JONATHAN HOBBS: IT’S the first batch of first round heats of the Star Sports/TRC Events & Leisure English Greyhound Derby 2021 at Towcester tonight – as the Northamptonshire track becomes the centre of the greyhound racing world for the next month.

Tonight’s heats 1-10 are followed by 11 heats apiece on Friday and Saturday – 32 in all – staged in front of fans of the sport plus owners and trainers of 180-odd runners chasing a superb £175,000 first prize. All the action is on SportyStuff TV/RPGTV.

So eyes down for tonight’s heats . . .


6.42: A cracking opening heat where Romeo Magico will be popular to kick-start the Irish challenge for this year’s Derby. However Gymstar Elusive is interesting down the middle. He remains a lightly raced sort and therefore potential improver for Chris Akers – incidentally the legendary Charlie Lister OBE is a part-owner – and has trialled well. He probably needs to get first run on Romeo Magico or certainly needs to pace up upsides him. Thereafter supporters would be hopeful this 500m Notts winner can land the money.

Play: Gymstar Elusive

7pm: Heat two now. A great early-paced battle looks on the cards between Denmark and Great Eastern and preference is just for the blue jacket. He’s recently changed hands and is now trained by Shawfield handler Neil Brown. A decent trial gives supporters encouragement, although clearing the Blue Riband finalist is key. Drumcrow Brent must also be respected. He runs Towcester really well, is strong-running and will need no second invitation should his rivals crowd inside.

Play: Denmark

7.17: Another Scottish trainer will fancy his chances in this heat three. Gary Ferguson sent out Frankies Jet to win on Northern Flat final night and the orange jacket has the mix of early and middle pace to really stamp his authority on this – although both Ballymac Kingdom and Bombardier look serious Irish challengers. Both have trialled well and will pounce should Frankies Jet miss a beat early.

Play: Frankies Jet

7.35: Great Name That will be fancied by the visitors to shine here for Liam Dowling. This proven competition dog moved well in a pre-event trial, although will be looking to tack across to the rails so might have to step carefully – but is quick and very strong. Compatriot Newinn Hero takes advantage as the black jacket heads inwards early and should secure a clear run. Drumdoit Bruno is a huge price but has a good turn of early pace and a good make-up given a vacant trap inside.

Play: Great Name That

7.54: Thorn Falcon won the recent Maiden Derby over C&D and looks the one to beat here in this heat five. He posted some good clocks and can come from off the pace or dominate the early exchanges. However Russian Blake has shown good early toe in wins at Romford and Yarmouth and might kick on early doors. That would give John Mullins’ runner a chance of upsetting the odds on the favourite outside him. Trouble outside lets in Ireland’s Outnumbered.

Play: Russian Blake

8.14: A trappy heat six now where Towcester boss Kevin Boothby has high hopes of a good run with Brendan Matthews’s Savana King, whom he owns. His Irish lines and Towcester workout makes him a player, as does Bandicoot Sammy’s recent trial stakes victory. He’s another top Irish tracker. However Jumeirah Sprite comes from an in-form kennel in Debbie Calvert’s and trapped well in the race won by the impressive and unlucky Candy Man. The six-box goes well if holding his position into the turn here.

Play: Jumeirah Sprite 

8.34: One of Ireland’s best chances of outright glory goes now with Newinn Session for Graham Holland. He enjoyed a good battle with Hilight Arkle in a trial stakes a fortnight ago and that formline looks too good for these. He’s a powerful runner who will be difficult to keep out of the frame as the competition progresses. The most likely forecast link is All About Ted, another Irish-trained runner who moved very well in a sprint (15.76) workout here. That’s pretty quick.

Play: Newinn Session

8.51: This looks a match between Ireland’s Priceless Jet and home-trained Coolavanny Kyser. The former set a new track record here in a trial stakes and looks well pitched outside. However Mark Wallis’s Blue Riband finalist boasts enough early pace to cut a dash here down the middle. He ran well at Monmore recently, showing lots of speed and could get away.

Play: Coolavanny Kyser

9.09: Kevin Hutton won a Derby here with Dorotas Wildcat and will be hoping for a good run and Classic campaign from Signet Ace, his Winter Derby winner. The white-jacketed runner possesses superb early pace and should soon have this heat in safe-keeping. The draw make-up looks perfect. Deadly Missile looks best of the rest on his own Monmore form and is an improving sort.

Play: Signet Ace

9.27: Heat ten and the final one on this first night of action. Smurfs Machine made the Derby final for Seamus Cahill last year at Nottingham and retains great ability. This make-up looks good with lots of early pace and the possibility of scrimmaging amongst his rivals. The inside traps all hit top gear quickly inside and something might get away. A middle move from Bubbly Magnum might also clear the way for stripes, although his best will still be needed.

Play: Smurfs Machine

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Good luck all.