MICHAEL FORTUNE: All systems go for world’s greatest race

Three days to go to the world’s greatest greyhound race and, with the exception of Faypoint Man, there are no negative vibes emanating concerning the other finalists in Saturday’s Paddypower.com Irish Derby final at Shelbourne Park.

As we intimated yesterday, Faypoint Man’s chances of taking his place in the final have improved and the odds are that the Owen McKenna trained dog will occupy trap three on the night. He is a first finalist for Wexford based Chris and Patricia Flanagan who have enjoyed considerable success across the water but are on the brink of their biggest triumph with a dog that is well drawn and has the pace to win any contest.

The favourite is College Causeway, the most talked about greyhound in Ireland for the past two seasons – and also the fastest. He has had a spectacular Derby campaign and is a strong favourite after an unbeaten run through the preliminaries.

Owners Mike and Vincent McKenna from Abbeydorney have had an amazing voyage with this dog over the past year and a half and the biggest moment could be yet to come. Like trainer Pat Buckley, they are looking for their first Derby winner and will hardly ever have a better chance. The draw could have been kinder but this is a greyhound that makes a habit of making the difficult look easy – and at times the easy appear difficult! That’s the quality that endears him to the racing public.

There’s a second Kerry interest in this final, Cashen Legend being bred, owned and trained by Chris Houlihan from Ballyduff. He is a member of the Balintore Brave and Fergus Gold litter that have given Houlihan a couple of seasons to remember. He has really peaked for this classic and has been in splendid form throughout. He goes up well and stays very strongly and his trap four slot could make him a real headache for his countyman!

Denis Kiely is thoroughly enjoying the Derby experience, though for a Tipp man living in Limerick he could have had a better start to the week! But it could have the perfect ending if Shaneboy Lee manages to race to Derby glory. The Shaneboy prefix has enjoyed phenomenal success in the past few years both on the track and up the field and there is no sign of it stopping. There’ll be a big crew supporting the Kiely runner on Saturday and they are entitled to travel with optimism. But isn’t it amazing that when Lee won the semi-final of the Champion Stakes he was the first winner at Shelbourne for Denis?

Cork is proudly represented by Belvedere Champ, a proud bearer of the prefix that was carried by Belvedere Bran to Derby glory some twenty-six years ago. Julie and Suzanne O’Sullivan are granddaughters of Dermot O’Sullivan who steered his own Bran to victory. This is a young dog that may have only won one race but he is improving at a rate of knots and is trained by Michael O’Donovan, a previous winner of this classic.

The line-up is completed by Oran Classic and here is the likely pacesetter in a race that is not packed with early gears. Des and Elliott Whyte have enjoyed great luck in the past few years, particularly with their Puppy Derby and Oaks winner Oran Majestic and an earlier Oaks winner in the Bill O’Hare trained Graysland Pixie.

They bought Oran Classic as an established tracker and he has done them proud. Don’t rule out a very bold bid from this front runner.

The supporting card, which can be viewed on www.igb.ie, is of the highest order, being open class throughout. If this card doesn’t satisfy even the most demanding of racegoers, nothing will. The meeting will be covered live on RTE 2 between 9 and 10 pm and will be available from Sunday on RTE Player. The racing can also be seen on Sky Sports Extra while it will also be available on Inter Track and online at www.igb.ie.

It will be a truly fantastic weekend for greyhound enthusiasts in Dublin and it all kicks off with the entire first round of the Track Bookmakers Puppy Derby tomorrow night. All eleven heats will be run on a twelve race card.

Fraser Black’s pair of Westmeads, Grant and Bond will be the dogs to beat but the likes of Tullymurry Act, Deanridge Rage, Droopys Edgar, De Ex Factor and Frisby Fontenblu must all merit respect. Rumours suggest that some flying private trials have been clocked and the first round should be mighty informative.

There will also be a big Saturday at Curraheen but unfortunately the Munster Rugby team will not be on hand as planned and will, instead, be present at the end of the season. There will be a draw with tickets for the All-Ireland Football final on offer and proceeds will go to St Finbarr’s Football Club.

The Catunda Harry Champion Stakes has attracted a fine entry and there should be some really exciting battles tomorrow night. Carib King and Dalcash Stateman in the first heat, Headford Daddy and Droopys Pipolo in Heat 3 are just two to look forward to, while the card also includes the final of the Barry Nurseries A4 where Bernadette Connolly’s Coolbally Dubh gets a narrow vote over Jerh Kelleher’s Herbs Best. By the way, the Shanagarry A2 Stake will commence tomorrow week.

The full second round of the Droopys Stud Munster Oaks will be run at Waterford on Saturday and here Skywalker Queen, Cabra Tiny, Maries Peer and Tyrur Liz might be the best options.

In an incredibly busy weekend, the second round of the Future Champion Unraced Stake will be run at Enniscorthy this evening while on Saturday the quarter finals of the very valuable Fair Warrior Sprint will be staged at Mullingar. By the way, there has been a change to the format of the Munster Puppy Cup at Clonmel. The event will now be run as an AO/A1 Puppy event and the winner’s prize for the 72 dog November ‘07 event will be €7,200. It will commence on October 8th.


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