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Star Sports Derby - Towcester 500m - £175,000

DON’T know about you but I’m no more convinced I know the identity of the 2017 Star Sports Derby winner than I was when the competition got under way over 500 metres at Towcester on June 1. The only thing for sure is that we now have less runners to choose from.

We are down to the final 24 runners for the four quarter finals on Tuesday, which are live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm. It’s a tremendous line-up featuring a blend of young and old, fancied and unfancied, fast-starters and strong stayers.

All of which combined would seem to ensure it’s going to be a thrill a minute until the winner is known and that cheque for £175,000 is handed over to successful connections on Saturday week.

The First Quarter Final

Clares Rocket hasn’t quite taken the event by storm as was expected of the pre-competition ante-post favourite. He is, however, unbeaten thus far and showed of a glimmer of his grit and determination when winning from a difficult position at the weekend. He has the brilliant Bruisers Bullet, the fastest heat winner on Saturday, to beat as well as kennelmate Ballinakil Clare, the only bitch left in the competition. In addition, Shaneboy Freddie can be a bit of a handful. Astute Missile and Fweshfromthesesh, beaten by Clares Rocket on Saturday, are far from out of it.

The Draw

1 Clares Rocket

2 Astute Missile

3 Bruisers Bullet

4 Ballinakil Clare

5 Shaneboy Freddie

6 Fweshfromthesesh (w)

The Second Quarter Final

Droopys Buick appeared to have forfeited his chance with a slow start at the weekend but he came through to score in the closing stages. He won’t be able to take such liberties here, nor is he likely to do so. Having said all that, he has a superb draw in trap one. Crossfield Hugo’s speed has been impressive throughout the competition and he must come into the reckoning. The British-bred Carn Brea is huge, powerful and determined and Forest Con is delightfully drawn and is at the top of his game. Swithins Brae took the scalp of Jaytee Jet on Saturday and cannot be discounted and Newinn Blitz has yet to win but represents a strong kennel.

The Draw

1 Droopys Buick

2 Crossfield Hugo

3 Carn Brea

4 Newinn Blitz

5 Swithins Brae

6 Forest Con (w)

The Third Quarter Final

Pacey Bambi has yet to put a foot wrong and must be given serious consideration. I’ve liked every run from Danzey Exception and his connections love the draw. Cable Bay, a high-class performer for the last two years, retains a tremendous enthusiasm for racing. Droopys Acrobat won the Irish Cesarewitch last year and represents a kennel in form. Sallows Ford has pace to burn. Murrys Act is the Racing Post Juvenile winner and should enjoy a good run on the outside.

The Draw

1 Danzey Exception

2 Cable Bay

3 Droopys Acrobat

4 Pacey Bambi

5 Sallows Ford (w)

6 Murrys Act (w)

The Fourth Quarter Final

Last year’s Derby first and third, Jaytee Jet and Hiya Butt, meet again. Neither is perhaps the force of 12 months ago but they both have class and can never be underestimated. Tyrur Shay has been the dog who, more than any other, has caught my eye. He can front run or come from off the pace and is a worthy ante-post favourite. We haven’t seen the best from Coolavanny Mason yet. He is as tough as teak and has plenty of foot. Airport Jumbo might struggle to get a run but always leaves 100 per cent on the track and Slaheny King has performed well in the black jacket before. The Draw

1 Hiya Butt

2 Coolavanny Mason  

3 Airport Jumbo

4 Slaheny King

5 Tyrur Shay (m)

6 Jaytee Jet (w)

WHAT CONNECTIONS HAD TO SAY

Gary Hodson (Owner and Trainer Danzey Exception): “He’s the best dog I’ve ever had. I’m not surprised he is doing well. We always thought a lot of him. I haven’t rushed him because he is a big dog and needed some time to settle into his racing. But he is running really well and I am pleased with his draw in the quarter-finals.”

HOW THE THIRD ROUND UNFOLDED

Heat One

The emerging talented that is Pacey Bambi registered his third straight win in the competition and his fastest sectional (05.16sec) so far. There is something very likeable about the no nonsense approach from this two-year-old, trained by Paul Young. He posted 29.30sec (0.20sec slow) when beating Sallows Ford and Carn Brea by five and a three-quarters of a length and two and a quarter lengths respectively.

Heat Two

My admiration for Bruisers Bullet gets deeper and deeper as the Mark Wallis-trained runner makes a bigger impact on this event every time he sets foot on the track. Here on Saturday he demonstrated an ability to get in front – courtesy of a 05.15sec sectional – but also the talent to stay there. He converted a first bend lead to beat the useful Ballinakil Clare by two and a half lengths in 29.00 (0.20sec slow). The runner-up is decent and overcame a first bend bump to take her place in the quarter finals.

Heat Three

Droopys Buick came from almost last to first to land a qualifier that saw the end of the road for both Cloran Paddy, a finalist last year, the impressive youngster King Eden. The early speed was supplied by Newinn Blitz but when the latter and Slaheny King bumped into each other at the fourth bend, the 2016 GBGB Greyhound of the Year was there to pick up the pieces. He went on to score by a length in 29.50sec (0.20sec slow).

Heat Four

Jaytee Jet, the defending champion, and College Paradise were expected to be the main protagonists but the Peter Cronin-trained Swithins Brae clearly hadn’t read the script as he pinched an early advantage and nursed it to the wire to score by two and a half lengths in 29.18sec (0.20sec slow). Jaytee Jet was handy from the second turn but was unable to over haul the leader and but College Paradise went out after a slow start.

Heat Five

The competition lost one of its biggest names with the elimination of Priceless Brandy. Many expected to see the Paul Hennessy-trained runner in the final line-up but he got anything but a clear run and finished down the field. Clares Rocket, his fellow Irish raider, got up to deny Fweshfromthesesh, who had led along the back straight, after he had also suffered a troubled passage. The winner clocked 29.27sec (0.20sec slow).

Heat Six

Tyrur Shay strengthened his position as the new ante-post favourite with another performance right from the top drawer. Punters didn’t know what to expect from PJ Fahy’s runner. In the first round, we watched him start slowly and come through the first to score and last weekend he blasted from the traps and made all on his way to a new record. What we got on Saturday was somewhere in between as he settled in mid-division before powering home two and a half lengths ahead of the Seamus Cahill duo Forest Con and Droopys Acrobat, in that order.

Heat Seven

Danzey Exception maintained his unbeaten run with another performance from the top drawer. Gary Hodson’s dog broke well and just shaded Hiya Butt to the turn before maintaining a healthy distance between himself and the field for the rest of the journey. Hiya Butt was second, just a neck in front of Cable Bay, the four-year-old who won the Kirby Memorial and reached the Irish Derby final back in 2015, came home strongly to take the remaining qualifying position.

Heat Eight

This was a real rough ride for those involved. Coolavanny Mason hustled and bustled his way through to take it up at the halfway point and was then flat out to see off a huge late run from Astute Missile. The Other Reg who had led off the second bend eventually finished fifth as Murrys Act, the Racing Post Juvenile winner, came through to take the remaining qualifying position. The winner time was 29.75sec (0.20sec slow) and the distances were a head and three lengths.