Emotions ran high at Powerstown Park as the 94th national coursing meeting came to a close, the owners of both classic winners overcome by it all as they drank in their success.
It’s not the first time Liam Dowling from Ballymacelligott in Kerry has left Clonmel for home with a title in his pocket, but that didn’t lessen the joy as he took the handshakes and hugs following Ballymac Enya’s impressive win over Crafty Perfecto in the final buckle of the Horse & Jockey Hotel Oaks.
“I’m over the moon,” he said afterwards. “It was a long dream of mine... She’s a bitch we always had a lot of time for.”
Owned and trained by Dowling, Ballymac Enya qualified at Glin and came to the meeting at odds of around 8-1 on Sunday morning, reduced to 5-2 48 hours later.
“Hats off to everybody around her and the team,” the greyhound veteran added, before fighting back the tears as he mentioned a friend and associate who is not in good health. “A big hello to Alan Newman, I want to dedicate this Oaks to Alan.
“It’s the pinnacle,” he said of winning the classic. “We’ve had a good run through the trial stakes all year but to come here you have to cap it and we’ve done that today. It’s every doggy man’s dream and having done it, it’s just fantastic. We will relish it.”
Meanwhile, the BoyleSports Derby, which proved a bookies’ benefit, also went the way of a previous winning owner as Rumour Has It, for Basil Holian and Bernie
Diskin-Holian from Galway and trained in Rosegreen by Kevin Barry, defied morning odds of 6-1.
“Cloud nine, it’s unreal,” Basil Holian said before the presentation, also struggling to hold back the tears.
“We were in trouble last night, he had an injury and we managed to get it right. Kevin worked tirelessly on him but even at 8am this morning, we were half-thinking of withdrawing him. Gerry Reilly got involved, our physio, and did a super job to get him ready. We made the decision to give him a chance and give it a go.”
A previous Derby winner with Adios Alonso (2010) — in partnership with the late Richie Maher — and Oaks with Rith Gan Gaisce (2005) — Holian said connections were sweet on Rumour Has It coming into the week, but he still had to overcome that injury.
“We put enough money on him to pay for the party. Winning a Derby is phenomenal. We bred this lad and reared him, so we’re just so, so happy.”
It takes a lot to shock the coursing people. Hot weather maybe. Slow hares. Pub closing times. But one of the buckles in yesterday’s
Champion Stakes came close as anything to stopping them in their tracks.
One of the biggest roars of the week came when hot favourite for the stake, Watchman also owned by the Holians, came up against Ahamore Wonder in the quarter-final.
As short as 1-2 for outright success at the start of business, the Kevin Barry-trained dog looked to be on course to progress when, for some reason, he jinked to his right, forcing his opponent to effectively hurdle him and also forcing himself out of the contest.
“The unpredictability of coursing was never better illustrated than in that buckle,” was how the on-course commentator described it, while his colleague declared he’d never seen anything like it.
“Kevin Barry can’t believe it,” was another fair summation.
Next stop the Irish Cup for Watchman while Ahamore Wonder — owned by Martin Galvin and Muiris Galvin from Lixnaw — continued to upset the odds by beating Shine a Diamond next time out and then shining in the final against Granard Bolt.
That collective shout of wonder from the stands was only matched for volume throughout finals day by the guffaws of laughter from the parade ring, as our bookmaking friends watched the two favourites crash out of the Derby reckoning at the quarter-final stage.
First, the long-time ante-post favourite Boylesportsmagic, 2-1 yesterday morning, had his colours lowered by the Brendan Matthews-trained Huntingtown (5-1 at dawn); then it was Noreen McManus’s Gerry Holian-trained Return Ticket (7-4) who departed the action against Undersupervision (8-1), trained by Declan Byrne.
Oakview Leigh and Rumour Has It were the others to make it to the penultimate stage and then Rumour Has It came from behind at the top of the hill to claim a place in the final against Huntingtown.
Whatever upset Kevin Barry felt after that morning mishap was probably forgotten by early afternoon when Rumour Has It kept going and kept going.
After two days of sub-tropical conditions (it’s all relative), yesterday was more like it as far as traditional coursing weather was concerned. The forecast went for rain and sure enough Sliabh na mBan had disappeared behind the mist by the time the first punters arrived at the renowned venue for the big day.
The Oaks took a more orthodox route than the “male” classic, the two hotpots Cha Cha Matilda and Crafty Perfecto safely negotiating the hill for the fourth time this week before facing each other in the semi and their fifth buckles of the meeting, the Crafty bitch owned and trained by former ICC president Brian Divilly making it through a thrilling clash.
She met the aforementioned Ballymac Enya but the Divilly hopes of a first classic were dashed by Enya, who held on all the way up the hill to claim the spoils.
The Champion Bitch Stakes went to Blades of Honour, owned by Tara Guiney from Rathkeale and trained by Gerry Holian, who also trained Laurina to win the Kitty Butler Stakes for Ray Conroy and Ollie Dunne and Wi Can There to take the T.A. Morris Stakes. Wi Can There is owned by Lars Wicander and Mats Wicander from Sweden, a new hotbed of coursing.