Two rounds to go and solving the puzzle of who will win the Irish Greyhound Derby remains a taxing one but Slippy Cian certainly laid down a marker with a fastest of the competition so far when beating kennelmate and old rival Totos Park last week and is understandably now the market choice to claim ultimate glory.
Cian's change of gear to prove key
Remarkably the pair clash for the third successive round in the second semi-final (21:12) and while Totos Park's exceptional early speed should again serve him well and allow him early control of the contest - and in all probability a place in next week's final - Slippy Cian's marked improvement through the event aided by his midway change of gear can again prove decisive.
Beaten only twice in eight races over the trip the May '16 whelp was again on the back foot in last week's clash of the Graham Holland hotpots but his superior strength in a Derby where most of those remaining are of the early pace variety can again pay dividends.
Holland clean sweep ?
A third member of the Holland team - who remarkably still has five runners gunning for glory - Clonbrien Hero, will in all likelihood need to trap given his tricky trap three berth but with his excellent competition record it would be no great shock were he to make it a clean sweep for the kennel at the expense of the less stamina endowed Crossfield Will.
Hurricane to blow in early
The opening semi-final (20:57) is more competitive but one thing that does appear likely is that Cabra Hurricane will lead and having toughed it out to hold off Jayee Taylor last week, those who believed Pat Guilfoyle's charge was purely a one-dimensional front runner have had to revise their opinion. A draw directly inside Magical Bale - who himself will appreciate the move nearer to the fence but may struggle to get to the bend in front - affords last year's winning handler every chance of another finalist.
But Blaze to blast home
In terms of the winner however I'm routing for Clona Blaze at 3.3512/5, yet another Holland inmate who has hit peak form at just the right time and now boasts the event's only remaining unbeaten record. Suggested as a value antepost wager last week he should enjoy an early advantage on the outside and is taken to repel fellow wide seed Jaytee Taylor.
Paul Hennessy's youngster, also in our long term portfolio, clearly remains a player and his late running style - he must have made up eight lengths last week when just failing to get up - should also see him safety in the hat for the race that really matters in seven day's time.
Record breaker Elvis
Yarmouth must be chuffed with the line-up for the East Anglian Derby semi-finals not least of all with King Elvis equalling the long held track record in the quarters and Liz MCNair's prolific competition winner can take a step closer to perhaps another major pot in the semi-final (21:53) - live on RPGTV (Sky 431).
Likely to lead up Affane Party - who despite his status as a leading sprinter has displayed forgotten reserves of stamina which should be enough to put him in the final - it will nevertheless be a surprise if the reigning Greyhound of the Year were not to make all. Lost One Dare clocked what was probably a personal best on Monday but will find it harder from the outside draw although does appears the other most likely qualifier.
Lemon a fruity bet
Few greyhounds have been in better form over such a considerable time than Kilmore Lemon who has remarkably been beaten only once in his last twelve outings.
The recent Guys'n'Dolls winner at Crayford has proved the ultimate cash-machine dog for supporters and not only is he strongly fancied to come out on top again in the semi-final (21:35) he also affords an excellent ante-post wager with the Sportsbook to boot at 7/2.
While his draw out in six in a competition now devoid of wide seeds may at first sight appear of some of concern, his record when drawn deeper combined with the expectation that he will maintain a straight path makes him more than worthy of support in a race where he looks sure to take all the beating.