That was the emphatic message from Saturday night’s final of the €20,000-to-the-winner townviewfoods.com Champion Stakes at Shelbourne Park, where he built on the promise of his semi-final display with a terrific victory for trainer Ollie Bray and owners Dave Buckley and Sean Meade.
Since smashing the 525 yards track record with a stunning 27.67 run at the end of last year, he has struggled to shake off a series of niggling injuries. But connections can now begin to dream of Derby glory once more.
After turning second behind recent Shelbourne Derby Trial Stake winner Jaxx On Fantasy, he showed big pace to move onto the shoulder of that rival between the final bends.
The long-time leader battled bravely but Paradise Madison, whose is very powerful over the 550 yards trip, moved clear in the closing stages to win by a couple of lengths in a terrific 29.46. Melodys Diamond made strong late gains to finish the same distance further back in third.
“We had a great night,” admitted owner Dave Buckley, who was celebrating his first Classic winner. “There was no pressure on the dog as there was in the Comerford Cakes, and he ran brilliantly.
“It’s a credit to Ollie [Bray, trainer] to get him back after the dog had a broken bone in his foot.
“We thought it would take him another three runs to find his form but he really surprised us last week. We were using this stake as a stepping stone as he looked very ring-rusty on his first run back but he showed what he’s made of in the semi-final.
“We had been worried about how we were going to get him fit but he’s that type of dog — he’d keep surprising you.
“The draw suited him and I really fancied him to go close. Jaxx On Fantasy ran a great race and made him work hard for it but he really turned on the gas in the homestraight.
“He had a tough race but has come out of it well. The plan was to run him next week but we wouldn’t get a race for him and, after winning the Champion Stakes, we’ll now rest him for a week and bring him straight back to the Derby.
“Those runs should have brought him on in leaps and bounds. He’s only had three outings since his return — and no gallops. I think there could be a huge run in him in the Derby. He’s going to pop out one of the nights and he could do something special.
“He’s gaining experience now and as long as he can stay injury-free we can really look forward to the Derby.”
The most admirable Abbeyville Tipp, trained by Peter Tiernan for Tom Egan, brought his tally to 23 victories when taking the Champion Plate. Mistaken set the pace but the prolific winner was on his tail before halfway and hit the front racing to the third bend before pulling a couple clear of Killinan Baby in 29.87.
Another performance worth noting with the Derby in mind was that of Jaytee Hellcat, who overcame trouble to win an Open 550 in great style. Now trained by Paul Hennessy, the former England-based tracker lacks a little early pace but he was baulked early this time and looked to have an awful lot to do as they raced to the bend.
He shipped another bump at the first turn before hitting full stride. A grandson of that wonderful brood bitch Little Diamond UK, he switched to overdrive in the backstraight and what had looked unlikely became reality as he forged to the front off the last bend and held the game renewed effort of Head For Fame by a length in 29.93.
Easter Cup winner North Bound had everything in his favour when taking the Champion Stakes Consolation Open 550 for trainer Niall Dunne and Fr Dan Greene. Drawn six in a race in which traps four and five were vacant, he was unchallenged early and, after establishing a clear advantage around the first two turns, he raced to an easy five-length victory over Captain Scolari in 29.53.
Airforce Diva, who was a semi-finalist in last year’s Derby, returned to her best with a runaway success in the closing race. Owen McKenna’s bitch led between the opening bends and she raced away in the closing stages to win as she liked, in 29.58.
The second round of the Bar-One Irish Sprint Cup took place at Dundalk on Saturday night and the outstanding performance on the clock came from reigning champ Cambushmore, trained by Graham Holland for Ned Kerrisk of Carrigrohane.
He looked back to somewhere close to his very best when winning his first-round heat in 21.20 and he confirmed that impression here. He may only have had three opponents but they included last year’s runner-up Hather Ski, and he made light work of the task at hand as he powered home eight clear of Mofara in a clear best of the night 21.07.
Fifteen minutes later his kennel companion Leeview Dave, owned by Tommy Delaney of Ballincollig, claimed the notable scalp of Razldazl Rioga, the 4-6 favourite racing home with a couple of lengths to spare over that rival in 21.23, with Laurels finalists Tinas Nova three and a half further back.
The upset of the night came in heat six, where 1-3 chance Farloe Calvin finished third, beaten two lengths and a head behind 21.43 winner Junctionthirteen and Piercestown Liam.