ENGLISH GREYHOUND DERBY: Paul Lawrence and Barry Caul cast their eyes over the first round of the English Greyhound Derby staged at Towcester on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to have a bet on the First Round of the Derby?

I’d say the key things to consider are, make up of the race, trap draw and a dog’s ability to get a clear run. You’re looking to find a dog that’s the fastest in the race and one that will get a clear passage. If they’re above the odds I make them, then they’re a bet.

In actual fact, especially in the First Round, if you’ve got dogs that are inexperienced around Towcester and they’ve got bad draws, I’d look to lay them.

A lot of people describe greyhound racing as a bit of a lottery, but I think that’s unfair. There’s an awful lot of information available on a racecard and plenty of websites out there that tell you how to read a racecard.

It’s very important to read sectional times, they’re a huge asset when trying to decipher a race. For instance, if a dog is constantly doing a sectional time of 4 seconds and his neighbour is doing 4.2 seconds, then you know the former should hold a three-length lead into the race. Then you can break the race down, working out which dogs will lead and which will follow. It’s not as hard as it first seems.

What are your best bets for Thursday’s First Round heats?

There’s always big excitement before the first night, and I’ve got a couple of bets lined up for Thursday. The first one is Cryptopunk in Heat 5. I thought this dog of Graham Holland’s was showing nice speed, and we know when he gets room to operate, he’s a very quick animal. This is a five-dog affair, which makes it a little bit easier. He’s drawn in trap three, which will help him trap smartly and then go to the front. He’s a very strong dog when he is on the front end. He’s quite a confident selection at around the even-money mark.

A dog that I quite like is Rioja Joey for another decent trainer in Kevin Hutton. I remember there was a Racing Post TV interview with him, back in the days of the Monmore Puppy Cup, and he was quite sweet on this dog. He’s a young dog, but I think he’s just starting to become a man. He’s caught my eye just the other day.

They were the two bets for me on the opening night, but we should give the defending champion Romeo Magico a mention. He should have a straightforward task in Heat 2.

I’m going to go in early in the very first heat of the First Round, with a bitch called Undulation for Brendan Matthews. She’s very well-bred, being a daughter of Pestana and Unlock Unlock, from a promising litter. She was a star around Towcester last year and posted a good trial around there at the weekend, clocking 29:02. I think she’s set to go on to bigger and better things.

Another Irish dog I’m very sweet on is Romeo Hanzo, who goes in Heat 3. I know he’s held in high regard by the Graham Holland kennel. He ran well in last year’s Racing Post TV Greyhound Juvenile at Shelbourne Park and put in a good trial around Towcester on his first look at the track, and then won on his race debut there. I know he will have to improve on time, but I’m sure he will do as he’s a dog with a big future.

I must also mention Heat 8, which looks a cracking race. Ballymac Finn, last year’s Irish Derby runner-up, goes in there against some classy sorts, the likes of Signet Goofy, Savana Hero and Warzone Tom. That promises to be a super heat.

Ante-post favourite, Swords Rex, runs in the final heat of the night (Heat 10) and he will be very hard to beat.

What are your best bets for Friday’s First Round heats?

Friday’s action looks very hot indeed. We can kick off with Clona Duke in Heat 12. I was there when this dog won the Juvenile Derby at Shelbourne Park when he was very impressive. I’m not convinced he necessarily wants trap one, but I think the fact that Ballymac Bronze is drawn on his outside should give him plenty of room. He’s got all sorts of speed, and he looks another winner waiting to happen for Graham Holland.

The other I’ve had a nibble at is Arkady in Heat 13. David Mullins’ charge is ideally drawn in trap four, and he should pop out of the boxes, get to the front and that should be that.

I thought there was also a sneaky each-way play in Heat 17 in the form of Darbys Delight for Tom Heilbron. He doesn’t really like too much company on the lead, and he’d probably be better over six bends, but he’s ideally drawn in trap one, and if he can claim the rails and bide his time, he’ll unleash his back straight pace and come home very strongly. He might just get up on the line.

There’s terrific action on Friday and for my best bets I’m going to start off with a dog called Bellmore Cricket in Heat 15. The reason he’s the selection is that this is a race lacking early pace. The likes of Mr Incredible, Savana Ruinart, who’s best over six bends, and ex-Irish dog Famous Eight would also be better over six or possibly eight bends. Bellmore Cricket has plenty of early speed and he should be hard to peg back.

Heat 19 is a good race with Jacktavern Bella and Barefoot Supremo, two really classy Irish performers and the first named has really taken to the Towcester circuit. However, they’re both habitual slow starters and I think Brinkleys Magic, drawn between them in trap two, should have the speed to lead. He probably does ease at the corners when he has company, but I don’t think he will have that on Friday night, and if he gets to the front, the others will be hard-pressed to peg him back.

Then in the very next heat, one of my ante-post selections, Ballymac Marino, lines up. He’s only been beaten once in his career; he looked a real star when he beat Cryptopunk at Shelbourne Park a couple of months ago and his recent trials suggest he’s on the way back up. I know he’s very well thought of by the Liam Dowling kennel and he should go well in Heat 20.

What are your best bets for Saturday’s First Round heats?

Heat 22 is the first of Saturday’s contests we’re going to look at, and I thought Lautaro, who did so well last year, was a bet here. I think he’s well-drawn in trap three, as he should bomb out of the boxes to grab the lead and he’s very strong off the front end. He broke the track record over this course and distance in an earlier round of the Derby last year. Although this is a decent enough race, I think Lautaro is one that could run well fresh.

I’m also going to put up Bockos Palace each-way in Heat 26. There are a lot of frontrunners in the race like Deelish Frankie and Barley Panther, and I thought Bockos Palace could bide his time, fly down the back straight and come home well to claim the spoils at a decent price of around 5/1.

In Heat 32, I’m keen on Slick Sakina. She was the Oaks champion in Perry Bar last year. She’s got gears this bitch – she starts and she stays. She’s really fresh too, so that’ll help her come out of the boxes. I think she’ll take the lead and be very hard to beat. Around even-money I thought was a bargain.

On Saturday night we see many people’s talking dog Fromposttopillar go in Heat 23. He’s drawn trap six, but I don’t think he’s an ideal wide seed and I’m going to take him on with Beepers Lariat. He was stunning on his race debut around here, when he missed the break and showed huge early pace to just lead Warzone Tom at the first bend. He’s only a June ’21, he’s quite lightly raced, and I still think there’s much more to come from Jack Kennelly’s dog.

One at a huge price – currently around 16/1 – in Heat 28 is Innfield Billy. He was very classy around Shelbourne Park and he’s clocked 28:48 around there. I know the previous owner, Barry Clancy, has always thought very highly of him. He hasn’t been over in the UK that long and wasn’t beaten that far last time in a good race behind Jacktavern Bella. This is a lesser contest, and I cannot see him being anywhere near 16/1 come race day.

In Heat 30, I’m going to go for Whyaye Man. He was previously trained in Ireland by Rob Gleeson and he showed some good form at Limerick and Shelbourne Park. He’s well-drawn in two and is capable of flying from the traps. Obviously, he will have to clear My Girl Mia on the inside early, but he’s well capable of doing so.

Best bests for the First Round?

Heat 7: Rioja Joey
Heat 32: Slick Sakina
Heat 26 and ante-post outright: Bockos Palace (both EW)

Heat 19: Brinkleys Magic
Heat 1 and ante-post outright: Undulation (ante-post EW)

THE EDGE Fri: BBL Sydney Sixers v Melbourne Renegades
DAQMAN Thurs: Market Rasen NAP
DAQSTATS Thurs: Clonmel NAP
THE EDGE Thurs: BBL Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Stars
THE STRIKER Thurs: Premier League Preview
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