Memphis equals clock but Joni out as Holland lands five-timer

Memphis equals clock but Joni out as Holland lands five-timer
Presentation after the record-equalling 28.58sec run of King Memphis in heat 12. Pic: Jim Tate

VICTORIES for eight clear or joint-favourites in ten races may not suggest it, but Friday's second batch of Star Sports/TRC English Derby first round heats were full of drama.

It began in the very opening heat 11 where Liz McNair's outright co-favourite Queen Joni became the first major casualty of the 2024 Derby, stumbling at the start and then being knocked from pillar to post as she crashed out in sixth.

Victory, in what was to become a theme, went to Graham Holland's triple Irish Classic champion Clonbrien Treaty, who was up there from the outset and came home almost five lengths to the good of El Tornillo in 29.12sec (+10).

If there was pressure on the McNairs going into the following heat 12 where their other outright co-favourite King Memphis was engaged, it did not get through to the dog who was paw perfect as he made all to beat Ballymac Finn by six lengths, equalling Droopys Clue's 28.58sec track record in the process having previously held the mark himself before Romeo Command bettered it.

Otherwise it was a dominant night for the Irish with victories for John McGee's Hawkfield Blue (28.82sec) and Pat Buckley's Antigua Hawk (28.81sec) complementing a magnificent Graham Holland five-timer.

His Romeo Steel (29.07sec, normal) and Swords Rex (28.99sec) both dug in to add to Clonbrien Treaty's earlier success and Friday finished with emphatic successes for Faypoint Susie (29.03sec) and reigning champion Gaytime Nemo (29.14sec), who was winning for the first time since landing the Classic.

It was not quite all one-way traffic with Patrick Janssens on the mark with Droopys Supply and John Mullins with Wrighty (both 29.11sec) but it was still a night when the Irish flexed their considerable muscle albeit with a UK record-equaller.