Greetings from Finland, from where I’m writing this adorned in sunshine looking over a lake, the sound of birdsong filling the air. You may wonder therefore why it is I wish I was in Towcester instead tonight? Well, tonight is the biggest night in the greyhound calendar, Derby final night, and not only that but my very own Julius George runs in the Champion Hurdle. Alas, I’ll be cheering him home via a ropey feed on my iPad while the rest of the Catford Toteboard syndicate give him their all from the track.
Readers of this blog hopefully have 100/1 tickets in their hands going into tonight’s final, but if not then you can still back George at an incredibly generous 50/1 today and with Skybet offering three places (that’s half the field) at a fifth of the odds I certainly wouldn’t put you off. On paper he shouldn’t make the frame but as I said last week he often saves his best for these big competitions (being in the top three of both the Springbok and Grand National before) and has been trained with the Champion Hurdle in mind by Tony Taylor. He ran a cracker in the semi-finals last week to qualify and is set to run another big race tonight. Whether that is good enough only time will tell, but this is dog racing and anything can happen. The traps go up at 7.16.
In the big one itself, the Derby final, Clares Rocket is aiming to go unbeaten throughout the whole competition and you can get ready for the movie if he does as it would be fairytale stuff coming seven months after being kidnapped by Irish gangsters. I’m opposing him tonight though with another Irish raider – Tyrur Shay. There’s nothing more exciting than a dog than finishes fast (check out the old videos of Westmead Hawk and Scurlough Champ on YouTube) and Shay not only has this in his locker but also the ability to trap out with the pace too. When he did this in the third round he was devastating and if he gets out tonight I can’t see him being beaten. The great thing is that he doesn’t have to do that to hold a chance though as he will be finishing double the speed of anything else down the final straight. If you play him reversed against the field your almost certain to score (unless there’s trouble in running) as it’s very hard to see him finishing outside the first two. You can back him at 9/4 and the judge waves her flag at 8.56.
Horses-wise there are no jumps meetings at all today but there are still two I like on the Flat who have form over obstacles in the past. London Prize has become one of my favourites over the past year or so, being something of a revelation on the all-weather, the turf and over hurdles for Ian Williams. The Imperial Cup winner romped to an eight-length win back on the Flat last month and I can’t see a 5lb penalty today stopping him back on the all-weather at Newcastle. He runs in the Northumberland Plate consolation race having missed the cut for the big one and the fact that he would have been a serious contender for that race tells you everything. Get on!
Concluding the Irish Derby card over at the Curragh is an interesting 2m contest where Willie Mullins seems to hold all the aces. His Laws of Spin and Whiteout head the betting and it’s the latter of the two that I like today. The former Punchestown Mares Champion Hurdle winner, currently 143-rated over timber, exploited a mark of 77 to trounce a field on the Flat over course and distance in May and an 11lb rise for that success may not be enough to stop him today. Mullins’ other runner, Laws of Spin, carries 8lb more but does have Ryan Moore in the saddle as he attempts a four-timer going back to last July. I think Whiteout has more scope for improvement on the Flat though and he gets my vote.
3.00 Newcastle – London Prize 11/4 (NAP)
6.00 Curragh – Whiteout 3/1
7.16 Towcester dogs – Julius George 50/1ew (Skybet)
8.56 Towcester – Tyrur Shay 9/4