The 750 last Saturday is difficult to assess, though at least half the field would seem certain to take their chance.
The Laurels final itself is unlikely to have any bearing on the upcoming English Derby, but there were a couple of notable performances on the undercard, which may have relevance to the Wimbledon feature.
JJ Fennelly and Sheila Spillane’s Burgess Four was an impressive winner of the A0/A1 525, posting a time, 28.32, just one spot slower than Midtown Raffa in the feature. Connections have decided to let him take his chance at Wimbledon and, for as long as he is involved in the stake, he will be part of trainer Pat Buckley’s team.
He has a tie-in with the team as, in last year’s Vetsearch Open final at Limerick, he beat Buckley’s subsequent English Derby finalist Mind The Net. Although almost four years old, he’s still quite lightly raced, is adept at sprinting and over 525, and is a really reliable sort.
Quietly, having just his second start since winning the Puppy Derby, was very impressive in an Open 525 on Saturday in Cork. He’s entitled to take another step forward from that fastest-of-the-night 28.22 victory, and that has been reflected in his odds for the English Derby, for which he is now no bigger than 28-1.
Keeping the theme of greyhounds which won at Curraheen on Saturday night, two more, Rockybay Yank and Jerry Hennerty Memorial winner Glenanore Ace, have their sights set on the Bank of Ireland Finance National Produce Stakes, which kicks off in Clonmel this Sunday, when all 12 first-round heats will take place.
As one would imagine, there’s a strong entry, but it would seem unlikely this renewal could live up to last year’s.
In 2014, Greyhound of the Year Boylesports Hero showed tremendous pace to get the better of the fast-starting Midtown Raffa who, of course, followed up his Consolation success of 2014 with victory in the Laurels.
Back in fifth place in the Produce stakes was subsequent Irish Derby and Night of Stars winner Laughil Blake. Clearly, there’s a lot to live up to, but there are plenty of entrants with huge potential.
Half of the finalist from the Kirby Memorial are among the 72, and Rural Hawaii, who finished runner-up to Cable Bay at Limerick, is long-odds favourite with the bookmakers.
From the all-conquering Graham Holland kennel, which has five representatives, he has plenty of experience at the track, having been third in the Red Mills Unraced Plate final at Clonmel earlier in the year.
His kennel companion, Amazing Dude, who recorded a remarkable 28.3 on debut, and 28.27 just two runs later, is next best in the ante-post market.
Kirby Memorial third Country Legend, representing Maurice Heffernan, and sixth-placed Beaming Boost, trained by Pat Buckley, also take their chance.
Among those representing Laurels form are Ballybough Mike, who won a heat of the Cork Classic but really caught the eye when making rapid late gains to run Quietly to a length on Saturday night.
Dave Kennedy’s Trinity Forest, who was undone by a bad draw in the semi-finals of the Laurels, also has the early pace to have a real say.
The bitches are also in focus at the moment, with two Oaks finals to be decided this weekend, and the Irish Oaks to get underway next week.
The Healthcare & Transport Services Puppy Oaks is the feature on this weekend’s card at Shelbourne Park, and the third clash between Ballydoyle Honey and Droopys Streak makes it a fascinating final.
Currently, the score stands at 2-0 to Droopys Streak, but Ballydoyle Honey has been put in an odds-on favourite to claw one back against her old rival.
At Limerick, the Holmes O’Malley Sexton Solicitors Oaks final takes centre stage, with Slippery Hanna and Priceless Lassie vying for favouritism.
The destination of the €8,000 winner’s prize for the winner of the Lee Strand will be known on Saturday night, when the feature comes to a climax at Tralee. There is a high-class supporting card on the 11-race programme. Locally owned Laurels winner Midtown Raffa will be paraded during racing on Saturday, and a presentation made to connections.
The Race of Champions final will take place on June 19, and a one-hour programme will be shown live on RTÉ 2 (8pm-9pm). Four races will go out live on air and, to supplement the feature, there will be open-class contests over 525, 570 and 750. These will be the finals of 12-dog stakes, the semi-finals of which will be run a week earlier.
At Youghal track, the Droopys Stud and Youghal Track Supporters’ Club Champion Stakes A1/A2 525, with a winner’s prize of €2,500, gets underway with four first-round heats tomorrow night.