Standard of this year’s Derby aspirants at an all-time high

Last Saturday’s spectacular racing at Shelbourne really whetted the appetite for the forthcoming Ladbrokes Irish Derby.

It proved beyond doubt that the standard of this year’s crop of Derby aspirants is of an all-time high and the point can be emphasised in Saturday’s eagerly anticipated Champion Stakes.

When the late Bobby Jack came up with the idea of the Champion Stakes in late 1985 he could scarcely have believed the status which the event would attain in the intervening 27 years. This promises to be the race of races and it could well show one or other of the runners to be an absolute favourite for the Derby which will start some eleven days later.

The likelihood is that Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Vic will be that dog but this hugely exciting talent has to win the race to the bend with fellow early speedsters Droopys Jet and Razldazl Bugatti. That early battle is likely to decide the outcome of this race. If one of the three can gain a clean lead on the run up then victory would be almost secured but if there is any hold-up between them, then entering the picture will be Sparta Maestro, Tibetan Skies and Razldazl Barack.

We are nailing our colours to the Ballymac mast but I remain a huge fan of Sparta Maestro and it will be no surprise whatever if he wins for Phil Gough and John Fitzgerald. One way or another I would urge all genuine greyhound followers to enjoy this great race, either live or via Inter Track at one of the other stadia countrywide.

Entries for the Derby will close on Saturday week when the Champion Stakes contenders will be joined by the stars that didn’t go the Champion route — the likes of Droopys Cain, Milldean Panther, Skywalker Puma, Shelbourne Geoff, Razldazl Rioga, Razldazl George, Kingo, Captain Scolari and others.

John Linehan’s Droopys Cain did a very satisfactory 29.59 spin for the 550 last Saturday and will be having another trial this weekend where he will likely be joined by Milldean Panther which emerged unscathed from his rough passage in the Boylesports International and will be much happier over the Shelbourne circuit.

Encouraging news for the industry is the amount of activity on the sponsorship front recently with Greyhound & Petworld Abbeyfeale signing up to support a €5,000 to the winner A1 525 at Curraheen Park. The Abbeyfeale Company took over the running of the trackside shop in Curraheen in March and the generous nature of this sponsorship illustrates their happiness with the new arrangement. The 36 dog event will commence on Saturday, August 18th with the final on Saturday, September 1st.

Meanwhile, at Limerick the 48 dog Bermingham, Hooper & Dolan A1 (Bg) 600 will have a winner’s prize of €3,700 and the first round will be staged on Friday, August 10th.

Then yesterday came news that the hurdling classic, the Irish Grand National at Harold’s Cross, will have a new sponsor in the shape of the Salacres Racing Team (UK). This established greyhound racing establishment is interested in looking after Irish greyhounds aiming at the major UK competitions. The winner of the National will receive €5,000 and the three-run competition will be run between Monday, October 15th and Friday, October 26th.

Back to Curraheen briefly where Saturday’s card will include the Ladbrokes Derby Trial Stake as well as the finals of the O’Riordan Bros Tarmacadam Tri Distance and the A4 550 as well as the Burgess Getting Out Stake and the GOBA Saturday Night Special.

Next week’s Getting Out race will be a Mini Open 525 while the GOBA Special will be an A1 575. Also commencing that night will be the 24 dog €1,400 Irish & European A2 (Bg) 525.

The Galway Festival is almost upon us and the local track is well into its build-up to the big week. Tonight’s meeting at the Sportsground will see the second round of the Flaherty Markets Corrib Plate being run and the first round suggested that it is going to be pretty special A7 competition!

Star of the round was Des & Elliott Whyte’s Oran Style and this home bred son of Premier Fantasy has a perfect draw in Heat 3. Race of the night should be the second heat where no fewer than five first round winners will be in opposition. Tina Cooke’s Lughill Sonya has the draw to steal first run.

Tomorrow’s Tralee card will feature the second round of the Paddy Byrne Memorial and the Ladbrokes Derby qualifier. I will be watching Ask Patsy with interest after last week’s swashbuckling performance as he came from last to be a close second in the fastest of the night 28.55. There’s a run to come from this fellow. Killahan Rocky was fastest with that 28.55 run and Vincent McKenna’s dog will be fancied to win Heat 3. Pat O’Connor could double up in the other heats with Knockfinisk Tom and Dims His Eyes.

By the way, Saturday’s Tralee meeting will be a benefit for the Kingdom Hunt Club in association with the Palliative Care Unit at Kerry General Hospital.

There are a couple of fundraisers at Limerick this weekend. Tomorrow will see Limerick Pride visiting the track and then on Saturday Crumlin & Chernobyl will be the beneficiaries. That card also includes the second round of the Limerick Brakes A2 Quad Distance. There will also be a meeting next Monday featuring three sets of GOBA semi-finals.

The Thurles Fresh Milk Tipperary Cup second round will be run on Saturday where the draw has thrown up a situation whereby seven of the eight first round winners will clash in two heats. I suspect that Colette Kiely’s Shaneboy Spencer might be a bet in Heat 2 from an ideal inside draw.

One of the biggest crowds of the week will turn up at Kilkenny on Sunday for the 23rd annual staging of the BEAM benefit meeting. There is a high class eleven race programme but there is also a major Donkey Derby which will feature champion riders Davy Russell, Paul Townend, Danny, Patrick and Emmett Mullins and perhaps young Joseph O’Brien.

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