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

ON Saturday, we reach the penultimate stage of what has been a truly marvellous 2017 Star Sports Derby at Towcester. It has been a first Derby for both sponsor and venue and, along with some fantastic greyhounds, they have played their part in making the event such a special one.

Ireland won the Derby last year and have four runners still engaged, although Jaytee Jet, the hitherto defending champion, is not amongst them after his elimination at the quarter-final stage on Tuesday.

From a training perspective Seamus Cahill must take all the plaudits. The Hove handler has three still involved in the £175,000-to-the-winner competition. The cameras from Sky Sports 5 will be at Towcester to bring all the action to those unable to get there on Saturday.

The First Semi-Final

Hiya Butt, third in last year’s Derby final, is perfectly positioned in trap one to make the frame. I get the impression the dog trained by Hayley Keightley is staying the 500 metres at Towcester better than he did the 480 metres at Wimbledon. Droopys Buick has given connections more than a couple of scares since the start of the event but keeps qualifying. Bruisers Bullet has been foot-perfect but only scraped home in third on Tuesday. Droopys Acrobat was impressive with an all-the-way win at the quarter-final stage. Racing Post Juvenile winner Murrys Act is strong and mustn’t be underrated and Forest Con, the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby winner, is very capable and well-drawn,

The Draw

1 Hiya Butt

2 Droopys Buick

3 Bruisers Bullet

4 Droopys Acrobat

5 Murrys Act (w)

6 Forest Con (w)

The Second Semi-Final

Clares Rocket has maintained an unbeaten record on Tuesday and seems to have to have established a settled running pattern from trap one. Graham Holland, his trainer, said he wanted the red jacket after the quarter finals and his wish has been granted. Swithins Brae has hit form at the right time and shouldn’t be under estimated. Astute Missile hasn’t won any of the preliminary rounds but has been keeping some good company and merits respect. Coolavanny Mason is as tough as teak and has proven as much with some determined performances. Tyrur Shay has been the star of the competition. He can break and make or keep his supporters on tenter-hooks with a late finish. He is reportedly related to the legend that is Westmead Hawk and certainly has a similar presence. He is the one to beat. Sallows Ford is as game as a pebble. He’ll be a big price but shouldn’t be dismissed.

Second semi-final

1 Clares Rocket

2 Swithins Brae

3 Astute Missile

4 Coolavanny Mason

5 Tyrur Shay (M)

6 Sallows Ford (W)

 

HOW THE QUARTER FINALS WERE WON

Heat One

Clares Rocket is the most talked about dog in this competition but he is still unbeaten and in this gave the air of a dog who is going to have a huge say in the outcome of this competition. Graham Holland’s dog was marginally led past the sectional pole by Fweshfromthesesh but accelerated to take the first bend in front. He opened up quickly and in the end won by a comfortable four and half lengths from Astute Missile and Bruisers Bullet. The latter got anything but a clear run and for the first time looked vulnerable. He pulled a big late effort out of the bag, however, to qualify in third. The winning time was 28.99sec (0.10sec slow) and the distances were four and a half lengths and four and a quarter lengths.

Heat Two

Swithins Brae overcame what appeared a difficult trap five draw by tracking cleverly around the opening turns to take the second quarter final by four and a quarter lengths in 29.29sec. Once ahead, the Peter Cronin-trained dog looked assured and didn’t give connections a moment’s concern. Forest Con is the last member of that tremendous Ballymac Vic – Droopys Danneel litter still involved the competition. He broke slowly but had enough pace to work his way through the field to secure a place in the draw for Saturday’s semi-finals. Jimmy Wright, assistant to trainer Angela Harrison, admitted that he thought Droops Buick was going to be eliminated after another slow start put his Derby campaign on a knife-edge. But the clever old campaigner found a way to get home in third. The winning time was 29.29sec (90.10sec slow) and the distances were four and a quarter lengths and a neck.

Heat Three

Having had the runner-up in the first two quarter finals, Seamus Cahill got the winner he deserved when Droopys Acrobat left the others standing with a sizzling front running performance. There was a lot to like about the performance from last year’s Irish Cesarewitch winner who clocked 29.02sec (0.10sec slow). A messy first bend saw the evergreen Irish campaigner Cable Bay and the progressive Pacey Bambi leave the event. Danzi Exception who has been brilliant was also a casualty in this heat. Outsider Shallows Ford enjoyed a smooth enough run from trap five to take second place, ahead of Murrys Act, who gave the popular Kevin Boon a runner in the semi-finals. The winning time was 29.02sec and the distances were three and a quarter lengths and two and a half lengths.

Heat Four

Tyrur Shay produced a gut-bursting late charge up the Towcester home straight to land what many afterwards were describing as the race of the competition. The admirable Hiya Butt broke quickly and made the others stretch every sinew to keep up with a frantic pace. There was a moment along the far side where Tyrur Shay, whose trademark is his fabulous pace between the second and third bends, looked flat and he didn’t appear to be travelling well as Hiya Butt kept ahead. Coolavanny Mason was running a big race but defending champion Jaytee Jet had been in trouble at the first bend and as a consequence of getting away and was in danger. Tyrur Shay suddenly sensed the urgency and picked up in the closing stages to get home a neck in front of Hiya Butt with Coolavanny Mason a half a length away in third. The winning time was 29.02sec (0.10sec slow).