Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Hove Stadium plays host a new competition final this Thursday, the £10,000 to the winner Coral Winter Derby. Despite this being a time of year when Derby dogs are traditionally woken from hibernation in preparation for the showpiece Greyhound Derby, this competition drew a top-draw entry.
In fact the reigning Greyhound of the Year and 2018 Derby champion, Dorotas Wildcat, was amongst the runners. Being eliminated in the first round, when 1/5 to win, his departure had a dramatic effect on the ante-post market.
The locally trained Sporting Dave is the only unbeaten finalist in the race and with a 28.31sec all-the-way semi-final win he has clocked the fastest time of the competition. Completing the hat-trick and collecting the winner’s trophy is no slam-dunk.
As classy as he is – and Sporting Dave won last year’s Sussex Cup, finished fourth in the Olympic, second in the Essex Vase, second in the Select Stakes and second in the Derby Plate – at least one of his rivals has more to offer.
King Turbo, is the prime example, he won Hove’s Olympic, Kent Derby and Gold Cup during 2018. Drawing the red vest, this greyhound is unquestionably better drawn in Thursday’s decider and it’s a final he has made despite not negotiating a clear passage in the first round or semi-final.
In addition to this competition being a new fixture on the calendar the race distance is also relatively new with the starting boxes being moved forward 25 metres from their traditional 515 metre starting point. This in turn means a shorter run to the opening bend and increases the prospect of incident at this pinch-point.
The one greyhound drawn to take advantage of any first-bend congestion is undoubtedly Droopys Nirvana who runs from trap 6 as the only classified wide-runner in the field and has the slow starting middle-seed, King Dylan, on his immediate inside.
To aid his cause further, the trap 4 runner, Easter Week has a fair degree of early zip and he will be making his way towards the inside, potentially leaning on the favourites on the dash to the opening bend.
This race is very much a high-speed game of chess. The only certainty looks to be Droopys Nirvana blasting out he boxes and enjoying a trouble-free run as he did when winning his semi-final. However, he has time to find with the market leaders and whereas they have spent their careers winning major competitions, Droopys Nirvana has been competing in A1 graded races and one-off opens. Basically he is short on class at this level.
Volcanic Reef, who goes from trap 3, could be a star of the future but I cannot see this 38-kilo greyhound negotiating a clear run. Early-paced Easter Week will surely be a spent force by the three-quarter mark.
As King Turbo has the better draw, has won at Hove from traps 1,2,3,4 and 5 (he’s five-from-10 at this venue), he beat Sporting Dave in the Olympic Final (over Hove’s 515 metre trip – making all as a 6/4 favourite in December) and I suspect is a stronger stayer than his principle rival, he gets my vote and will carry my money.
King Turbo 2/1