Plum draw for Piercestown

The semi-finals of the Easter Cup headline proceedings at Shelbourne Park tonight and the second of the two heats should be particularly informative, with SIS Live Gold Cup champion Piercestown Sand taking on Derby champ Razldazl George and a seemingly resurgent Tyrur Big Mike, amongst others.

Let’s start with the latter, who is quoted at 2-1 in the early market. In terms of raw ability, he’s as good as any dog in training - and has been for a long time - but his marked tendency to race wide around the bends is very costly at this level.

Last weekend, however, he recorded the joint-fastest time of the round with a blistering display of early pace, which left some useful rivals toiling.

He still swung wide around the opening bends but, on this occasion, nothing was able to get up inside him and thus he drove out of the turn and into an unassailable lead down the back.

It’s both unfortunate and a little disappointing that the dog that once recorded 29.28 for 550 yards and who ran up the Derby, has never won anything of note.

While it’d be hard to deny him this Classic, I remain convinced that the chance has passed him by.

Razldazl George didn’t please everyone when beaten last weekend but I thought it was an improvement on his first-round effort and I expect another step forward tonight.

I doubt he’s quite ready to hit his peak form just yet but he should go well enough not only earn a place in next week’s final but also to suggest he could be ready to add another big race to his CV.

Piercestown Sand was a really smart performer last year but I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s improved this term.

He ran a super race behind Broadstrand Lad last week, when he was held up on the run to the turn and forced to switch inside coming off the last bend.

Drawn in trap one, he will move off the rails a touch on the run up but the absence of Airforce Frankie (trap two) is a huge help as, in fact, is the presence of flying starter Tyrur Big Mike in trap three.

In the likelihood that Big Mike will flash out and grab the early lead, Piercestown Sand should have plenty of room to manoeuvre without fear of being hampered.

That being the case, I expect him to turn a close second before taking advantage of the leader’s profligacy around the opening bends.

Razldazl George should be finishing with a rattle but making up ground on Piercestown Sand is a formidable task.

At the same odds as Big Mike, Piercestown Sand represents better value than his rival, who still has questions to answer and he can advance victorious to the final.

nMilldean Panther’s connections chose to give the Easter Cup a skip due to a minor injury to the Shelbourne 525 yards track record holder and Gold Cup runner-up.

However, the recent revelation that he could line up at Curraheen Park for the two-run Formula One Grand Prix is one that has got greyhound racing fans talking.

Many believe he wouldn’t be suited to the track and, to a point, I understand that. His style of running would seem ideal for a galloping circuit but such is his tendency to cut for the rails at the opening bend, he could well adapt to the Cork venue.

He is intended to trial at the track this evening and I firmly believe he could post a huge time.

A lack of experience of the track will probably cost him a few lengths but provided there is no hangover from the back injury that prompted his absence from the Easter Cup, we could be in for some fireworks.

The actual race programme at Curraheen features the semi-finals of the prestigious McCarthy Insurance Group Cork Oaks but Milldean Panther’s presence would take the occasion to a whole new level.

Expect the stadium to be packed and those of us who tend to shuffle in the gates with just moments to spare before the first race, might have to make the effort to arrive that little bit earlier. John O’Flynn Jnr’s dog is expected to trial at around half past seven. Don’t be late.

* The final of the Droopys Stud Champion Stakes takes place in Youghal on Monday night and David Harrington’s Fleetwood Nick looks sure to be sent off favourite.

Unbeaten in the stake, he may have to concede the early lead but he stays strongly and will prove hard to resist.

Shedfield Deuce, representing the burgeoning talents of trainer Kieran Lynch, looks drawn to lead, while JJ Fennelly’s Langton’s Derby winner Burgess Star hinted at a return to his very best form last week and cannot be discounted despite a difficult draw.

There are also two other finals down for decision on what is a very good card.

The action begins at 8pm and entry to the track is free, courtesy of the Youghal Track Supporters’ Club.

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