JONATHAN HOBBS: IT’S the second batch of first round heats of the Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby 2021 at Towcester tonight – and honours were very much even between the Irish and English-trained runners in Thursday’s qualifiers.

Tonight’s heats 11-21 are followed by the final batch of 11 heats tomorrow – 32 in all – with the first three in each qualifier making it through to next weekend’s second round across two nights on Friday and Saturday.

So eyes down for tonight’s heats . . .


6.24: One of the leading contenders for outright honours Knocknaboul Syd kicks off his Derby campaign in this opening heat of the night. The Irish star made the semi-finals at Nottingham last year and was a touch unlucky to go out, but has starred this year for the Buckley camp having won the Easter Cup. He should win but is plenty short enough and in-form Sharp Darcy makes appeal at a price. Seamus Cahill’s British-bred is well drawn and would pounce inside early should Knocknaboul Syd just miss a beat.

Play: Sharp Darcy

6.42: John Mullins might be a trainer to follow in the coming heats with a couple of decently priced runners. The first of those is Fatboyz Fury who is lightly raced and set to improve on a solid trial stakes victory over Irish star Boylesportsbingo recently. The draw looks a good one, although the betting rightly puts Ballymac Ariel as the one to beat. She flew round in a recent trial – posting 29.15sec – and is fancied to go a long way in the competition. She could run amok but is priced accordingly.

Play: Fatboyz Fury

7pm: Ballymac Slapup could be another double-figure Mullins runner worth a second glance. He doesn’t stay particularly well but his pace early has been superb and, if coming away from the inside, could set up a decent advantage – and might get away. King Louis looks well drawn outside with a vacant trap and brings all-round speed to the table and shapes as the most likely winner.

Play: Ballymac Slapup

7.17: Bockos Belly will be a warm order here and should oblige with a clear path. The Monmore Puppy Derby runner-up gained Towcester experience during the Puppy Derby last year and could take some holding judged on a 29.39sec trial. Improvement is likely after a break, too. Troy Firebird lacks recent action but at best makes forecast appeal.

Play: Bockos Belly

7.35: Romford trainer Gemma Evans has been unfortunate in the draw with two of her major open-race stars Newinn Jacko and Droopys Addition drawn together. Both would be tough nuts to crack if trapping in front given both are powerful sorts, but the vote goes to Little Venture against the fence for Newcastle trainer Tom Heilbron. He’s a good early pacer and might get first run inside. Ignore his prep trial which was messy.

Play: Little Venture

7.54: Ivy Hill Skyhigh is one of the most improved performers on the circuit and Towcester seems to play to his strengths too. Mark Wallis’s dog starts and stays well and is never far away, pacing up handily into the bend here in all likelihood. A 29.32sec defeat of Surprising in April stands out big-time. Pacemaker Ted was a smart winner of the Northern Flat at Newcastle and looks well drawn outside.

Play: Ivy Hill Skyhigh

8.14: A superb Anglo-Irish battle now – or should that be Irish-Welsh? – between Ireland’s Ballymac Wild for Liam Dowling and Hayley Keightley’s Roxholme Sheikh. Both are fancied to go deep into the competition but in this head-to-head preference is for the blue-jacketed runner in terms of his better starting ability. He posted the fastest time of the year at Perry Barr during the Laurels and would be tough to reel in on that form, although good competition sort Ballymac Wild will keep up the pressure in behind.

Play: Roxholme Sheikh

8.34: Sparta Master has threatened to run amok in his races at Towcester and, with a clear path in running, could do so here. He’d be a popular winner – and so would Queen Beyonce, a former queen of the track continuing her comeback. She could need another spin or two, so Nathan Hunt’s Dapper Donnie makes appeal inside. He starts and stays well and looks well drawn inside – a start like kennelmate Jonno You Go got in yesterday’s first heat would make supporters happy!

Play: Dapper Donnie

8.51: Mr Roo should lead here and could get away. He boasts sprinter’s pace and might take advantage should they crowd in behind. Queen Dolly at her breaking-best is another potential winner here, while Magical Arrow has the all-round speed that should be suited to Towcester. However, a value vote goes the way of Bramble OliverJ. He boasts good pace and, if keeping tabs with Mr Roo, could lay down a serious challenge off the second bend for Newcastle trainer Steve Anderson.

Play: Bramble OliverJ

9.09: Another superb Anglo-Irish clash with the market set to be dominated by Surprising and Beach Avenue. Preference is for Seamus Cahill’s white-jacketed runner who should get first run on the Hennessy powerhouse and it might take a top-class performance from stripes to get to the Puppy Derby winner if that was the case. Surprising hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck in recent Towcester visits but a 29.59sec trial showed enough – and there’s more to come potentially.

Play: Surprising

9.27: The final heat of the night and a real early paced clash on the cards between Havana Class and Little Emir. A smash break for either would likely land the spoils given both are classy front runners. Preference is for Liz McNair’s red -jacketed Laurels winner Havana Class who has shown good speed in sprint trials and will look to slip clear. He’s an improving pup still.

Play: Havana Class

Check out the Towcester markets here ->

Good luck all.