Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Bizarrely, following a spate of track closures, there seems to be more Puppy Derby competitions than ever. But with a £12,500 winner’s prize and one of the country’s best galloping circuits, the Puppy Derby at Monmore Green, is probably the best of them all.
In 2018 the competition threw-up Droopys Verve, who may have finished only second in the decider at even-money, but is the ante-post favourite for the Steel City Cup (7/4) and current Greyhound Derby second favourite at 16/1.
This Saturday Toolmaker Me Dad, trained by Robert Gleeson for owner Willie Hyslop in Ireland, will carry the mantle of big race favourite. Market leaders have an 11 from 20 strike-rate since 1999 and they are five from ten during the last decade.
But, despite recording the fastest time of the semi-finals and easily the fastest time of the opening round even-money is a very short price to take about in a greyhound amongst a field of lightly-raced youngsters.
Time-wise four of the six finalists showed significant improvement between their heat and semi-final, Toolmaker Me Dad was not one of them. And with sectional times suggesting five raw puppies could be arriving at the opening bend in something of a heap, I much prefer taking three dogs against the favourite representing a collectively similar price.
Ernie Gaskin’s Roman Empire is unbeaten in three lifetime starts scoring by wide-margins. He is yet to navigate a clear passage in this competition but he had almost ten lengths to spare over his rivals in his semi-final despite first bend crowding and not leading until the third bend.
Just what time he could record in a clean run race remains to be seen. A draw in 5 in the final is far from idea but as a slow starter he should find space to tack across to the inside and, scraping the paint off the fence (he is an exceptionally tight railer) he will be well positioned to benefit from any semblance of a melee. No dog will be finishing faster.
With 17 race starts on his card (four in his native Ireland), the trap 4 runner, Seaglass Tiger, is the most experienced runner in the field. He has some genuine early-pace and he could prove troublesome to the market leader who is on his inside.
Troy Zico belied his odds in the semi-final leading Toolmaker Me Dad a merry dance before the petrol ran out close home. He was only beaten a length-and-a-half and, as he dons the striped-jacket amongst a field of five railers, this early-paced type could be ideally positioned to benefit from any trouble amongst the market principles.
Toolmaker Me Dad is far from certain to find a clear passage. He has a minefield draw in trap 3 and he charts a wide-course down the straights. Roman Empire looks a future star over six bends and I’d have him as race favourite if he was drawn alongside the inner fence. He’s not but he is therefore an attractive price.
Seaglass Tiger is trained by Patrick Janssens who has his kennel in exceptional form and can clearly ready a dog for a major final. Given his dog’s experience he has to enter calculations. Troy Zico has little to find with the big race favourite and with a peach of a draw is the third of our three selections against the short-priced ‘jolly’.
Roman Empire 2/1
Seaglass Tiger 5/1
Troy Zico (stake saver) 14/1