Hopefuls looking to seal place in Laurels line-up

BY MONDAY afternoon, the starting line-up for the 2011 Laurels will be revealed and the draw for the first round heats made

. Though Curraheen Park racing manager Brian Collins has reported entries to be slow, the recent influx of runners for Saturday night Open Races indicates a very strong renewal could be in the offing.

There was great news earlier in the week when it was revealed that Rockchase Bullet would trial at the track in advance of a possible tilt at the classic and that was followed by the revelation that Derby runner-up Dream Walker would be following suit.

The main players from the Tipperary Cup are also in line for a tilt at the big prize as winner Glideaway Ace is amongst the early entries, and will be joined by runner-up Coolard Chief, who recorded 17.42 and 28.41 in sprint and 525-yards trials respectively this month.

Delve a little deeper into the Tipperary feature and one comes across semi-finalist Local Chief, who was most impressive in victory at Curraheen last weekend. His 28.30 was stunning in its execution and held substance as he staved off the attention of national record holder Leeview Jet. Of course, there's a concern that Jerry Griffin's dog might be dependent upon a draw along the rails and that must be factored into the equation when rating him as a potential winner. But he was so impressive on Saturday night that he must be afforded the utmost respect.

Add in his kennel-companion St Louis Charlie, who was relentless as he galloped away from decent opposition in a 550 here the same night. He was third behind Whiteys Hawk in the final of the Produce Stakes at Clonmel and though probably better suited to further, he strikes as one which could go a long way here.

But talk of all these potential champions is dangerous given that 2010 winner Tyrur Enda signalled that he might not be ready to relinquish his title just yet by posting a 28.34 trial. It's probably too much to ask of him to produce his best over a five-week stake at this stage of his career but he shouldn't be dismissed lightly.

More pressingly, there are some potential stars on show tonight and it'll be most interesting to see how Irish Sprint Cup winner Shoemakers Lad copes in the fourth race. Trap one shouldn't be an issue as he has won from there in the past and six winners came from that trap last Saturday night.

The trip is the issue but his recent trial suggests he'll stay strongly enough to get the better of these rivals. He'll have tougher assignments over the coming weeks and will need to win this handsomely to advertise his classic claims.

Unquestionably, the race of the night is the Great Stuff Caterers 525, in which all six greyhounds would be worthy of a place in the latter stages of the Laurels.

The first three seconds will define this race, with five of the six runners having to lead to win. Colorful Champ is perhaps the exception and given his recent form he’s likely to be sent off favourite, but I favour Leeview Jet, who was beaten by Local Chief last week. His consistency at traps and blistering early pace make him the most likely winner and, with his capability to record a run in the 28.30s, he will be extremely hard to reel-in.

Leger runner-up Varra Captain hadn’t been long under the care of trainer Owen McKenna when running in the Derby and he’s easily forgiven that early exit. The drop back to 525 yards should be in his favour and he indicated that he might not be far off reaching his peak when posting 28.31 in a trial here last weekend.

Sede Vacante didn’t come out of trap one here a few weeks ago but a new set of boxes has since arrived and, if trapping, he will not only enhance his own chance but also hinder that of Colorful Champ.

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