JONATHAN KAY: Ahead of the opening round of the English Greyhound Derby 2022, read Jonathan’s betting advice and hear about his early selections.

Keep the faith in Singalong Sally

Singalong Sally was my pick for the Derby last week and ahead of the first round this week I am not going to desert her – but there were certainly plenty of expletives when I saw the draw! She’s in Heat 12 on Friday – the toughest heat of the round with four rivals having won trial stakes including Part Blake, one of the outright favourites.

But I said last week that I couldn’t understand the disparity in outright price between Singalong Sally and Part Blake so that has to stand coming into Friday’s race. Also, completely ignore her trial time of 29.57 seconds. I watched it back and you can probably knock half a second off for the way she seemed to get tangled up out of the traps and then stumbled. Singalong Sally will only have lost my faith if she gets eliminated. I spoke to her trainer Pat Buckley at the weekend and he’s certainly still bullish.

Rest of the draw

The first round draw threw up plenty of other interesting storylines. Heat 26 on Saturday sees a trio of top-class Irish greyhounds – Knight Tornado, Romeo Magico and Deadly Destroyer – in together, which probably won’t please any of their connections.

Lautaro has long been the apple of the eye of last year’s winning trainer Patrick Janssens and made a stunning winning debut in November, but only has three wins in 11 starts since, including five odds-on defeats. However, he did finish an excellent and perhaps unlucky third in the recent Laurels final at Perry Barr and has come up smelling of roses in the draw. He actually opened odds-against for Heat 6 on Thursday, which was incredible given the opposition, but even a best of 8/11 looks generous still. He could go off nearly 1/3.

And as pleased as Janssens will be with the draw for Lautaro, he will have a lot of trepidation about the task facing another of his leading hopes, Monmore Puppy Derby winner Deelish Frankie, in the race immediately prior on Thursday. It would have been quite hard to give him a worse make-up than between fast-up Swift Iconic and quick-trapping Maiden Derby winner Hellofakerfuffle.

Thursday tips

My NAP for Thursday is T1 Ballyblack Speed in Heat 3 at 7.10pm. Richard Yeates’ dog has a brilliant make-up on the inside and looks very fairly priced as big as 3/1. He’s gone well in trial stakes and is a good all-rounder just looking for the opportunity to show his ability, which I think he’ll get here.

If T2 Da Bold Freddie is as good as I think he is, and I believe he’s a proper contender, then 6/4 or thereabouts for Heat 7 at 8.26pm has to be taken. He has excellent form in the top Irish juvenile races and looked perfectly suited to the track in his trial at Towcester.

I’ll be opposing new track record holder Sporting Chile in the 7.30pm at short odds. I’ve mentioned before about it being hard to back up huge runs with two out of three track record-breakers beaten next time up last year, while it was the perfect performance where he did absolutely everything right. Additionally, he faces a seriously classy Irish rival in T3 Hello Hammond, who would probably have been favourite without Sporting Chile having produced that track record run.

Friday tips

T4 Annual Sydney is my bet of the round in Heat 13 at 6.50pm. First up, this looks a very winnable race but the form of Kevin Hutton’s dog stacks up as well – he was second in a very good Monmore Puppy Derby back in March, where he also won his latest race in good fashion. After that he had a 500m trial at Towcester, having previously only been out of the sprint boxes at the track and 29.83 seconds was only so-so. But he actually pinged from traps only to lose his footing and semi-stumble, which cost a lot of momentum. He should go clear and can build a big lead so 5/1 looks huge.

A little more speculatively, T3 Callmesteve looks well overpriced for Heat 15 at 7.30pm. He mixes standard and staying racing, and while he somewhat bizarrely also ran in the TV Trophy heats over a marathon trip, he is very effective over a stiff four bends. He was within a length of the 500m track record in a trial on Sunday and, while he will need luck, he won’t go down without a battle in a race where market leader, and new Greyhound of the Year, Signet Ace has a few questions to answer on recent trial evidence.

The Friday lay is T3 Cape Cloud in Heat 21 at 9.20pm. He won his first trial stakes well but was readily beaten when hassled next time and there is plenty of speed for him to contend with here as well.

Saturday tips

My NAP for Saturday is T5 Deanridge Skippy, who looks sure to go clear against mainly staying types in Heat 26 at 7.30pm and his trial stakes victory on May 8 suggests he will take a bit of pegging back. His outright Derby prospects are negligible. Winning a heat would be regarded as an excellent achievement, so expect him to be primed.

In Heat 28 at 8.05pm, T2 Zazzeras Jack might just have another shock in him, having won the first two rounds of the Maiden Derby here at 12/1 and 7/1. Wide Open, beaten at odds-on in the final of that, again has T1 to contend with, which may not be ideal, so the fast-starting Zazzeras Jack could steal a march in a race where the outside runners may crowd. He’s 20/1-plus which looks crazy.

The Saturday lay comes first up in the opener at 6.20pm in the shape of Juvenile winner T4 Bubbly Apache. He sprawled on leaving traps in his latest trial and did not return for another, which is something of a red flag, while in T3 Russian Glory he has a seriously fast dog to clear.