Eight Irish heat winners and 14 qualifiers for upcoming English Derby
Following a hectic weekend of action and a number of genuine hard luck stories, a total of 14 Irish greyhounds qualified for the second round of the William Hill English Derby at Wimbledon - and so they move on to next weekend's second-round heats.
In all, there were eight Irish heat winners and our hopes remain sky-high for overall victory when the classic concludes on June 4.
The draw for the second round has thrown up some very interesting clashes and there will be four heats in which at least two Irish runners will be involved.
Worst of these is Heat 15, where our three representatives - Lenson Panda, Wonder Millie and Imperial Express - are scheduled to meet each other.
Arguably the best drawn of the fancied Irish contenders is Pat Buckley's Droopys Roddick, which is our only representative in Heat 2 on Friday. Trap four is not ideal for him, but the opposition should be well within his capabilities.
Two of our heat winners, Droopys Awesome and Peregrine Falcon, clash in Heat 5, but both will be fancied to qualify. So too will Paul Hennessy's Jaytee Dutch from Heat 7, where his main threat will come from last year's finalist Making Paper. Robert Gleeson's Droopys Latina has a tough draw in Heat 13, where he will have Roxholme Barkley and Irish Derby champion Ballymac Matt on his immediate inside.
The final heat will be a five-runner affair and Buckley's Lenson Sanchez and Hennessy's Jaytee Jet should qualify at their ease.
Entries will close on Wednesday morning for the Sporting Press Irish Oaks, and the bitch classic is building up to a potential epic.
A few major statements were made on Saturday night by bitches returning from lengthy lay-offs.
Two in particular made major statements. The Owen McKenna owned and trained Leamaneigh Mags was a real eye-catcher as she flew from the traps and won by two lengths from strong-staying Brinkleys Katie in 28.19.
Two races earlier, PJ Fahy's Tyrur Caroline looked real Oaks material as she came in as a reserve in an AAO 550, and the English Oaks final favourite led all to beat Gain 600 runner-up, Hovex Blaze, by a length in 29.73 for the 550 yards.
The Hennessy-trained Jaytee Scout also put in her claim when producing a huge burst of pace from halfway to win in 28.56.