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Greyhounds - Racing: Pat Cooney previews bet365 Empress Stakes Semi-Finals

Despite a shock, odds-on defeat in last Sunday’s second round races at Towcester, pre-competition favourite Fabulous Azurra still heads the semi-final ante-post betting ahead of this Sunday.

After a disappointing run, during which she looked quick but unremarkable, punters clearly think she still has a chance of recapturing her best form, which saw her come into the competition on the back of eight straight wins.  She did show moments of quality last weekend, looking quick out of the gate and pacing up towards the first bend, however she faded throughout the rest of the race and only just managed to squeeze through to the next stage with a third placed finish.

2/1 favourite Azurra has been handed a tough draw following on from this having been placed in the second semi-final, she’ll start in trap five, with plenty of pace on the inside of her. Most notably the pre-tournament second favourite Makeit For Waz who is unbeaten in the previous two rounds, taking her to 10 wins in the last 11 races.

The first semi-final appears to be the easier of the two, which has led to Blackrose Pippa’s price falling to 7/2, joining Makeit For Waz as second favourite. She starts the first race from trap one, somewhere she has winning form from, so I would suggest that she’ll head into this race as an odds-on favourite. Especially after her incredibly impressive showing from trap four last week that saw her record the fastest time of the weekend with a 29.50.

One to watch in heat one this weekend is 10/1 Makeit Bombay, who toppled Fabulous Azurra last time out and may offer some challenge to Blackrose Pippa. She railed amazingly well last week and looked comfortable in a tough race. Do be wary of the high price though, as she starts from trap five, an awkward proposition compared to last week’s trap one start.

As I have said previously, I believe there will be five railers in the final and one middle seed. If the three favourites manage to book their places in the final, there are still three places there for the taking. Blackrose Pippa’s kennel mate, Droopy’s Optimal, has progressed again and could be a solid shout; finishing second and ahead of Fabulous Azurra in the last round, staking a claim and highlighting her quality.

Ultimately, I believe Blackrose Pippa is the most likely of the three single-figure selections to qualify for next weekend with the easier draw, but hopefully we see all three of the favourites making it through to the final on Sunday afternoon and it concludes with a fantastic race to the line.

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