Okay, we realise that the economic depression is still with us and that the black cloud represented by John Gormley and his potentially extremely damaging Dog Breeding Establishments Bill still lurks on the horizon without any apparent signs of a Fianna Fail stance on the matter.
But the industry has started to fight back and, rightly, that renaissance has commenced from within. The fightback appears to be gathering momentum and is being reflected in healthier figures within the industry.
The greatest signals yet were delivered in Kerry and Cork this week. Firstly, there was that remarkable Tote turnover at Tralee Track last Friday night on the occasion of the Lee Strand 550 meeting. For the first time I can recall the Tralee turnover of €37,000 was the top return in Ireland on a weekend night, being some €2,000 bigger than a healthy Harold’s Cross figure the same night.
Hopefully there will be further huge turnover figures at Tralee on some of their forthcoming major nights such as the Kerry GAA Night tomorrow week and then the annual Kerry General Hospital meeting.
Then came news of the new sponsorship by Pat Hennerty Sales of the Irish Laurels at Curraheen and the new concept in greyhound racing of multiple sponsorship of the gala supporting card. This is the type of initiative that the industry has been crying out for over the years.
Liz Igoe tells us that the Laurels winner’s prize, though not yet finalised, should be “in excess of the €35,000” figure at which it has been in recent years. This would be a massive positive, given the generally reduced prizemoney in the aftermath of the reduced Government funding.
We have also been hearing reports from tracks around the country of a recent surge in Benefit Meeting bookings, while Galway has been able to announce a brand new Festival of Racing funded by sponsorship from leading local owner and breeder P.J. Fahy. Basically, P.J. is handing back the prizemoney he has won with his Tyrur dogs and this amounts to more than €21,000 which will fund the Festival that will run from June 18th to the gala finals night on July 9th. And we haven’t even mentioned the forthcoming opening of the sparkling new Limerick Stadium!
On the racing front the sad news is that leading Irish Derby hopeful Tyrur Quinn may never race again due to a wrist injury. He had been quoted as joint 20-1 second favourite by Derby sponsors Ladbrokes.
The big race this week will be the Cox Cup at Newbridge tomorrow and Finola Richardson from Doon can collect a second major prize of the season with the excellent racer Definate Opinion. Already the winner of the Gain Cesarewitch at Mullingar, the Pat Guilfoyle trained son of Surf Lorian is unbeaten in seven races this year and set a new track record in last week’s semi.
This is a high class Cox Cup final with Fraser Black’s Westmead Bolt disputing favouritism but there are also strong hopes for Jerry Griffin’s St Louis Spirit, Liam O’Rourke’s Ballymac Tipp, Conor Fahy’s Tyrur Bucko and John Robinson’s Quick Lee.
Also tomorrow the semi-finals of the Lynch Family/ Paddy O’Sullivan Race of Champions will be run at Tralee and this richly endowed competition is building up to a wonderful climax. The quality is exceptional but, then, what would one expect from a three run competition with a winner’s prize of €20,000?
Colorful Champ looks the one to beat in the opening heat with Tyrur Dylan the likely threat. The second heat is a cracker with a big four of Sevenheads Bay, Tullymurry Act, Bar Blackstone and Oran Legend likely to battle it out for the three final places. On Saturday we have the final of the Macroom Motor Services Stake at Curraheen and it is difficult to oppose Paul Hennessy’s Priceless Chef on semi-final running when he stopped the clock in a brilliant 28.33. However the likes of Fatboyz Tyson, Fleetwood Nick and Scart Legend will make him go all the way. The card also includes the final of the Con Kelleher Memorial with John O’Donoghue’s Brogan Herbie the favourite with his three from three career record. He looks a real prospect.
Also on Saturday the full second round of the Sporting Press Irish Oaks at Shelbourne and some wonderful clashes are lined up. Heat 3 does stand out with Tooquicktoocatch and Skywalker Queen renewing rivalry after last week’s thriller but with Dalcash Dvinsky, Shelbourne Dawn, Mohane Katie and Mystique Rosa thrown in for good measure. It could be the final and may well work out that way!
Let us not forget Kilkenny tomorrow where there are some smashing puppies in action in the semis of the Dobbs Oil Unraced. Then there is the Thurles meeting on Saturday which features the final of the Kasko Unraced and the second round of the Irish Examiner A3 Stake. It is all rounded off on Sunday by the final of the Hugh Duffy Memorial Sprint at Lifford where Jim Morrissey’s Carlows Pride looks a snip, while the second round of the Supporters Club Munster Derby will be run at Clonmel.