There was drama in the second round of the Easter Cup on Saturday night at Shelbourne Park, as Derby champ Laughil Blake exited the competition after finding trouble at the first turn in a red-hot third heat.
It all looked to be going well for the ante-post favourite when he popped out in front but credit must go to Slippery Fred, who kept tabs on the leader as they raced to the turn and held his line bravely.
There was less than a length between the two as they reached the bend, but the challenger had the advantage of the inside and was close enough and strong enough to hold his position, forcing Laughil Blake wide.
The Larry Dunne-trained Slippery Fred then moved clear down the back, with Sidarian Blaze in chase and Laughil Blake looking vulnerable as his half-brother, the strong-staying Laughil Duke, moved into fourth.
The leader, who was fastest in the first round, ran on well from the front to beat Sidarian Blaze by a length, in 29.68, with Laughil Duke in third, clear of his half-sibling, who finished fourth.
Coran Sky, owned by Paddy Crowley, Fermoy, produced a fine effort to take the first heat for trainer Graham Holland.
Second behind Laughil Blake in the previous round, he missed a beat at the break this time but produced an eye-catching injection of pace to race between the fast-starting Millbank Stevie and Highview Premier and into the lead at the first turn.
He soon opened an advantage of some three lengths and, winning for the 13th time in 26 outings, held off the finishing kick of Highview Premier by a length, in 29.78.
Derby plate winner Laughil Bolt, a litter brother to Laughil Blake, took the second heat for trainer Pat Guilfoyle and owners Paul and Mary Jennings, Dunboyne. Crackling Jack made a race of it early, but the winner forged ahead down the back, and had enough in reserve to deny the challenge of Gaytime Hawk by a length, in 29.95, with favourite Paradise Maverik staying on strongly to take third spot, just a head further back.
In the absence of Deanridge Pennys, Droopys Nidge looked to have a fairly straightforward task in the final heat, and he duly obliged for owner Willie Hyslop and trainer Robert Gleeson. Off a level break he edged ahead into the turn but lost his advantage as August Rush moved through around the bends.
However, tremendous staying power is Droopys Nidge’s most abundant talent, and he retook the lead racing to the third turn, before pulling right away for an emphatic nine-and-a-half-length win from August Rush, in a best-of-the-round 29.52.
The first round of the Con and Annie Kirby Memorial took place on Saturday night at Limerick, and the fastest time of the night came from the Brendan Matthews-trained Hoodwinked, who was having just his second career outing when taking heat 10 in 28.37.
Not seen since his debut at Shelbourne Park back in August, the January ’13 whelp dominated from the outside and raced away to a facile success.
His litter brother and kennel companion Leave At Dawn was on the mark in the opener, proving far too strong for his rivals, posting 28.53.
Second best on the clock was Farloe Hunter, who shed his maiden status in style by taking heat seven. A finalist in the Jerry Hennerty Memorial at Curraheen on Laurels final night and in the Joe Dunne Memorial in Shelbourne in January, he raced prominently early, and showed real strength as he pulled five clear of Warrior Gwen in 28.46.
Clonmel Red Mills Unraced Stake winner Ballydoyle Honey justified odds of 2-5 with a runaway success in the second heat, in 28.58.
Heat five looked a real cracker and Droopys Braedon – a half-brother to English Derby runner-up and Irish Derby semi-finalist Droopys Ward — impressed as he stretched his unbeaten record to five.
The Robert Gleeson-trained son of Sparta Maestro and Droopys Orleans had the early speed to take control from the outset, and stayed on strongly to beat the highly regarded Beaming Bucko by a length in 28.63, with Ballyhooly Henry in third.
Bruno Ya Know (28.96), Cabra Mufasa (28.98), Hawthorn Rumble (28.78), Go Ahead (28.91), Rural Hawaii (28.55), Black Tom (28.86), and Cunning Barney (28.70) all made successful starts in their respective bids for the €80,000 winner’s prize.
On Friday night, Tralee hosted the final of the GMHD Insurances Juvenile Classic and the exciting Sidarian Vega ran out an emphatic winner for trainer Graham Holland, and the Sidarian Syndicate.
The August pup may have had to ride his luck a little when winning from an unsuitably wide draw in the semi-finals, but this performance was all about quality. The son of Westmead Hawk and Manic Fantasy produced a flying break from trap two and used his pace to turn a few lengths clear of Aguasantas.
Powerful from the front, he galloped relentlessly to a nine-and-a-half-length victory over that rival, in a brilliant 28.18. It was a fitting performance to earn a winner’s cheque for €15,000.
Draw for semi-finals of the Easter Cup
First semi-final: 1. Sidarian Blaze, 2. Slippery Fred, 3. Millbank Stevie, 4. Droopys Nidge (w), 5. Highview Premier (w), 6. Laughil Bolt (w).
Second semi-final: 1. Coran Sky, 2. Laughil Duke, 3. Gaytime Hawk, 4. Barefoot Agent, 5. Paradise Maverik, 6. August Rush (m).
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