Hero 11/8 for Kirby Memorial after scintillating display

Boylesports Hero will be the favourite to land next weekend’s final of the €80,000-to-the-winner Con and Annie Kirby Memorial at Limerick following a scintillating display of raw pace in Saturday night’s semi-final.

Vans Viking broke best of all and easily cleared those on his inner as he moved for the rails on the run-up. That carried him around a length clear of Boylesports Hero, who didn’t flash out but showed his customary brilliant early pace. The challenger then became the leader with a tremendous display of pace along the backstretch and into the third bend.

Despite swinging wide into the homestraight, the Brendan Matthews-trained and John Boyle-owned runner held the tight-railing Vans Viking by a length in 28.35. Pennys Deanridge ran on well to take third place, three lengths further back.

The first semi-final was a real cracker, in which Crokers Champ proved just too good for Green Prince. The former, trained by Peter Cronin for Jim Tracey, took a flyer from traps and led until joined along his inner by Green Prince as they turned out of the second bend.

The two went neck and neck down the backstretch, and were inseparable at the third turn. However, Crokers Champ found a little extra from the home turn, and put a length and a half between himself and his persistent challenger, in 28.61, with Ivy Hill Prince, crowded at the first bend, two lengths back in third.

Cork handler Thomas O’Donovan had the standard setter in the first round of the Healthcare and Transport Services Puppy Oaks at Shelbourne Park when his Drive On Alice utterly outclassed her rivals in the third heat.

By Black Shaw out of Bright Outlook, who previously produced 2008 Irish Oaks Consolation winner Decent Prospect (by Top Savings), she showed terrific early pace and determination as she was clipped from behind and lost her back legs just 10 yards from traps.

Despite that the June pup was a proverbial mile clear at halfway, and pulled further ahead all the way to hit the line ten and a half lengths in front of Cnoc Holly, in 28.52.

Another Cork trainer on the mark in the stake was Blarney’s Johnny Linehan, whose Droopys Sylvia was second fastest on the clock when winning the last of the seven heats. The strong-staying bitch turned a close second along the rails and then moved to the front early in the backstraight.

Monmore Puppy Derby finalist Jaytee China found trouble as she tried to get into the rails on the run-up but caught the eye with her pace along the back. She looked a danger at the third turn, where the leader appeared to take a false step. However, Sylvia stays very well over this trip and ran on strongly to beat that lady by two lengths in 28.68.

The runner-up’s connections, trainer Paul Hennessy and owner John Turner, had better luck in the first heat, where Jaytee Freddy put her stamina to best use. Fine backstraight pace saw the experienced pup past Ballymac Tinsel, and she pulled two and a half lengths clear in 28.79.

The Owen McKenna-trained Airforce Karla made a convincing debut in the second heat. The daughter of Head Bound and former Derby semi-finalist Rafas Wee Pet broke in front, maintained a middle path throughout, and stayed on well to deny the somewhat unlucky-in-running Jaytee India by two and a half lengths, in 29.12.

Shes A Dream, trained by Barney Mooney, came from well off the pace to take heat four. Some seven lengths behind Cill Dubh Sky at halfway, she stuck limpet-like to the fence after moving across on the run-up, and her strong effort got her up in the last few yards for a length victory in 28.85.

Deja Dancer, a litter sister to Airforce Karla, secured her first success in open company when taking heat five in good style. There was plenty of crowding on the run-up, but this bitch, running from six, swept around the field and into the lead before turning into the back. Once in front she pulled clear to score by five lengths, from Slippery Hanna, in 28.83.

There was an upset in the sixth heat as Red Mills and Newbridge Track Supporters’ Club Unraced Bitch Stake winner Droopys Muriel had to settle for second place behind Must Be Lady. Martin and Mervyn Lappin’s July pup took a flyer, while the favourite missed the kick and was just fifth early.

The leader was unrelenting from the front and, although Droopys Muriel showed tremendous ability to get into second place in the closing stages, Must Be Lady proved two lengths too good on this occasion, recording 28.88.

Kirby Memorial final, trap draw and betting: 1. Pennys Deanridge (33-1), 2. Ivy Hill Prince (8-1), 3. Crokers Champ (5-1), 4. Vans Viking (9-4), 5. Green Prince (7-1), 6. Boylesports Hero (m, 11-8 fav).

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