What the stake lacks is depth, with just 13 of the entries currently restricted to full open class.
That is due, in part, to the current grading system, in which it is somewhat easier to move down through the ranks, but 36 of the runners have never performed to a level which entitled them to be considered open class (AA0).
That said, it’s what makes this year’s classic more accessible and those who may be throwing their hat in the ring more in hope than expectation have more chance this year than in previous renewals.
The most powerful kennel in the country right now is that of Graham Holland, and it speaks volumes that the Golden-based handler, who has won this twice in recent years has just two entries — both of which are locally owned.
Holland, of course, was responsible for two of the most memorable nights at the track in recent years when winning the classic for local owners John O’Regan (Sevenheads Bay) and Martin Murphy (Knockglass Billy).
This year, he relies on Easter Cup third Coran Sky, owned by Paddy Crowley, Fermoy; and fellow Easter Cup finalist Gaytime Hawk, owned by Deirdre O’Connell, Blarney.
Castleivy Crash has classic form, having reached the final of the Leger, but he’s a middle seed and, with just seven middle seeds and four wides in the stake, he’ll likely have to take a spin in the stripes if he’s to make it all the way.
It’s a big ask at this track.
Vimmerby went unbeaten through last year’s stake and, on that form, would have very strong claims to retain his crown.
However, he has been seen in competitive action just three times since that victory, most recently on the Night of Stars at Shelbourne Park back in November.
Perhaps he’s one who will benefit from the fact four runners will qualify from each of the 11 first-round heats, with the four fastest fifth-place finishers also advancing.
He’ll help get the stake underway, by taking his place in a hot opening heat, but he hasn’t been handed the best of the draw, being set to start inside the rails-loving De Real Mccoy.
Midtown Raffa won the Laurels Consolation in 2014 and, on that form, would be a leading player. If he could find consistency at traps, he’d be on the shortlist.
Trainer Rachel Wheeler won this race a couple of years ago, with Lassa Expedition, and she’ll be represented by Service Station.
If he could return to his best form, which includes a 28.19 victory at Shelbourne Park, he’d be a leading fancy.
He strikes as the right type for this track, though I’d like to see a positive sign in his first-round effort before taking a chance on him in the market.
PJ Fahy is sending a couple of runners down from his Glenamaddy kennels: the lightly raced but exciting Tyrur Tommy, who hasn’t raced since November, but trialled well at Shelbourne recently, and Tyrur Supermac, who hasn’t raced since the same night, but has plenty of top-class form.
The €3,000 bonus for the bitch which goes furthest in the stake is on offer once more, and there are 13 ladies in contention for that valuable add-on.
Chief amongst those must be Daniel Frayne’s Southest Suzie, who beat the boys when winning the Gain Select Stakes at Waterford late last year.
Tyrur Susan, who was fancied to go very close in last week’s final of the Hennerty Sales Cork Oaks, but left her race in traps, must also merit serious consideration if the bookmakers choose to make a book on the bitches.
1. Rustys Heart, 2. Tyrur Tommy, 3. Vimmerby, 4. De Real Mccoy, 5. Master Gorryisle (m), Southest Suzie (w);
1. Princey Beag, 2. Butterbridge Pip, 3. Painstown Chief, 4. Metric Sandy, 5. Knocktoo Garry, 6. Madra Deas (m);
1. Local Dancer, 2. Liber Eight, 3. Black Rogue, 4. Gwan Slab, 5. Fair Price, 6. Greenisle Legend (w);
1. Droopys Fred, 2. Galley Flyer, 3. Cooly Jane, 4. Rastafari Vic, 5. Rigdemount Bart, 6. Castleivy Crash (m);
1. Blue Cafu, 2. Coran Sky, 3. Honour And Glory, 4. Harley Dogson, 5. Bruno Ya Know, 6. Baile Mhic (w);
1. Service Station, 2. Burgess Rumble, 3. Lads Lex, 4. Trail Blaze, 5. Fatboyz Josh, Comeindollface (w);
1. Barefoot Apollo, 2. Captain Karnage, 3. Trinity Forest, 4. Dunclone Cannon, 5. Burgess Four, 6. Mimis Ace;
1. Ballybough Mike, 2. Lemon Miley, 3. Tyrur Supermac, 4. Glenbowen Diamon, 5. Skywalker Echo, 6. Oaklands Paddy (m);
1. Liss Louise, 2. Camas Shaw, 3. Deanos Rocky, 4. Gaytime Hawk, 5. Ballymac Alamo, 6. Tyrur Susan (m).
1. Ryecourt Molly, 2. Mr. Outlook, 3. Ballymac Matt, 4. Burnt Le Bec, 5. Kilmoney Nipper, 6. Carrowkeal Bart (m);
1. Francescos Rebel, 2. Kilara Hey Mac, 3. Colorado Josie, 4. Midtown Raffa, 5. Knocktoo Kingo, 6. Iceroad Driver (m).