THE nerves will be jangling more than ever tonight as the William Hill Derby moves into the quarter-final stage at Wimbledon - and with many of the top guns still in there the racing promises to be the best we have witnessed so far.
Four quarters will decide which lucky dozen runners go through to the penultimate stage on Saturday and if you could name just who will or who won't go through to the semis then you are better and shrewder men than us!
Two of the more obvious candidates to qualify are the Ballymacs Vic and Eske, both of whom have come through three
gruelling rounds of combat unbeaten. At some stage however something has to give and with the quality that make up the last 24 the give could come tonight.
Ballymac Vic's awesome early foot and the ability to get home at full steam has seen him dislodge Ballymac Eske as favourite but there is little between the pair and what an exciting prospect should both dogs keep going through to what could be one of the best Derby finals of recent years.
There is not an abundance of early pace in Ballymac Eske's quarter and chances are his supporters will be keeping a close eye on those closing in off the last bend , namely Holdem Spy and Teeejays Bluehawk. Over this 480 metres these two stay from here to Kings Cross and are potent threats to all.
A fascinating contest to say the least but with Eske likely to gain first run on his slower-starting rivals he can win the battle, after all he's no slough exactly.
He runs in the third quarter-final and needs a smart start if he's to win and perhaps, just perhaps, win back his favouite tag but Ballymac Vic could set a high standard - again - in the preceding heat where his most dangerous rival is Irish compatriot Droopys Jet.
Something to savour for one and all and if Plough Lane, Wimbledon is off your compass then there's always Sky to turn to.
WHILE Irish-trained runners swamp the opening two heats of the William Hill Derby third round at Wimbledon on Saturday - they have three in each heat - the boyos from across the water will have will have no pooch to cheer on in the following heat after the withdrawal this morning (11.22am) of Knockglass Billy, who was due to run from trap two.
Graham Holland's dog is lame, meaning that only two will be eliminated in this heat in which the one to benefit most could prove to be Shaneboy Spencer, who is drawn against the rails and has the early foot to cash in on what is now an even better draw.
The running on Charlie Lister-trained Farloe Tango will also have more room to manoeuvre from trap three and we doubt Dean Childs will be overly upset over the Holland withdrawal, pity though it is, as his Droopys Loner now looks the main early threat to Shaneboy Spencer.
IF you are heading off to Wimbledon on Saturday for the third round of the William Hill Derby then be sure to be there in time for the first heat which promises to be one of several intriguing contests of the night.
Three Irish runners, Tyrur Sugar Ray, Kereight King and Droopys Jet will be flying the tricolour against the two bitches, Kilara Miss and Skate On while Teejays Bluehawk runs for Paul Young in a race where the early pace of Skate On and Droopys Jet will be put to the sternest test.
Kilara Miss, trained by David Merchant at Poole, has gone off at 66-1 and 100-1 in the opening rounds and again has a mountain to climb while Skate On has the early foot give the main protagonists something to think about.
But the Irish trio look to be holding the trump cards here with Droopys Jet the fancy of many to follow up his second round win for Fraser Black. Kereight King was a desperately unlucky loser in round two, stumbling at the third bend when making what looked to be a winning run.
The race, with so many if an buts, is a conundrum but Droopys Jet was highly impressive in round two and may just have the edge over his compatriots - and the rest of them too! A race to look forward to.
ROMFORD'S Paul Young was the highest points scorer on the open race circuit last week (up to Sunday, 9 June) with a tally of 13 in what was, the Derby not withstanding, a relatively quiet week.
Young (178 points) sits in fifth in position in the Ladbrokes Greyhound Trainers' Championship table thanks to his 75 open winners this year and is hard on the heels of the trainer immediately above him, Chris Allsopp (195 points, 55 winners).
The usual suspects remain at the head of the pile with Mark Wallis - already looking unassailable at the top with 336 points and 112 winners - followed not so closely by Charlie Lister (250 points and 62 winners) and Barrie Draper (249 points from his 41 winners) and still counting thanks to Eske and Co.
SPONSORS William Hill have Ballymac Eske at the top of their ante-post list on the Derby at 5-1 but the challengers are beginning to queue up behind the Barrie Draper-trained dog with the layers showing plenty of respect for the Irish
runners with three of them immediately behind Eske in the market.
Joint second favourites and only a point adrift are Liam Dowling's Ballymac Vic and Fraser Black's Droopys Jet while Pat Curtin's Kereight King on 10-1 make up the trio of runners from across the pond hard on the heels of Ballymac Eske. You can virtually name your price for other fancies and the 25-1 offered about Carol Weatherall's Holdem Spy is tempting.
With comparatively few shocks so far the competition is coming nicely to the boil and the action will be fast and
furious when the last 48 do battle at Plough Lane on Saturday, we can't wait!
DEAN CHILDS has three runners through to the Derby second round and takes two of them, Aero Tobias and Droopys Loner, back to Plough Lane tonight and returns with the third member of his trio, Droopys Ed Moses, named
after the famous American hurdling athlete, tomorrow.
He won't be taking Malbay Phanter, his one other entry, who went out in the opening round after trouble, but is hopeful that the bitch, Droopys Loner, will turn on the style in heat seven tonight and atone for her first round defeat at the hands of 25-1 shock winner, Farkland Tyson.
"I just hope she traps better this time now that she's not drawn against the fence, she was beaten from trap one in the first round, not the best box for her to break well, and I'm hoping that she pings from trap two tonight," said Childs. "She's a great competition dog and the more she runs a track the better she gets.
"She was forced to check twice last week but if she comes away tonight I'd be expecting an improved run from her." The trainer, given the break, anticipates a front-running effort from Loner while, looking ahead to tomorrow, an
opposite effort from Droopys Ed Moses can be expected.
He is a half-brother of Loner, through their dam Droopys Lotto, and a dog who does his best work late. "Moses has had lots of injury problems but has massive raw ability, Okay, he severely lacks early pace but is powerful coming home, although having said that he didn't turn up last week, he can do better!"
Back to tonight and Childs' Aero Tobias won't get things all his own way in heat five. "Tobias has been a decent dog and run against the likes of Ballymac Eske and Farloe Tango but he has been troubled by some niggly
problems and is only now coming back to his best.
"He's up against
a couple of fast starters in a tricky heat tonight and whether or not
he can run them down remains to be seen but I am hopeful he could go through.
For me though the Derby gets going properly from the third round onwards, that's
when the real dogs get going!"
Of the dangers, and there are plenty
of them, Childs rates Ballymac Eske "who can cope with anything" while he
has a sneaky fancy for one of the oldest dogs in the event, Eden Star. "I've got
a feeling he will come right in the competition, he's had a lot of time off but
looks well and was impressive when winning in the first round."
Good luck to them all and you know what they say; when the going gets tough
the tough get going, problem is there are a lot of tough, classy animals in this
year's Derby. In fact, it's a minefield!
FOUR heat winners in last week's Derby first round saw Mark Wallis consolidate his position at the top of the Ladbrokes Greyhound Trainers' Association points table.
Yarmouth-based Wallis now looks down from a lofty height with 327 points, well clear of second-placed Charlie
Lister (245) and third-placed Barrie Draper (237).
The figures are up until last Sunday but with a full Derby second round coming up this Friday and Saturday many trainers will be chipping away at the leaders, unassailable though they look as the table currently stands.
HAVE dogs will travel is an apt description of Philip Chatfield, the Exeter-based and Poole-attached trainer of Farkland
Tyson, who raised more than a few eyebrows when winning his Derby first round heat at Wimbledon on Saturday at a whopping 25-1!
That victory, however, came as no great surprise to his trainer nor his owner, Brian Phillips of South Wales, and they are hoping for more of the same when the former Derry-based dog runs in heat ten of the second round on this
"We're in with some flying machines on Saturday, including Ballymac Eske and Farloe Tango, but if Tyson breaks well again he'll give them all something to think about," says Chatfield, who has a £10 on the nose bet on the dog at 1000-1 to record the fastest sectional of the competition.
Yesterday you could have 400-1 with Paddy Power about the dog winning the Derby outright, considerably shorter than the 2000-1 offered by another firm at the outset of the competition! "I went into our local bookies and asked for a tenner each way at 2000-1 but got a knock back, the lady on the till rang head office and came back and said my dog was now 500-1, so I didn't have a bet!"
Farkland Tyson may not be a Derby winner waiting to happen but as for Chatfield's bet on the best sectional you wouldn't totally dismiss his chances, he really paces up to the first bend.
The dog went to Chatfield last August via the Farloe man in Derry, Dessie Loughrea. "But Tyson was only lightly raced in Ireland but did win around two and four bends in Derry and was purchased by Brian on the advice of Dessie and then came to me. He is quick alright but it's a big ask on Saturday, but you just never know in this game so fingers crossed.
From his outpost down in the west country Chatfield clocks up a a good few miles, not just to get to Plough Lane but to local track Poole. "It's two hours to Poole and considerably longer to Wimbledon so it's just as well that Farkland
Tyson is a good traveller," added Chatfield. "The dog's an absolute gent, he lays down all the way without a bother on him!
"The job does take in a lot of travelling, especially to London and back, but we're talking about a once a year Derby and enjoying every minutes of it." Good luck to man and beast at Plough Lane this weekend and if Tyson is quick on the bunny they wouldn't peg him back in a hurry, Ballymac Eske included!
MARK WALLIS, with 104 open race wins this year up to 26 May, sits pretty at the top of the Ladbrokes Greyhound trainers' Championship table with 311 points some 74 points clear of Charlie Lister who in turn is 22 points ahead of third placed Barrie Draper. Wallis topped the ton last week while Ted Soppitt was a big mover in the table, leaping from 33rd to 21st position.
WHAT on paper looks one of the most competitive Derbys of recent years gets under way at Wimbledon tonight with the first batch of opening round heats, 13 in all with the rest to be decided tomorrow, and what a treat the open race fans are in for.
Think Derby think Charlie Lister OBE, who boasts the most English Derby winners and going for win number seven this time around. Numerically speaking, Charlie has an outstanding chance of reaching seventh heaven and tonight has no fewer than eight contenders on duty!
Those of you unable to get to Plough Lane have the next best thing as an option, the Wimbledon meeting is live on RP Greyhound TV (Sky channel 212) but better of course to watch proceedings from the terraces.
But while nobody in their right mind would dismiss the chances of another Lister Derby he knows as well as any that the competition this time is as fearsome as there has been for a number of years, with some Irish hotpots in there not to mention the outstandong team that Barrie Draper fields.
Leading the Draper challenge is Ballymac Eske, considered by many as the best dog in training this side of the Irish Sea - and you wouldn't find too many disputing that rating. He runs in heat six tonight and will need to continue his
new-found trapping ability if he is to avoid congestion up to the first bend.
If he breaks on terms and turns handy then his awesome kick down the back straight should settle matters but the Eske needs to be at the top of his game, as will they all.
Tonight there are far too many top notchers to mention here, so get along to Wimbledon if you can and enjoy what
promises to be the best night's sport we've seen so far this year.