Two things – cycling and greyhound racing (Derby)
Both involve going pretty damn fast and although I am well used to the canine velocity, me on a skinny-wheeled hybrid going about 20 miles an hour is a new (and somewhat alarming) experience.
If you have delved in this blog more than once you may know I am cycling with The Big Issue Foundation to Paris this July over three days. That’s the theory anyway. To date, in order to stand half a chance of completing the feat, I have been training on the existing bike, an urban number with intermediate tyres. I have now upgraded to a Chris Boardman comp hybrid which is a lighter frame, narrower tyres and a harder ride. All of a sudden I am coming upon things in the road a lot quicker. My reaction times have to be the equivalent of a drivers, without the protective encasing of hard metal. All I have between me and the menacing tarmac (sorry Graham Greene it is an adjective :-() is my cycle helmet and an awful lot of thin air rushing past.
Yes I feel vulnerable. I consider it like this though, if there were 5 other bikes upsides, all plotting an oval course at speed then the chances for carnage would be far higher. Which brings me to the dogs plotting their way round Plough Lane in the Derby. A dog which can trap fast and avoid trouble i.e. use its noggin, is what we want in a Derby dog. Alternatively you can have a dog with no early pace, which avoids all the first bend squishing and then can roast the others down the back straight and off the last bend, but again to do that, they need a noggin on them. So, yes, we are looking for not just raw speed but canine intelligence, the sort that saw the devastating Westmead Hawk win three Derbys in the most spectacular of fashions.
I must admit I’ve not seen enough of this year’s remaining Derby contenders to make any kind of educated judgement but I have noted a few dogs and am looking forward to tonight’s heats which sees the a/p favourite Fear Zafonic (T3) in a hot heat with Dotland Hit Man (T6) and Barnfield on Air (T2) @ 9.30 pm. Tactically we will see what Fear is made of, he’s not in his usual 2 berth and being the in the 3 trap means he is going to have to be super-quick to get across to the rail. Barney on his left and in his way is coming back slowly and has not been showing his own super-early of late so I am just going to cross my fingers and hope they can sort it out amicably (after you sir) and that we avoid any messy business at the first bend. If there are shenanigans the most likely to benefit is Dotlands Hit Man who could glide round seamlessly in the stripes.
Last night’s heats were cracking by the sound of it. In the oldsters heat Toosey Blue beat Lenson Express and it is great that those two are through to the next round. Charlie Lister’s Bandicoot Tipoki is incredibly young to be doing what he is doing right now and so damn fast too. I really wonder if he can go all the way, no doubt he is an incredible raw talent but he may need a bit more experience before he can truly read a race and avoid trouble. Boherna Best also scorched home as did Wise Thought. So most of my little Westmead Hawk lads have been eliminated but not to worry, this year’s Derby is shaping up to be very interesting indeed.
Given that Loyal Honcho couldn’t win last year (due to his advanced age), but did anyway, who would entirely discount those lads Lenson Express and Toosey Blue, both whelped in April 2005, to at least continue their march towards the final?