qualify with ease.
He has been a revelation at Wimbledon and has been fastest in each of the last two rounds.
His main rival is the Mark Wallis-trained Aero Nemesis, which is flying to the bend and is unbeaten in the Classic.
However, the latter has another wide seed in former Buckley-trained Farloe Trent to overcome on the run to the bend and that not be as easy as many reckon.
Mind The Net can lead all the way and set up an Irish-dominated final.
The first-round heats of the Irish Oaks will be run at Shelbourne, where veteran performers Borna Gem (9.10) and College Maybe (9.25) can defy their advancing years by winning their respective heats.
Both bitches have shown that they are in good form and that should be more than good enough. Other leading hopes are Coolavanny Pandy (8.55), Jaytee Freddy (9.55) and Shes A Terror (10.25).
Taking on the Oaks heats at Shelbourne will be the first-round heats of the Cox Cup at Newbridge where the big name is Greenwell Hulk (9.0).
Despite some reservations, he gets the vote to win while Shopping Basket (9.15), Kilgraney Tomson (9.30) and Redwood Mick (9.45) are other likely scorers.
Live on TV
The Derby action from Wimbledon will be shown live on Sky Sports 3 between 7.0 and 9.30.
Crokers Champ 8.45 Wimbledon
Mind The Net 9.05 Wimbledon
Redwood Mick 9.45 Newbridge
Shes A Terror 10.25 Shelbourne