The Group 1 National Derby has long been regarded as one of the premier races on the Australian greyhound racing calendar and when you scan the honour roll, past champions who have won this event are littered throughout its esteemed history.
Keen Linen won the first running in 1963; Roman Earl, the King of Harold Park at the time took it out in 1966; Steelflex, prepared by Allen Wheeler is the only greyhound to have ever won two Derby’s when he was victorious in 1974 and 1975; General Jeff, who champion mentor Jim Coleman rates as the fastest greyhound he ever prepared, claimed it in 1980; and when we fast forward to 2015, the superstar, Fernando Bale, was the last to etch his name on the trophy.
Although the $75,000 prizemoney on offer to the winner may be substantially less than that of a Melbourne Cup or Golden Easter Egg, the prestige of winning the National Derby far exceeds its monetary value.
The 2016 renewal to be run at Wentworth Park this Saturday night has drawn together another talented field of chasers and as the TAB.com.au Fixed Odds betting market suggests, it is quite possibly the most open Derby in recent times with Spritely Dancer and Nangar Flame heading the markets at $4.60 while the ‘roughie’ in the race is Pedro Cerrano at $11.
Check out the full TAB.com.au markets for the National Futuirty and National Derby here.
On what was a speed track last Saturday night, four of the heat winners, Pedro Cerrano (29.99); Diego Bale (29.83); Asa Killer Queen (29.90); and Spritely Dancer (29.71) all showed brilliant early pace to lead at the first turn while the time honours of the night went to Good Odds Ocker (29.67) who was third down the back straight before finishing strongly to score an impressive victory.
Reverse the box draw for a number of these runners and I have no doubt that the betting market would change dramatically such is the even spread of ability and pace that they have.
The first sectional times from last Saturday night saw Asa Killer Queen run 5.38; Spritely Dancer 5.41; Diego Bale 5.46; Pedro Cerrano 5.47; and Magic Spring 5.47 when second to the first mark behind Asa Killer Queen; all of that equates to less than a 1.5 lengths separating five greyhounds on the clock in the run to the first turn.
Statistics show that more than 60% of greyhounds that lead at the first turn go on and win the race but I’m tipping a greyhound that will be near the tail of the field in the early stages to claim the Derby.
On face value, Nangar Flame is poorly drawn in Box 7 but with the ‘speed’ greyhounds drawn in boxes 2 to 6, I think he can find a trouble free run to the fence and be ready to pounce down the back straight.
He was dominant when defeating Pedro Cerrano off box 2 in a heat of the G1 Paws of Thunder on January 9 running 29.77 in the process, before he uncharacteristically missed the start by some 8 lengths in the final off an inside draw, eventually flashing home to finish fourth.
A winner of 8 races from 23 starts, Nangar Flame has also been placed a further 13 times in his career proving he is an ultra-consistent chaser, while winning times of 30.36 at Richmond and 26.09 at Bulli verify his undoubted ability to match it with this field.
The box draw favours a greyhound like Pedro Cerrano ($10) being able to get to the fence in the early stages and if he was to salute, it would cap off a memorable career for trainer John Little who prepared his first winner at Grafton, way back in 1958.
For Anne Hector, just having a runner in a Group 1 event is a massive thrill, and she’ll have her charge, Spritely Dancer ($4.60), primed to perfection for his assignment while if Good Odds Ocker ($7) had have drawn boxes 1 or 2 instead of the extreme outside, I have no doubt he would be the pre-post favourite.
It’s not often that you could make a convincing case for all eight runners to win a Group 1 final, but that is certainly the situation this Saturday night.
I’m tipping Nangar Flame on top from Pedro Cerrano, Spritely Dancer and Diego Bale.
The other feature event of the night is the Group 1 National Futurity and Dyna Maddie brought off a massive plunge ($12 into $3.60) when scoring an emphatic victory in 29.70 last week, nearly seven lengths faster than any of the other heat winners.
Dyna Maddie ($2.50) has again drawn favourably in box 3 in the $75,000 to the winner race but her toughest opposition could come from Cash In Motion ($6.50), who although registering the slowest time of the heats in 30.44, was responsible for a terrific performance after striking trouble on a number of occasions in the run.
Cash In Motion ($6.50) is a proven performer at Albion Park where she has broken 30 seconds on seven occasions during her 32 start career and with the benefit of two runs at Wenty under her belt, I think she can cause an upset in the Futurity.
My tips in the G1 National Futurity are Cash In Motion from Dyna Maddie, My Girl Chloe and Fantastic Skye.
It’s shaping up to be a sensational night of greyhound racing action at Wentworth Park and I’ll be trackside this Saturday evening on Sky Racing 1 (Ch519) from 7pm (AEDT).
Good luck and good punting