Crokers Champ out of Laurels with foot injury

The 2014 Connolly’s Red Mills Irish Laurels got underway with some terrific performances in last Saturday night’s opening round and, based on those runs alone, it looks like we’ll be seeing some sub 28.00 runs this year.

There was very unfortunate news yesterday afternoon, however, when it was revealed that there were already three withdrawals from this weekend’s second stage.

Bar One Irish Sprint Cup winner Crokers Champ, who was as short as 5-1 following his pleasing effort in the first round, has been sidelined with a fractured metatarsal, but it is hoped he will be back again next year, with a return to the English Derby as his primary goal.

The highly regarded Valentia Slate, one of five wide seeds to have qualified past the first phase, has also been withdrawn. Third in the final of the Champion Unraced at Kilkenny, he didn’t perform to expectations in the first round of the Puppy Derby at Harold’s Cross, and was also below his best last weekend. He’s clearly capable of much better and hopefully will return to show that in the future.

Cian O’Donnell’s exciting Munster Oaks champ Newinn Expert was a well-backed winner of the final heat on Saturday night and looked to be one of the leading ladies in the competition. She is reported to have come in season, and connections are considering breeding her.

It’s 21 years since a bitch, Lisglass Lass, last won this stake, and while that’s still a big ask for the nine remaining females, the competition for the €3,000 bonus for the bitch which advances furthest has never been so hot.

With the likes of this in mind, it’s a pity the bookmakers haven’t created some more markets for this stake. I can understand their reticence when it comes to graded fare, but this is one of the most prestigious competitions on the calendar and yet there weren’t any prices for the first-round heats. It’s times like these you’d miss what Cashmans’ did during their involvement in the stake.

A market for the bitches’ bonus would have been relatively easy to frame (though the likelihood is there will be a dead-heat), while there are plenty of others which could have been created to pique some interest.

In light of the recent deal with EEyaa and the potential for Irish greyhound racing to go out live on RPGTV and/or SIS on a regular basis, the board needs to work with bookmakers to ensure a better service for punters.

Sponsors Boylesports gave a great money-back offer for the Derby but, with the backers of the Laurels, Red Mills, not being a bookmaking firm, there was an opportunity for another firm to get in first to steal a march on their rivals. It says a lot about our current standing in the betting industry that we didn’t hear them clambering over each other to do so.

Having a market doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a bet on, as one very annoyed punter was quick to point out when I spoke to him on Derby final night, after he had been turned down for a decent bet on the Derby final itself.

There are many reasons why a firm will offer a special price about a selection, in this case a Derby finalist. Sometimes it will be to balance a book, sometimes to steal the limelight from other firms, but, ultimately, it’s just to get punters into the shop, onto their website, or onto their app.

On this occasion Laughil Blake, who was an odds-on shot everywhere else, was offered at 5-4, and the punter informed me he tried to have €2,000 on at that price.

After the usual phone-call to the trading room, he was informed he could have €250. He declined the offer, and left the office absolutely livid. Isn’t it a poor reflection that a firm feels it necessary to all but decline a bet with a liability of just €2,500 on our premier event?

Would he have got his entire bet on had he gone to eight different shops? Would he have got it all in one go if he was a renowned mug punter? There are numerous questions, the answers to which may never be satisfactory.

His reasoning asks ‘why have a market if you won’t lay the bet?. I share his frustration, having been offered a fifth of an intended ante-post bet (Laurels) which would have had the exact same liability. I, too, declined, and was also fairly peeved, but I still believe it’s very important the markets exist.

Irish greyhound racing isn’t generating the same level of interest as other sports, and the opportunities to bet on them are fewer. As can be seen on any bookmaking firm’s website, there may be over 100 different betting opportunities on any single soccer match. They make mass appeal, even to casual punters. Right now, there aren’t equivalent bets for greyhound racing, and we just aren’t competing.

The Jackpot and Placepot, which begun just recently, are two good additions but they’re the type of bets which will really only fly if/when the racing is shown live on a channel such as RPGTV. The sport over here needs exposure -sooner rather than later.

Let’s be polite and a little understated here by saying that the Barking Buzz App continues to have some teething problems.

As well as some issues at the weekend, the app was down (“network outages”) for a period on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, something which was highlighted on the website.

I’m pretty sure those involved in its upkeep don’t need me to continue to bang a drum about how infuriating it can be, but it was refreshing to see a little humour behind it last weekend when the controller of the twitter account (@BarkingBuzz) tweeted a cartoon reflecting the queues at the ‘Complaints’ and ‘Gratitude’ windows as he/she fielded query after query about why it was not working properly.

On a serious note, the account is, at least, providing a service through which many concerns are finding their way to the right people, and issues are being addressed. This is absolutely crucial. Previously, I voiced my concerns over the quality of the App, and this is becoming more and more critical as we head towards a day when the action will be live to a wider audience.

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