Better promotion clearly the key to increasing popularity of hurdle racing

This year’s Vetsearch Irish Grand National has provided a marvellous fillip for hurdle racing in this country and has proved yet again that hurdling could become popular here if given the proper promotion by the authorities.

The difference in attitude to hurdle racing in the UK and Ireland is massive and we will never get to the stage where jump racing is treated in almost adoring tones as is the case with the British media. There is still a stigma attached to hurdling here, despite the best efforts of the likes of Mick Brennan and his fellow jumping enthusiasts.

The standard of this year’s Vetsearch National has been huge and the home team has totally dominated the classic. It will be an all home trained field in the final tomorrow night at Harold’s Cross but the absence of the injured favourite Toomaline Jack is most disappointing.

However the back door entry to the final of reigning champion Distant Legend could be a real work of fate and this dog can give Mick Brennan and his daughter Julie Power a second National success on the trot. Mind you, they also have a very formidable second string in Lisacaha King and it would be no surprise if they provided a 1-2. However this is a strong field and major cases can also be made for Michael Mulleady’s Bigstrongpup and the Sally Williams owned and trained Time Me.

Topping the Saturday bill will be the semi-finals of the Red Mills Masters at Waterford and here we have been presented with two mighty contests. The first semi-final would do justice to any final as it includes Cashmans Laurels hero Sevenheads Bay, Oaks winner Skywalker Queen, defending Masters champion Slip The Lark, one-time Derby favourite St Louis Spirit, local qualifier Lifes Funny and the big finishing first round winner Global Hope. The layers must be generous with their chalk on this one!

While Derby runner-up Oran Classic will be a hot favourite for the second heat, he still faces a tough test with the Graham Holland duo of Carib King and Broadacres Turbo in addition to Patsy Byrne’s Ballymac Under in opposition. You can hardly describe either Star Of Aaron or Daring Ace as lightweight trackers either! Yes, two great races and it should all guarantee a magical line-up for the final on Saturday week.

Recent Sundays have been very high profile and we have two outstanding cards this weekend. The final of the Munster Puppy Cup will be run at Clonmel while up the road at Newbridge the final of the JP Moran & Trevor O’Donnell Oaks brings together a high class field of bitches.

The Clonmel competition has been dominated by the Paul Hennessy trained Colorful Champ and he has looked a massive prospect with runs of 28.23 and 28.33. If he can reproduce that running here he will win. The main dangers could be Killacolla Glory and Kevins Star.

The final of the Newbridge Oaks promises to be a real cracker with the big three of Maireads Fantasy, Tyrur Liz and Cabra Tiny but it would be a foolish individual that would ignore the prospects of classy females Droopys Kina, Ballymac Mitsy and Faypoint Lauren.

Cabra Tiny is a specialist in these events and has already won the Munster Oaks twice and the Southern Oaks and a trap one draw gives her a real chance of another collection. But Fraser Black’s Maireads Fantasy is a real star while the trainer has a strong second string in Droopys Kina. If Tyrur Liz can get a clear run on the outside she could well earn owner PJ Fahy a deserved first ever success in a bitch final.

Another major attraction at Newbridge on Sunday evening will be the appearance of sensational Irish Derby winner College Causeway. He will be paraded by trainer Pat Buckley during racing and a special presentation will be made by management.

The semi-finals of the Oliver Hawkes Memorial 550 top an interesting card at Curraheen Park on Saturday and the main focus will be on Paddy Maguire’s Rossa Baby as she contests a red hot opening heat where Graham Holland will field no fewer than three runners in the same heat. This 550 yard event has been a great addition to the Curraheen calendar and hopefully it will become a hardy annual!

There will be no trials next Tuesday due to the Sales which will be staged that day. Trials will commence at 10 am and the catalogue is available on www.igb.ie.

The Thurles Track Bookmakers Champion Bitch Stake will commence on Saturday week and will have a winner’s prize of €7,200. A special trial session will be staged on Saturday between 5.30 and 6.30. Incidentally, today’s trials at Thurles will be staged between 5.30 and 7.30 pm.

Saturday’s meeting at Shelbourne will be a benefit in aid of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and is being organised by Kildare GOBA. There will be a top class card as well as Buster Draws and Raffles, in addition to an auction for two pups. One is a pup by Killahan Phanter out of record breaking bitch Posh Again while I have just learned that another puppy will be provided by the Dunphy Kennels for the cause. Highlight of the track action will be the A2 Puppy final and also the reappearance of last weekend’s star performer Almost Chilli.

The final major event of the year at Shelbourne will be the Comerford Cakes National Puppy 525 and it promises to be a fantastic competition following all the high profile puppy performances of recent times.

Carrying a winner’s prize of €20,000 and confined to December ‘07 whelps and younger, the event commences on Thursday, November 19th with the remaining heats on Saturday, November 21st.

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