JONATHAN KAY: Ahead of the opening round of the Greyhound Derby 2022, read Jonathan’s betting advice and hear about his early selection.

The Derby

The English Greyhound Derby is the ultimate test of a greyhound, and trainer. For six weekends we have the biggest fields, the best quality, rarely a gimme and every mistake is potentially competition-ending. It’s not just the quality though, it’s a battle of national pride between the UK and Ireland.

The significance of the Derby can’t be understated, they can be life-changing. Even if it is not permanent, it can give just about anyone the chance of a magical ride for the duration. Just reaching the Derby final is akin to winning any other major competition and people from all walks of life are thrust into the spotlight. Over a decade ago now the 2011 finalist Bright Redcliffe was trained by John McGoldrick, a hobby trainer who was a window cleaner by trade.

Betting on the Derby

When it comes to backing a greyhound in the Derby, there are three important things to remember – the draw, the draw, and the draw. With so much time information available, sectional or overall, it is not hard to figure out which are the fastest greyhounds, but they must get the opportunity to show their speed. Greyhounds are creatures of habit so learning their idiosyncrasies, particularly in the first 20 metres or so, is crucial.

Trends are a common starting point when looking to make a selection, however, the difficulty with trends this year is that we are not comparing like with like. Since Wimbledon’s final Derby in 2016, the Classic has been held at the original Towcester in 2017 and 2018, then Nottingham in 2019 and 2020 and finally back to a slightly modified Towcester last year. Even from 12 months ago there have been changes, the most significant being a switch of starting traps after an evidence-backed consensus that it was hard for greyhounds to break from T1 last year.

My early selection

We’re going to go against the trends here as there has not been a bitch first-past-the-post since Sarah’s Bunny in 1979, and only four bitches have ever won the Derby on the track which is a pretty compelling statistic. However, I believe Pat Buckley’s brilliant Irish bitch Singalong Sally has all the necessary traits and has already proven herself in with the boys by finishing second in last year’s Irish Derby final. Most recently she beat Part Blake impressively at Limerick, yet he is much shorter in the market than her. One-trick ponies who have to lead are always vulnerable so I look for a greyhound with genuine win claims but also one who offers durability in terms of being able to overcome adversity to qualify should the need arise.

Derby advice

The beauty of the Derby is that you can join in, or build a portfolio, at any stage. There is a case for thinking better value can be had after the first round as over-reactions to wins and defeats are common. But above all, believe the evidence of your own eyes and not the hype. Greyhounds can, and do, improve through a competition but very few, if any, will go in undercooked so if a run looks flat it probably was. Conversely, a huge run can take it out of a greyhound even with a week to recover. Two of the three greyhounds to break the track record in the build-up or during the Derby last year were beaten next time.