The Scottish Derby Heats: Shawfield, Tuesday 1st April
Greyhound racing's own Triple Crown kicks off at Shawfield tonight with eight first round heats of the Scottish Derby. Barnfield on Air is still the dog to beat, according to our man Darrell Williams.
The Scottish Derby is a four round competition which culminates with the final live on Sky Sports a week on Saturday (12th April). Given the five runner format in the first round, few surprises are expected, with three qualifying from each heat to form Saturday's Quarter-finals when the real action is likely to be played out.
As discussed last week, this year's renewal has a classy feel to it with any number of potential winners. Naturally for many (myself included) the logical starting point is Barnfield On Air, whose trial last week was more than satisfactory. While he may have taken a little time to find his best form, his two recent wins at Hove suggest he's returning to something like his best, and although Shawfield wouldn't necessarily be his ideal track given the short run up to the bend, his class should see him go very close, and for me he remains the one to beat.
The strength in depth of the rest however will ensure that BOA won't have it all his own way, with the runners-up from both last year's English and Irish Derby's heading the opposition. The Wimbledon second Loyal Honcho is a dog I've long admired, and he showed plenty of promise in the recent Tote Gold Cup at Shelbourne, eventually finishing fourth in the final. While just his presence here for Seamus Graham is worthy of note, I still think he'll be a better option for the Derby itself next month and I reluctantly pass him over. He's also drawn the toughest heat tonight (8:35pm) up against Kylegrove Top and Toosey Blue, a race I'm expecting the latter to triumph in. Indeed I can see John Mullins' runner playing a big part in the event, especially given his impressive victory over Farloe Reason at Wimbledon last month.
Highly regarded Farloe Reason, of course, heads Charlie Lister's team of four in a race he bids to win for an amazing fifth time in six years. It's a phenomenal record and the youngster trialled in well the other day, but I'm still not sure he's at his best at the moment and certainly at the prices, even given the Lister factor, he makes limited appeal.
The Irish Derby form is represented by Tyrur Laurel, runner-up at Shelbourne, and more recently in the Tote Gold Cup, again at the Dublin venue. Paul Hennessy's runner would need to improve on his two recent sightings at Shawfield, and while it wouldn't be out of the question to see him run well, again there's little value in his current price.
All of which brings me to a couple of dogs which should be worth a tickle at slightly more tasty odds. One of whom I've been touting for a while now in the shape of Blenheim Dubh for Julie Bateson, whose strong hand also includes last year's finalist Kylegrove Top. But it's the Gorton Cup winner that interests me at a track which should suit him. Don't worry about last week's narrow trial stakes defeat as he had been off the track for a month prior to that outing and I'm expecting a lot more this evening.
I'm also going to have the lesser known Killough Tale on my side. Trained in Scotland by Willie Frew, he has only had a handful of runs reaching a recent Unraced final at Clonmel. His trial form looks useful and he's worth backing both tonight (8:09pm) and outright.
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