The opening round of the Greyhound Derby starts on Thursday evening at Towcester so find out which hounds Darrell Williams is backing to reach the 2021 final...
"Priceless Jet laid down a huge marker when setting new figures for the Towcester track-record - admittedly a time that has been subsequently eclipsed – and is an exciting speedy sort when able to dominate."
Over 180 greyhounds line-up in 32 first round heats over the next three nights. But that is just the start. To achieve the honour of being crowned Greyhound Derby champion involves competing in six gruelling rounds in order to find greyhound racing's ultimate champion.
And with such a huge field to select from, those who fancy an ante-post wager or two should head to Sportsbook who are offering 1/4 odds each-way on a greyhound to reach the final.
Irish dominance set to continue
If the last two years are anything to go by the first advice must be do not ignore the Irish.
Just like the green army's domination of the Cheltenham Festival in recent years, the Irish raiders, although supplying less than a quarter of the field, have cleaned up with a 1-2-3 in each of the last two Derby finals. Which probably explains why Irish trained greyhounds hold eight of the top 10 places ante-post!
Just as you would love your home nation to go all the way in Euro 2020, when it comes to betting there is no prize - and certainly no money heading into your account - for being patriotic.
A triumvirate of Irish trainers stand out as the most likely to succeed with two-times English Derby winning handler Paul Hennessy - who also happened to train a winner at this year's Cheltenham Festival for good measure - responsible for two of my ante-post fancies.
Priceless Jet laid down a huge marker when setting new figures for the Towcester track-record - admittedly a time that has been subsequently eclipsed - and is an exciting speedy sort when able to dominate.
Admittedly, he will not always be able to dominate, but as one of less than 20% of the field with a wide seed Priceless Jet is also likely to get his favoured trap six draw. That could prove a huge factor as the competition progresses.
The ability to keep on qualifying - by finishing in the top three each round - is huge and, in Beach Avenue, Hennessy has an ideal candidate. Another seeded wide, his searing back straight pace is something to behold and, with top class form in Ireland's major recent events at trips up to 600 yards, his stamina means he will prove extremely hard to knock out.
This could be Holland's year
With four finalists in the past four years, including the runner-up last season, it can only be a matter of time before Graham Holland claims a first English Derby success.
And in Native Maestro it could just be this year. The prolific winning star has it all - pace to the bend, rapid speed down the back and no issues seeing out the 500m Derby trip. Unlucky not to win a major Irish final last backend, he has immediately taken to Towcester and if I were only allowed one selection he would be the one.
Buckley's Bale has slipped under radar
If there is one dog who may have been under-estimated ahead of this year's Derby, it is Glengar Bale, trained by the third member of the Irish triumvirate in reigning Derby champion trainer Pat Buckley.
Buckley's strong squad includes last year's hero Deerjet Sydney, but it is his Irish Derby semi-finalist and 2020 English Derby quarter-finalist that interests me more.
Although he comes into this year's event with little racing this season it is hard to gauge why he this exceptionally fast hound has been as good as written off in the long odds market meaning he has to be included in this column's portfolio.
Tenpin leads British challenge
Of course, I would love to see a home winner and while the Irish may have dominated for the past two years they have yet to win a Towcester Derby, mustering just three finalists in the previous two runnings.
I believe David Mullins' Tenpin represents the best chance of keeping the prize on British soil. The speedy winning machine is a joy to watch and has been perfectly prepared by his astute handler, but his chance could also depend on the draws he receives given his obvious preference for the inside two boxes.
At a bigger price I also expect the Jimmy Fenwick trained Cold As Ice to make a big impact. Sometimes frustrating over four bends at his home track of Newcastle, his immediate success as a six-bend performer seems to have had the desired effect on his career and as a Puppy Derby finalist at Towcester last year he clearly handles the track. He is another that can keep on qualifying.
Each-way bets to reach the final
Cold As Ice 66/1
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