Billy blitzes rivals to land Laurels

The local greyhound racing community united in celebration on Saturday night as Knockglass Billy, owned by Martin Murphy of Ladysbridge, ran out a facile and very popular winner of the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish Laurels.

Trained by Graham Holland, who was winning the classic for the second time, the brilliant early pacer broke well and was accelerating sharply when trouble befell reigning champ and early leader Razldazl Rioga. The latter appeared to have his hind legs taken as he tried to make his way across to the inside but he held his balance well to turn in second place.

By this stage, however, Knockglass Billy had begun to assert and there was a huge roar from the packed stadium as race commentator Tim Kelleher called the local hope clear out of the second bend.

The Sprint Cup finalist raced in splendid isolation around the third and fourth turns, and he galloped relentlessly up the homestraight to the rapturous cheers of the crowd as he stretched home seven and a half lengths clear of the valiant Razldazl Rioga in 28.30.

In scenes reminiscent of 2009, when Sevenheads Bay, also trained by Holland, landed the prestigious event for owner John O’Regan of Butlerstown, the presentation area was thronged with friends, relations, well-wishers and greyhound enthusiasts being carried along by the wave of excitement and delight.

“It’s unbelievable. You can’t dream of nights like this. They don’t come any better,” said winning owner Martin Murphy.

Winning trainer Holland was over the moon: “I never thought I’d have a night to rival Sevenheads Bay. That night was special because it was the first local winner at this track but this was equal.

“The support Cork people give is unreal. They came out of everywhere to support him and there was a real will for him to win. It definitely helps.

“He hadn’t been doing everything right up to the final so we went a little easier on him this week to keep him fresh for the night, hoping things might click.

“When he got trap one for the final I thought everything might be slotting into place at the right time but you don’t want to be too bullish in this game. I’m just overjoyed that it went right on the night.

“I’ve had great luck with Cork owners and I’m just proud that they picked me to train their dogs.

“The dog was great this morning (Sunday). He’s a bit quiet but he’s had a couple of special treats after that performance and we’ll give him a little time off before deciding where to go next.”

Prolific Local trainer Johnny Linehan was the star of the undercard, recording a terrific treble with Tooclosetocall, the exciting Droopys Adelaide and Droopys Delfino.

Tooclosetocall initiated the treble when causing an upset in the final of the River Lee Hotel 330. The 5-1 chance broke well and asserted around the opening bends. Favourite Leeview Dave missed the kick but showed big pace to slip around into second place between the bends. However, there was no catching the leader, who raced home a length and a half to the good in 17.70.

Droopys Adelaide made a deep impression when trouncing her rivals in the semi-finals of the Jerry Hennerty Memorial Unraced Stake a week earlier and she showed that form to be quite accurate with another devastating display in the final. A flying start carried her clear from an early stage and she really turned the screw from the third bend, extending her advantage all the way to put more than 10 lengths between herself and the field in a best-of-the-night 28.24.

The completion of the treble had to wait until the final race, where the well-drawn Droopys Delfino produced a strong performance. Never off the fence, he slipped through along the inside between the last two turns and asserted to record a 29.96 (550) win.

Trainer John Kiely also enjoyed a fine double with Speed Lock and Prima Vera. The former, owned by Mick O’Driscoll of Killeagh, quickened from the first turn to win the opening race comfortably in a very smart 31.37 (575).

The Stephen Buckley-owned Prima Vera, who shared the €2,500 bonus with Tafari for being the bitches which advanced furthest in the Laurels, forged ahead from the third bend to win the Bryan & Kathleen Murphy 525 in 28.74.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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