Wednesday, 19 November 2014

                  2014 Irish St Leger Final

2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger…...the story so far!

Semi shocks leave Limerick set for Classic Leger finale

Following two thrilling semi-finals on Saturday last, the 2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger comes to a most anticipated conclusion tonight with a mouth watering final line-up that will draw down the curtain on a Classic renewal that has offered all that is good in the sport and maintains this wonderful competition’s status as one of the most prestigious prizes in Greyhound racing, very much intact!

In a truly remarkable performance twelve months ago, Irish and Limerick Oaks winner, Locnamon Bridie ensured greyhound immortality with a dominant final display. She made the bend in front from trap 3 and powered to a commanding lead on the back-straight where even Tyrur Sugar Ray failed to make inroads against the breath-taking bitch who registered a three and half length victory in a brilliant 29.34. There was again a strong challenge by the fairer sex this year in a bid to emulate the great bitch and tonight will see Borna Central carry the flag as the last bitch standing.

Nidge led the way with record rd 1 win

This year’s event was sparked into life when in our opening session of round one action Droopys Nidge set a blistering new standard for the 550 yard trip by dominating heat 8 in a new track record time of 29.29! He would subsequently exit at quarter final stage but such has been the quality throughout the competition that even his elimination could not detract from what has been a sizzling month of Leger fireworks from the onset.

Others to leave an indelible mark on that opening night were Pat Buckley’s Paradise Silva who scored a dominant heat 4 win in a slick 29.62 while Gerry Holian’s Emers Superstar looked at home now back at the Limerick circuit when displaying devastating early pace before taking control of heat 6 off the second bend for a nine length win in 29.66. The concluding two heats of night one action sent local patrons home with a smile as James Roche’s Ballyana Foxtrot firstly scored an impressive early paced victory in heat 10 when leading throughout for a two and a half length verdict over fellow finalist Vulturi. Heat 11 then went to Tim Gilbourne’s powerful bitch Cloon Glory who took up the running off the second bend to lead home Hannibal Rising by one and half lengths in 29.97.

Big guns turn up the heat in round 2

With the luxury of a fourth qualifying place gone, three of tonight’s finalists along with some of the competition’s main protagonists signalled their respective intentions with brilliant round 2 performances that threw the competition wide open as the new track record holder felt the classic heat despite getting the better of Burgess Oscar in an epic heat 5 tussle. The pair fought out a thrilling buckle all along the back-straight with Nidge just getting on top approaching the line for a half length verdict in 29.62 over the Cork raider who would influence the outright betting market following this game display.

Another close affair on the night saw Liam Dowling’s Vulturi, just mow down Metro Jack in the shadow of the post for his first heat win by a shorthead in 29.84 before Ballyana Foxtrot went back to back in another dominant display when one and a half lengths in advance of Big Bang in 29.75. Also remaining unbeaten was Emers Superstar with his early pace carrying him to a seven length win over tonight’s finalist Castleivy Crash in a fast 29.58. General Wolf then took the penultimate heat, leaving a very good impression when stretching to a twelve length verdict over Elevenerife in 29.74 despite not hitting the front until early in the back-straight. The fastest performance of the night however was reserved for the concluding heat where Paradise Silva made a fast start from trap 1 and this powerful runner galloped relentlessly to a ten length verdict over Cloon Glory, again registering a slick time of 29.52.

Silva and Emer remain unbeaten

Our quarter final heats saw two runners score hat-tricks of Leger heat wins when firstly Paradise Silva again made a smart start for a first bend lead in heat 2, recording a six length win over Castleivy Crash in 29.59 with Stone Boy King qualifying behind them and reaching his third big Limerick semi-final having reached the same stage in 2013 in both the Leger and Kirby Memorial. This immediately preceded another brilliant display of early pace by Emers Superstar when he again led throughout heat 3 but not before being forced to repel the eye-catching and sustained challenge of General Wolf by just a head in 29.58 as the latter once again impressed with his back-straight pace, Borna Helena followed these home, a further four and a half lengths adrift.

Vulturi, a thorough professional
The opening quarter final of the night went to Vulturi who was now warming nicely to his Leger task and the strong stayer showed clever track craft for a daring third bend run on the rails when overtaking early pacesetter Cloon Glory, Burgess Oscar and the struggling track record holder Droopys Nidge for the gamest of victories in a thrilling heat. Burgess Oscar followed him home at a three length deficit in 29.82 with the same back to Cloon Glory in third as she consigned Droopys Nidge to fourth and his Leger exit to boot.

Michael Dwan with Borna Central
The concluding quarter final was a heat to savour where Michael Dwan’s Borna Central produced one of the most memorable moments of this years’ event when recovering from significant first bend bumping to scythe through a high class field from last position off the second bend before mowing down Hawaii Kinsale on the line in 30.12. This exhilarating success meant we would have three bitches in the semi-finals but the heat also saw a gutsy display by Ballyana Foxtrot who failed to lead for the first time in the competition but managed to negotiate his way into a battling third qualifying place, an effort that could prove crucial in the final script of this Leger!

Favourites fall victim to Crash in semi shock

So often the semi-finals of major events can prove a stumbling block for big outright fancies, for classics are rigorous tests of resilience and the ability to safely negotiate early rounds whilst retaining top form in readiness to produce your racing best when the chance comes your way can be a potent weapon. So it proved for Denis O`Malley’s 12/1 shot Castleivy Crash in last weeks’ opening semi-final when he found his best split of the competition from trap 4 and tracked early leader Cloon Glory to the opening turn. He showed good pace to overhaul the lead entering the third bend as 2/5 favourite Vulturi began to close on the heels of the leading duo but was inconvenienced by a tiring Cloon Glory at the corner, leaving Castleivy Crash to record an impressive one and a half length win in 29.78, the best run of the youngster’s career to date. Three bitches went to traps for this heat and following the heroics of Locnamon Bridie in 2013, it was only fitting that at least one of these would advance to attempt to emulate her great feat. It was Borna Central who claimed the third final place and will have added yet more admirers when again overcoming a poor draw in trap 6 to recover from fifth place at the second bend to be only a half a length behind Vulturi at the line.

Foxtrot dances back to best as Silva sneaks through

Ballyana Foxtrot
The second semi-final was an eventful affair where Emers Superstar just shaded favouritism at 7/4 with his trap 1 draw over fellow unbeaten runner, Paradise Silva who had a treacherous draw in trap 5. The former missed his break and his Leger aspirations were tenuous in the opening strides as both Burgess Oscar and Ballyana Foxtrot made fast starts from traps 4 and 6 respectively. They led at the first bend with James Roche’s local favourite negotiating the turns much more smoothly for a back-straight lead that would see him safely advance in 30.03. The story in behind was much more complicated but Burgess Oscar held his second position entering the back-straight with Emers Superstar using his early pace to challenge for third ahead of the menacing General Wolf who was flying on his outer. However, with Burgess Oscar occupying the rails position at this point, Emers Superstar switched for a run on his outer and a bump between him and the advancing General Wolf shuffled both backwards into a veritable dog fight for the third qualifying place. This duo were still in advance of a closing Hawaii Kinsale and Paradise Silva entering the closing bends but despite suffering all the predicted traffic problems from his trap 5 draw the game Pat Buckley charge crucially found a rails run and denied General Wolf a final berth by a half a length, in a cracker!

The Finalists

Trap 1   Vulturi The Liam Dowling trained Vulturi has developed into one of Ireland’s most formidable competition trackers since blasting onto the open scene over 575 yards at Shelbourne Park as a pup before recording a blistering 28.25 at Limerick in the Con & Annie Kirby back in March. Fourth in this years Derby he has maintained an admirably high level of form over the past months and whatever beats him tonight will need an absolute clear run for his staying power will see him flying on the rails off the final bend but for victory, he must keep very close touch with Paradise Silva on his immediate outside for a back-straight challenge as that rival will not surrender the inside graciously. 15/8

Trap 2 Paradise Silva Pat Buckley’s Paradise Silva, always capable of blistering times, found a level of consistency in the early rounds of this event that saw him lead at the opening bend for a hat-trick of heat wins. He suffered first bend bumping in his semi-final from a predictably tricky draw but always a strong runner he gamely stayed well to claim his place in the final and holds big claims of victory now as he can lead Vulturi in the early strides for a rails run. Having recorded 29.62 or better on three occasions a likely clear run just about earns him the winning vote. 15/8

Trap 3 Castleivy Crash Denis O`Malley’s locally trained youngster Castleivy Crash has charted his way through this event with admirable track craft at the tender age of twenty-six months and this Puppy Derby heat winner continues to improve with his fastest semi-final win over Vulturi being the best of his career thus far. He can conceivably go even faster now but he will need a repeat of his recent fast start, for his win claims will hinge on leading Paradise Silva to the opening turn. Ignore him at your peril however and should he lead at any point, brace yourself for deafening cheers that may well carry him to victory. 9/1

Trap 4 Borna Central Michael Dwan’s wonderfully game bitch, Borna Central had passed two years of age before recording her first open time and had been campaigned solely at 525 yards before tackling this event without a race or trial at Limerick before her opening heat in the Leger. Despite poor draws throughout, this inside seed has negotiated her way to the final when never beaten more than two lengths in any heat, even when faced with seemingly impossible tasks. Her quarter-final win when coming from last to first means that she must be respected and should there be any traffic problems for the early pacers, she will scare any on the home-straight if within striking distance off the second bend. 14/1

Trap 5 Burgess Oscar Sheila Spillane & J.J Fennelly’s Burgess Oscar is the only finalist without a heat win in the competition but do not let that detract from the high class performances he has produced throughout. He has registered 29.65 in a round 2 defeat and should he produce that level of form he will hold claims of victory as he can both start well and he fully sees out the trip at the highest level. He matched the early paced Ballyana Foxtrot to the opening bend last week but surrendered his chance when not galloping the bends smoothly which does temper confidence now but should he remedy that the youngest finalist at just twenty-five months old, Oscar, has a chance! 9/1

Trap 6 Ballyana Foxtrot Another locally trained runner that will inspire rapturous cheers, James Roche’s Ballyana Foxtrot has won three of his four Leger heats and finally gets his crack at a big classic final after the early pacer bounced back to form in a quality semi-final win. Usually eliminated when failing to lead in similar situations, he gamely found a way to qualify from his quarter-final and holds big claims now as this race has a very similar set up to that which saw him defeat Burgess Oscar last week. He must lead to win but he can and with 29.65 to his name, those looking to come from behind will need a clear passage to mow him down….catch me if you can! 11/4

2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger Final……the verdict?!

Attempting to predict the outcome of this mouthwatering final has proved a difficult problem to decipher and is greatly complicated by the attractive prices available with some firms about those labeled outsiders. Despite housing five inside seeds, the trap draw appears to offer a plausible chance for a clean run race with the sole middle seed Ballyana Foxtrot clearly comfortable in the stripes.

Outsiders have plausible claims

Trap 5 for Burgess Oscar on his inner may not read as acceptable being widest of the inside runners but he made his best start of the competition from trap 4 last week and has a brace of trap 6 wins to his name so with a slower starter on his inner, this draw may be very suitable as he should have room to drift inward on the run to the bend. He is the youngest runner in the field at twenty five months and should he run the opening bends smoother than he did when upsides Ballyana Foxtrot in the semi-final he may find the very slight improvement needed to score and a pillar to post victory is not a forlorn hope at the final’s most attractive odds of 9/1.

The big fly in the ointment tonight is Castleivy Crash following his brilliant semi-final display which on the face of things would give him a much greater chance than his 9/1 quote would suggest. At twenty-six months of age that run can not be readily dismissed as a one off performance, as further progression is clearly possible given his youth. He however must lead on the inside because although fending off Vulturi last week, that rival was closing with menace on the back-straight until slightly crowded at the third bend. Further complication for his chances is the presence of Paradise Silva on his immediate inside who will be more comfortable tonight now back close to the rails.

An inside seed, Borna Central has hardly caught sight of the white paint throughout the Leger but to her credit runs a straight line, whatever trap she exits. She will not lead to the first turn tonight but she continually finds a way to get competitive and will again fly from halfway. For win claims, one would much prefer to see her drawn on the inside of Vulturi in particular, as attempting a late swoop against a similar style of runner with a better draw will prove difficult. She will need help from somewhere to be close enough for a winning bid at the closing bends but the powerful bitch must be respected after an admirable Leger campaign.

Silva service can resume now back near the rails

So to the short priced runners, Vulturi and Paradise Silva have vied for favouritism all week at prices close to 15/8 and at those odds the clear choice between the pair must be Paradise Silva. He came through a horror draw last week when gamely recovering from first bend bumping to reach this final and gets the vote to gain his reward for those exertions with his much more favourable now. He has two wins from trap 3 and another from trap 1 in the opening heats and again showed smart early pace compared to Burgess Oscar and Ballyana Foxtrot after a slow start from trap 5 last week. He can outpace Vulturi to the bend now and the rails pitch offers more ways for him to win than any else in the final. Even if led to the opening bend, the manner in which Burgess Oscar moved off the inside at the corner last time could offer an inviting gap for Silva and he also possesses powerful back-straight pace that may mow down Ballyana Foxtrot even if that rival produces his best form on the outer. His win times from the early heats are impossible to ignore and with no value in tipping bigger priced losers, Silva is the percentage call.

Although both feared and respected in equal measure, it seems clear that Vulturi will need Paradise Silva to miss a beat at some stage if he is to claim victory. He has not bettered 29.82 thus far and although trap 1 offers a chance for clear racing room, a similar run for his market rival makes this a tough proposition and the likely odds are not so attractive. The 11/4 available about Ballyana Foxtrot does seem more on the mark however. His chance of victory is a simple one, he must lead around the opening bend and try to hang on which is a plausible prospect. With 29.65 to his credit he merits plenty of respect with a likely clear run on the outer. Prediction: 2-1-6

 Racing Post Link

                                       How the Final was won!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Emer the fastest as Nidge meets his Leger demise!

Four wonderful heats of the 2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger provided all the thrills and inevitable spills that only the classics of Greyhound Racing can deliver as both Emers Superstar and Paradise Silva kept their unbeaten competition records intact as new track record holder Droopys Nidge suffered elimination when heat 1 sparked the Leger quarter finals into fiery action an Saturday last.

That opening heat was highly anticipated as Droopys Nidge and Burgess Oscar would reoppose following their epic battle just a week previous but the presence of Vulturi in trap 1 looked an ominous threat and he duly proved just that, in a cracker! Elevenerife began best from trap 5 to lead from Droopys Nidge on the outside who showed pace to almost join the leader before a brief bump between the pair shuffled him back to a one and a half length tie for second place with Cloon Glory who had made good headway with smart pace from trap 4. The latter overhauled the leader early in the back-straight and was joined by Droopys Nidge but the expected back-straight surge of the track record holder failed to materialise as Tim Gilbourne`s local favourite put up stubborn resistance that would ultimately seal Nidge’s fate when unable to beat him to the third bend.

That was where the whole complexion of this race changed when Burgess Oscar began to range up on the inside of Cloon Glory with a threatening challenge but as he did, left an inviting gap for the strong staying Vulturi who in turn made his bid on Burgess Oscar’s inner for a winning run. He stretched on for an impressive three length verdict over Burgess Oscar with three more lengths to Cloon Glory, who were both admittedly inconvenienced by his rails run, in a time of 29.82. This heat also brought the elimination of Hannibal Rising who was unluckiest of the remainder when his big late bid was blocked at the third bend but Paudie Ryan’s track regular can be very proud of his Leger campaign in spite of his injury worries.

Paw perfect Emer was dominant… General!

Gerry Holian’s Emers Superstar was the fastest winner of the night in heat 3 and this brilliant early pacer found a smart break to register a sizzling 2.77 split on his way to a first bend lead over General Wolf who impressively was just one length adrift of the pacesetter. Emers Superstar however has an enviable ability to run these opening bends at Limerick with apparent acceleration and he stretched clear to a four length lead on the back-straight. Borna Helena showed canny track craft after her slow start form trap 6 to chase this pair off the second bend and the order would remain the same throughout but not without a late scare for backers of the 4/6 favourite out in front. General Wolf impressed greatly with his running from halfway the previous week and found a threatening late thrust on the run to the line which Emers Superstar only just managed to repel by a head in 29.58 with four and half lengths to Borna Helena in third.

Silva service has Buckley in Paradise as Stone Boy makes third Limerick semi

Stone Boy King is now in his third big semi at Limerick
Trainer Pat Buckley must be delighted with the consistent breaking form that Paradise Silva has found in this Leger campaign and though producing his slowest split of the competition he again put himself in prime position to maintain his winning run when quickly to stride from trap 3 for a first bend lead in heat 2. A strong runner from the second bend,  victory would never be in doubt and he raced to an uncontested six length verdict over Castleivy Crash who used his rails pitch from trap 1 to good effect ahead of the ever game Stone Boy King who claimed a second Leger semi-final place when two and a half lengths further back in 29.59. Eleanor Mullins & Mark Curtin`s Stone Boy King reached the 2013 Con & Annie Kirby semi’s here when a puppy before making the same stage of last year’s St Leger. He had suffered significant balking in that first big semi-final before cruelly KO`’d in this event twelve months ago. Without prejudice we wish this most gallant of racers a safer passage throughout his heat tonight, whatever the result!

Borna’s bid to emulate Bridie…..on the double!

Michael Dwan with his Borna Central
The formidable Borna Kennels of the Dwan family in Thurles continued their bid to emulate the heroics of super bitch, Locnamon Bridie, when having already guided Roger`s Borna Helena to third place in heat 3, they witnessed Michael`s Borna Central produce a stunning display of guile and determination to score victory in the concluding quarter-final despite being plumb last off the second bend. Fast trapping Macho El led into the back-straight from Metro Jack and Ballyana Foxtrot who failed to lead for the first time in the event. Hawaii Kinsale mounted his challenge around the closing bends having been fourth down the back and ranged up on the outside of a tired leader with Metro Jack also fading out of contention before the eventual winner finally laid down her claim. Borna Central had suffered bumping at the first bend which left her with much ground to make up. She was moving fastest of all however on the back-straight and despite racing widest in the white jacket, continued to pass rivals around the closing bends. Her sustained challenge mowed down Hawaii Kinsale by a shorthead in 30.12 with Ballyana Foxtrot gamely sneaking third a further one and a half lengths adrift.


Vulturi appears best housed runner of the night

1) Vulturi 2) Stone Boy King 3) Cloon Glory 4) Castleivy Crash 5) Borna Helena 6) Borna Central

Liam Dowling's Vulturi has plumb draw in heat 1
It might seem obvious to say that Liam Dowling’s Vulturi has the best draw in trap 1 of six inside seeds but such is his running on the inside, that the clever railer is almost guaranteed a clear run now. His splits compare well with those on his outer and he gets a confident vote to defend his position and strike the front on the back-straight, or sooner! The remaining qualifiers are not so straight forward to predict however and a plausible case can be made for all runners. That said, Cloon Glory just edges the advantage on the early splits and he has hardly put a paw out of place in the competition thus far. He can hold a prominent position at the opening bend and convert that to a trio place as he is strong enough to fend off some of the likely fast finishers. Most formidable of those finishers is Borna Central and though drawn worst of all, a glance back her previous outside draws in the competition suggests that she will keep a straight line to the bend and if that brings her a clear run she will be almost impossible to keep out of the places. Prediction: 1-3-6

Unbeaten pair collide but watch out, the Wolf is at the door!

1) Emers Superstar 2) Hawaii Kinsale 3) General Wolf 4) Burgess Oscar 5) Paradise Silva 6) Ballyana Foxtrot(m)

Pat Buckley and Paradise Silva face tough draw
Treacherous was the first word that came to mind upon witnessing this draw and the line-up would grace any classic final. There is conceivable danger for every runner from the moment traps open but the percentage call must be Emers Superstar to continue his unbeaten run from trap 1. He has won two from four when wearing red and if breaking on terms, his early pace will see him defend the rails pitch at the first bend. Hawaii Kinsale found his best split last week and he really will need that again now but on balance, General Wolf must be fancied to lead him in the early strides. He has enough early pace to fend off those on his outer if so and gets the second vote for a qualifying place as the back-straight pace he has shown throughout the competition is laudable. To be choosing a trio contender from the three phenomenal trackers on the outside seems a ridiculous situation but such is the quality of this heat and although unbeaten thus far, Paradise Silva has been handed a horror draw now. Not only has he the headache of those fast early runners near the rails and the teak tough Burgess Oscar on his immediate inside but he also has fast early pacer Ballyana Foxtrot on his outer. The latter, has in the past, been eliminated from classics when failing to lead early but he earned himself a gutsy reprieve last week and he can complicate this heat greatly for Paradise Silva if returning to his best breaking form. Burgess Oscar has shown too much class throughout the heats to rule him out now and he earns the final vote to qualify by tracking General Wolf around the opening bends in pursuit of Emers Superstar. Prediction: 3-1-4

Racing Post Link

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Silva goes fastest as Classic posse gathers around Nidge!

New track holder and outright favourite for the 2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger, Droopys Nidge, gamely registered back to back opening round wins when just fending off the sustained challenge of Burgess Oscar in a thrilling Heat 5 buckle. However, on a wonderful night of classic action a host of aspiring champions emerged with every passing Round 2 heat to breath down the neck of this young superstar like schoolyard bullies determined to send him back down the pecking order as Paradise Silva went fastest in a dominant Heat 8 display.

Silva goes fastest in Rd 2!

Pat Buckley`s powerful Gold Cup runner-up closed the night’s action by lowering his round 1 clock in landing heat 8 with another strong running performance following a level start from trap 1. He defended his inside pitch at the bend before streaking to an unassailable lead early in the back-straight, with bumping for those in behind. Never seriously threatened, he held ten lengths over Cloon Glory and Glideaway Con, who recovered well from early traffic to fill the places in a brilliant 29.52. Paradise Silva has found his best breaks in the opening heats and should that continue, his powerful gallop from the second bend makes him a leading hope for outright honours.

Six runners remain unbeaten

Five more winners will defend unbeaten tags in our quarter finals and the first to score back to back victories last week was Adrian McPherson`s Lemon Pumba who produced another impressive early paced display when just denying Burgess Four a first bend lead in heat 2. He was tracked into the back-straight by Jackal Frampton but a bigger challenge materialised at the closing bends as De Real McCoy continued his impressive comeback with a strong late challenge which fell short by just a head in 30.16 with Jackal Frampton in third.

The Gerry Holian trained early pacer Emers Superstar showed an impressive turn of foot on the run to the opening bend in Heat 6 before smoothly galloping to his seven length winning margin early in the back-straight. He relegated the race to little more than a procession thereafter when chased home by Castleivy Crash and Borna Helena in a brilliant 29.58. A Kirby finalist here back in April, he was improving on his opening 29.66 win despite suspicions that the track was slower than the previous week. Emers Superstar continues to grow in stature and his Derby campaign proves that he can withstand the rigours of a tough classic campaign which will make him a formidable opponent as the event progresses.

Nidge nails stubborn Oscar in a thriller

This heat was preceded by that epic tussle between Droopys Nidge and Burgess Oscar where the latter showed the best early pace having been just headed in the early strides from trap 2. He held the inside pitch at the bend where Droopys Nidge came to within one length having paced up well in splendid isolation on the outside after breaking just behind the lead despite charging at his trap 6 door before trap rise. A protracted buckle from the top of the back-straight saw Nidge draw alongside Burgess Oscar at the halfway point but the response was strong and sustained by the Cork raider until eventually succumbing in the home-straight but only by a half a length in a slick 29.62!

James Roche`s Ballyana Foxtrot again showed his Limerick prowess in Heat 4 when quickest to the opening bend after a level break from trap 5 to lead Big Bang into the back-straight. The latter gamely reduced a five length halfway deficit to just one and a half lengths at the line in 29.75 with Hawaii Kinsale recovering from a tardy start to claim third. Graham Holland`s General Wolf then added to his impressive Limerick record despite being led to the opening turn and slightly inconvenienced by fast trapping Macho El en route. He quickly overhauled the leader however when swinging off the second bend and streaked clear to an eye catching twelve length success in 29.74 with Macho El just relegated to third by Elevenerife.

Close calls throughout exciting Round 2!

Heat 3 served up another cracker where Metro Jack used his rails pitch to good effect for a four length back-straight lead over Vulturi who tracked the early pace for a rails run at the corner. The leader maintained a strong gallop from this point and still had two lengths in hand off the final turn but Liam Dowling`s Derby finalist found his trademark fast finish to just deny the Paul Hennessy charge by a shorthead at the line in 29.84. Catching the eye when claiming third was Paudie Ryan`s Hannibal Rising who lost no ground on the winner from the second bend to home, having been plumb last in the early exchanges.

There was little more than the minimum winning margin in our opening heat also as Dromore Premier just held the inside at the first bend and gamely kept his neck in front all the way despite being hard pressed throughout. His final challenger was the strong staying bitch Borna Central who just failed to get up on the line in 29.97 with Stoneboy King filling third in a highly entertaining heat that set the tone for a wonderful Round 2 session.

Solo for show, now race for dough!

We have seen stunning displays of racing excellence by some of Ireland`s most impressive trackers in the opening round heats of the 2014 Irish St Leger and while there was still the odd wide margin winner last week, we also saw many heats with the result still in doubt upon exiting the final bend. Expect that latter trend to continue into our quarter finals tonight and those who registered fast clocks with little fuss can expect greater competition for racing room now as the ability to secure a competitive position in the face of adversity becomes infinitely more important than the stopwatch.

Nidge faces biggest test tonight!

For one runner in particular, this will prove the biggest challenge of his career as the supremely talented Droopys Nidge attempts to graduate from speed merchant……to racing champion! He deserves great credit for responding to the challenge laid down by a resilient Burgess Oscar last week and reopposes that rival in Heat 1 tonight but Classics get tougher with each round and the presence of Vulturi with the plumb trap 1 draw makes this three way clash a mouthwatering prospect. Nidge will need to be at his best to secure victory here and that includes relaxing in traps. He charged the trap door as hare exited the final bend last week and any repeat of this tonight could cost him dearly. Conversely, Vulturi rarely puts a paw too far out of place and with a likely clear run on the inside of Burgess Oscar, just gets the nod to lower Nidge`s colours for now.

The second heat, on paper at least, appears the most straight forward to predict and Paradise Silva will go to traps a very short priced favourite. Without the presence of a confirmed early pacer to rival him for a first bend lead that would seem justifiable and he should hold the inside pitch at the bend, allowing him to skip clear at the top of the back-straight. Glideaway Con has posted smart splits in his opening heats and can give the favourite most to worry about if fending off Jackal Frampton in the early strides.

Our third heat brings three unbeaten runners together in a vicious draw where connections will gladly settle for any qualifying spot but the slick early pace of Emers Superstar can prove decisive. Expect him to outpace likely early challenger Lemon Pumba off the second bend, provided he matches General Wolf at trap rise. Trap 4 in this particular situation is far from ideal for the Wolf and he must be smart in the early strides to secure a run as Emers Superstar will drift towards the rail at the earliest sign of clear space, making this a complicated heat for the places, especially as De Real McCoy appears close to his very best form on latest evidence. Big Bang and Borna Helena will pick off the early pacers that fail to secure racing room and the trio combination in this heat really could be anything!

Ballyana Foxtrot will bid to continue his winning ways in our closing heat and likely racing room from trap 6 makes this a clear possibility as he can post a time that will make him extremely difficult to reel in. Fast trapping Macho El can lead on the inner and by doing so, give Metro Jack a tow into the race on the back-straight and he can chase Foxtrot around the closing bends while Borna Central may again secure a qualifying spot with her powerful pace from halfway.

Outright Betting: Droopys Nidge 2/1 Vulturi 7/2 Paradise Silva 4/1 Emers Superstar 7/1 Ballyana Foxtrot 7/1 General Wolf 12/1 Metro Jack 25/1 Jackal Frampton 25/1 De Real McCoy 33/1 Lemon Pumba 40/1 Burgess Oscar 40/1
50/1 bar        

Racing Post Link                                                             

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Nidge sets new record on Limerick debut in flying start to Leger 2014

                                                                    …by Paul Cooney

A large crowd filed into Limerick Greyhound Stadium on Saturday last and that special air of expectancy that only accompanies the major events of our sport was palpable in anticipation of the imminent Classic action. These high expectations were fully justified given the quality of performance we have become accustomed to in recent renewals of the Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger but one aspiring champion surpassed even the most optimistic of predictions when Robert Gleeson`s Droopys Nidge set a blistering new standard for the 550 yard trip by dominating heat 8 in a new track record time of 29.29!

He was sent to traps an odds on 1/4 favourite for a first race outside Shelbourne Park but confidence was high ahead of his Limerick debut having clocked a sizzling 27.95 in his preparation trial over 525 yards. The prospect of a new track record was not immediately apparent in heat 8 however as Nidge could be seen pawing at the trap door while hare exited the final bend ahead of his moderate start from trap 6. He paced up well in the early exchanges and raced wide of early leader Tyrap Rush at the opening bends before hitting the front early in the back-straight. Having claimed the lead at this point, what followed was truly breathtaking as Nidge quickly extended his advantage and the manner in which he smoothly galloped the closing bends was a sight to behold.

He crossed the line with twelve lengths to spare over Knocktoo Kingo with Stone Boy King recovering from early crowding to fill third, a further one length adrift before the winning time flashed up on the stadium clock and drew gasps from the stands. He reopposes Knocktoo Kingo in Heat 5 tonight in a race that appears to be at his mercy and a chance to lead on the outside brings with it the opportunity for fast time and the possibility of another track record is a real one. Greyhound racing`s latest superstar is best priced 5/4 for outright honours ahead our Round 2 action, not a come and back price and if you didn`t get on before Round 1, an investment now is not advised. This is after all a classic, with some of the most impressive trackers in Ireland and while the raw speed of Droopys Nidge may carry him to Leger glory, he will face some daunting opponents as the competition progresses, making a clear run on the outside more and more difficult…….you may yet end up backing him at 5/4 for a single heat, never mind a classic with 48 runners remaining!

Buckley and McPherson score opening round doubles

Though admittedly eclipsed by our new track record holder, there was many other potential headline grabbers on the night and by the conclusion of Heat 5, two trainers had registered a double on the card with Pat Buckley claiming his brace through Kippers Usain and Paradise Silva. The former found his trapping boots in Heat 2 and with smart early pace from trap 4, dominated throughout for a three length victory in 29.90 over De Real McCoy who will have pleased trainer Paul Hennessy greatly after a four month layoff. Paradise Silva completed the Buckley double in Heat 4 when also breaking smartly from trap 3 and was never seriously challenged when seven lengths in advance of Ten Feet Tall in a slick 29.62.
                                                                                                                                                        Paradise Silva   
The opening heat on the night went to Lemon Pumba who showed much the best early dash from trap 2 and stayed stoutly to the line despite Dysert McCoy`s attentions at the closing bends. He also posted 29.90 in a three length win, leaving a very good impression on his Limerick debut. Owner & trainer Adrian McPherson registered his Leger double when guiding Honour And Glory to a game success in Heat 5 despite a slow start from trap 3. He showed pace on the run to the opening bend and displaying clever track sense in his LMK debut, found racing room to claim second place at the top of the back-straight before overhauling early leader Macho El at the third bend. He clocked 30.21 in a one and a half length verdict over Macho El with Dromore Premier just a neck further back.

Mixed fortunes for strong outright fancies

Contrasting fortunes for runners with real classic pedigree was no more evident than in Heat 6 where Derby finalists Emers Superstar and Borneo came face to face once more and the impressive Limerick record of the Gerry Holian trained Emers Superstar proved the deciding factor as he put the race beyond doubt with an explosive burst of early pace to claim the inside pitch at the bend despite a tardy start from trap 4. He impressed all with his smooth gait throughout a nine length victory over Parish Hero. Borneo however made his exit from the competition when caught widest of all and suffering the consequences of first bend bumping, leaving him with too much ground to claw back.

Liam Dowling will have been pleased with the opening effort of his Derby fourth Vulturi despite defeat in Heat 10 when again showing impressive back-straight pace on a circuit that suits his strong running style. The story of this heat though was the sparkling return to his favourite track by James Roche`s Ballyana Foxtrot. He produced a fast sectional from trap 5 and scorched to a seven length lead midway along the back-straight before ceding much of his advantage to the strong finish of Vulturi but a classy 29.62 puts the local charge firmly back in classic contention.

There was contrasting performances also from our two 2013 finalists as Graham Hollands General Wolf again displayed his prowess at Limerick by leading at the first bend in Heat 3 with smart early pace after a good start from trap 1. He defeated a game Glideaway Con by one length in 29.91 with three lengths further back to Jackal Frampton in third. Last year`s fourth however, Skywalker Farloe looked far from his brilliant best in Heat 7, running wide off the second bend and the Easter Cup winners usual strong challenge from halfway failed to materialise when fourth to a impressive performance by Michael Kiely`s Shaneboy Frankie. He drew gradually clear following a level break from trap 3 and was never seriously threatened in a three and a half length defeat of Hawaii Kinsale with Burgess Rumble a close third.

Regular patrons of Limerick were sent home happy following our concluding Heat 11 as two track favourites filled the forecast places with Tim Gilbourne`s Cloon Glory showing his local knowledge at the first bend for a rails run and a lead on the inside of Barefoot Apollo. He galloped to a one and a half length win in 29.97 over Paudie Ryan`s Hannabil Rising who again produced his now trademark power finish to claim second having been last into the back-straight.

Box office Nidge tops the bill in Round 2

There can be no doubt that Droopys Nidge is the star attraction of Round 2 and the prospect of lowering his track record is a mouthwatering one. There is however much more for the racing palette to salivate over and Heat 3 will see a heavyweight clash between Metro Jack and Vulturi. Both can fly from the second bend and a clean run race could bring an epic back-straight shoot out between the pair while the presence of Shaneboy Frankie with his early pace adds spice to an already sizzling heat.

Heat 7 brings two impressive round 1 winners together with Kippers Usain in trap 1, which may be crucial in the early battle     for supremacy with General Wolf on his immediate outside while the early paced Macho El adds intrigue to that first bend rush as he can trap very smartly from trap 3. A possible return to top form for Elevenerife, now with his Limerick debut behind him, further complicates matters as he may get a clean run on the outer from trap 6.

Pic: Kippers Usain can use the red jacket to good effect!

These are just some of the possible headline makers in our eight second round heats but with the safety net of a fourth qualifying   place now gone, expect to see the major outright contenders lay down markers throughout tonight`s action in the 2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger.

Outright Betting

Droopys Nidge 5/4,  Vulturi 5/1,  Paradise Silva 8/1,  Ballyana Foxtrot 11/1,  Emers Superstar 12/1,

 16/1 Skywalker Farloe,  General Wolf.  20/1 Kippers Usain.

25/1  Blenhiem Cracker, Metro Jack.

33/1  Jackal Frampton, Barefoot Apollo, De Real Mccoy, Shaneboy Frankie, Honour And Glory.

50/1 Millbank Stevie, Burgess Four, Burgess Oscar. 66/1 bar

Racing Post Link

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Happy 71st for Classic Limerick Leger 2014 by Paul Cooney

The Irish Greyhound St Leger celebrated it`s 70th birthday just a short twelve months ago with a truly epic renewal of this most prestigious event which has left 2014 with much to live up to. The continued support of our generous sponsors however has again ensured the presence of Ireland`s top trackers among our 66 strong field in pursuit of a €25,000 winners prize and the classic that has enthralled the greyhound world since 1944 promises yet more thrills in the 2014 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger.

A move to our late October start date has proved popular and affords Irish Derby contenders a six week break to prepare for a Leger tilt but these were all foiled in 2013 when Irish and Limerick Oaks winner, Locnamon Bridie ensured greyhound immortality with a dominant final display. She made the bend in front from trap 3 and powered to a commanding lead on the back-straight where even Tyrur Sugar Ray failed to make inroads against the breath-taking bitch who registered a three and half length victory in a brilliant 29.34.

Hennessy is hot but Nidge can be prime time!

Locnamon Bridies trainer Paul Hennessy, who also guided Jaytee Hellcat to last year`s final after narrowly missing out on victory with Priceless Sky in 2012, is the Leger`s in form handler and returns with a strong hand this year. He will hold claims in our concluding heat with Barefoot Apollo who can benefit for his Limerick debut last week and looks capable of a deep run in the competition as does Da Real McCoy if he returns from a recent layoff in top form. He won a heat here last year before exiting at quarter final stage and will give Kippers Usain plenty to worry about in Heat 2 if fully tuned.

Heat 8 sees Shelbourne Park puppy sensation Droopys Nidge make a first race appearance outside the capital and although his Irish Derby campaign did not go to plan, his appearance in this event has been eagerly awaited since news of his entry. He looked a champion in the making when clocking 28.00 in just his second race and confirmed that promise when gamely winning the ECC Timber Champion 550. He was not at his brilliant best in the Derby but appears to be as good if not better than ever now following a simply awesome 27.95 trial here last Saturday evening. The vast expanses of Limerick`s circuit look ideal for the wide seed, his young trainer Robert Gleeson has already tasted classic success with Slippery Robert and his anticipated deep run in the competition will pack the stands and draw the attention of the wider greyhound community. He looks un-opposable in tonight`s heat where he faces Stone Boy King who is one of the unluckiest classic contenders ever at Limerick. He reached the semi-final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial in 2013 where he was cruelly knocked over at the first bend, a fate that also befell him at the same stage of this competition twelve months ago. He returns to action tonight after a five month break and can hopefully secure a safe passage to round 2.

Five bitches will attempt to emulate the heroics of Locnamon Bridie this time around and chief among them is Pat Buckley`s brilliant Oaks runner-up Always With Me. Just three quarters of a length from classic glory at Shelbourne Park, she appears to have taken well to Limerick in recent trials and the extra 25 yards of the Leger will suit her ideally. She gets the vote in a highly competitive Heat 9 against the Peter Cronin trained pair Global Chariot and powerhouse Metro Jack.

Derby form & Limerick experience can be worth following

Irish Derby form has become very significant in the Leger since returning to an October start and tonight`s opening round features three of this year`s Derby finalists with two of them coming face to face in Heat 6! Emers Superstar gets a narrow vote over Borneo, solely on his Limerick experience which carried him to the Con & Annie Kirby semi-final in April. Liam Dowling`s Vulturi also has form to recommend him on this circuit having clocked 28.25 here before injury struck in the Con & Annie Kirby. He followed his Derby campaign with a victory in the Mulvanney 600 and re-opposes runner-up Blenhiem Cracker in a mouthwatering Heat 10 tonight and just gets the nod in a likely thriller where Ballyana Foxtrot may well steal their thunder on a track he loves!

Those looking for value in the outright market may also consider Leger finalists Skywalker Farloe (heat 7) who ran Limerick extremely well last year and claimed Easter Cup victory back in April while General Wolfe (heat 3) has always looked at home in classic company since Leger 2013 and is overdue another final appearance!

Racing Post link

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

1) PENNYS DEANRIDGE Without a win in the competition thus far, Rosemary Price`s canny Pennys Deanridge has shown clever track craft to continually find a run in nabbing qualifying places. He may start as big as 33/1 tonight but does hold claims of a place at least as he can hug the rails for a clear run on the inside. He will need trouble for those with more early pace but should he hit the front at any stage, he will stay there!

2) IVY HILL PRINCE Just a sole win in the opening round for Noel Hehir`s gutsy Ivy Hill Prince who has shown some great battling qualities throughout the stake. He can trap must faster than he did in his semi-final and the rails pitch is his for the taking now but with that said he must match his trap 3 rival to the bend and turn first to win. That however is possible and with 28.41 to his name already he would prove hard to catch at 8/1.

3) CROKERS CHAMP Peter Cronin has seen his Crokers Champ come of age in this event with steady progression throughout the stake bringing a stunning 28.40 win in the quarter-final. He can bolt from traps with viscous early pace but the most impressive feature of his last two wins was his ability to stay the trip even when hard pressed at the bottom bends. He looks a possible leader tonight and if they don`t reel him in by the third bend, they probably never will! 5/1

4) VANS VIKING Graham Holland`s powerful Vans Viking has suffered the first defeats of his career in the last two rounds at the hands of trap 3 and trap 5 respectively. Yes, he was beaten fair and square by tonight`s favourite a week ago but rule him out tonight at you`re peril. Whatever beats him will need an absolute clear run and he could enjoy a clean tow around the opening bends on the shoulder of trap 3 setting up a big challenge down the back. It would be no surprise if he lived up to his name and plundered the rich reward on offer. 9/4

5) GREEN PRINCE Liam Dowling`s superbly consistent Green Prince hardly saw another dog at Limerick before trap 3 inflicted his only defeat in the stake last week. To rule him out now solely on that performance would be folly as he can split much faster than he did on that occasion but he needs to now with so much early pace abound. A return to his quarter-final win form gives him more than a sporting chance to lead into the back-straight and with 28.41 to his name, he could very well stick it out and is massive value at 7/1.

6) BOYLESPORTS HERO (M) There has been many times throughout the stake where a lack of breaking prowess could have brought trouble for Brendan Matthew`s prodigious Boylesports Hero but any threat of such problems have been brushed aside in dismissive fashion by a supremely talented racer with immense raw speed and tipping him for defeat tonight has proved too hard to justify. There are warnings for those willing to take the plunge at likely odds of 11/8 however. He has not matched the splits of the four runners on his inside so he will need to rely on his explosive early pace for a run, he has once occupied trap 6 in his career and was not well away and if he does not pass some rivals on the run up, which will prove very difficult, he may find something move into his path at the crown of the bends. An awesome display when coming from behind trap 4 last week to record 28.35 makes him a worthy favourite though and a clear run can see him hit the front before the third bend.
       Verdict: 6-5-3

A hero, a champ, two princes and a viking walk into a greyhound track…

                                                         …what happens next?
by Paul Cooney

Firstly, Rosemary Price might ask “has the Penny not dropped that there is six runners in tonight`s final” and rightly so because although her Pennys Deanridge would appear to be the forgotten dog in the market at 33/1 he has what any dog needs to pull off a final coup, he has the best of the draw! He also has a canny ability to put himself in the right place at crucial stages which has earned him a deserved trap 1 berth tonight. Should his superior early paced rivals become entangled in the early exchanges this big outsider could find himself in a challenging position off the second bend and with 28.66 to his name a big shock is not impossible.

Excepting Pennys Deanridge, this final is all about early pace with the remaining contenders all capable of flying to the third bend. They have claimed eleven heat wins between them and all five have clocked 28.45 or better in the stake. Without a confirmed stayer among them the race may be as simple as whatever leads upon turning into the fourth bend will win. Predicting that however becomes a little complicated as the splits for our favourite Boylesports Hero can not be readily dismissed by his many admirers. That said, once into his stride he moves faster to the third bend than his rivals tonight so likely racing room on the run to the first bend would seem to justify his favourite tag. A middle seed, all evidence suggests that he will maintain a straight line upon leaving trap 6 and should not meet any stumbling blocks in the early exchanges with five inside seeds to his left. Provided he is forward enough to avoid any repercussions of crowding on his inside at the turn his trainer, coursing sage Brendan Matthews, looks set for a big track success.

There is a myriad of possible scenarios from the middle runners but with the pressure on last week, Crokers Champ produced a flying start to lead both Green Prince and Ivy Hill Prince home in an impressive win. It is hard to oppose him in the race to the bend tonight on that evidence but he will need to be paw perfect to do so. Should he hold off the inevitable big challengers on the back-straight his steely determination displayed in his two heat wins could see him home in front.

Unbeaten in the event prior to the afore mentioned semi-final, Green Prince may hold the key to this race if he can reproduce his early round splits as he is almost assured racing room with Vans Viking much more likely to seek the rails than move right. Should the Dowling runner turn first and repeat his 28.41 quarter-final effort, his current odds of 7/1 would look generous in the extreme.

The bare figures of Vans Viking`s two recent defeats may leave the uninitiated onlookers scratching their heads as to how he can be 9/4 second choice in the market having been beaten on merit by both Crokers Champ and Boylesports Hero but even accounting for some ante-post liabilities the bookies can not be accused of being miserly with his price because the Graham Holland powerhouse has big claims. Not alone could he lead on the run to the bend he may not be completely inconvenienced by Crokers Champ blasting from trap 3 as a possible slipstream behind him could set up a big challenge off the second turn.

Trap 1 is ideal for Pennys Deanridge but Noel Hehir must surely believe that the rails pitch, often so crucial in early paced contests, is at the mercy of his Ivy Hill Prince as he can outpace the red jacket from trap 2. He has clocked 28.41 in a quarter-final defeat and also has a sizzling 1.15 split at Limerick on his card. A repeat of his best form from what is clearly a most favourable draw gives him solid claims.

Attempting to answer the question posed in the headline, the vote goes to Boylesports Hero who can gain a clear run on the outside to overhaul whoever leads. That leader looks most likely to be either Crokers Champ or Green Prince as they have been the most consistent from traps throughout the stake. Prediction 6-5-3

Whatever your fancy, enjoy what is sure to be a truly memorable conclusion to what has been one of the highest class puppy stakes ever staged as we may have to wait a long time to experience it`s like again….2015 will have a lot to live up to!

Classic Kirby 2014 is Rich in every sense!
                                                      The Story So Far by Paul Cooney

Following a highly successful inaugural Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake twelve months ago, the competition billed as “the richest puppy event in the world” returned to Limerick Greyhound Stadium in 2014, promising five action packed nights of all that the sport of greyhound racing has to offer. The continued generosity of Noreen & JP McManus through their sponsorship of the €160,000 prizefund ensures rich rewards for those who make the final stages and the novel initiative to include a €20,000 prize for GAA clubs in the county complimented the event in a most suitable fashion last year and is again illuminating this current renewal with the marriage of sports bringing young and old together for a truly memorable and colourful sporting occasion.

In racing terms the competition has been a revelation with some phenomenal young talent converging to do battle from the highest profile kennels in the sport. With stars being born in unraced events throughout the country this event now sees a graduation for the next champions of the sport just as it did last year with current Irish Derby Champion, Slippery Robert, exiting the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial at semi-final stage just five months in advance of that Derby glory. A brilliant winner last year was the Owen McKenna trained Roxholme Bully who excited the Greyhound community with his breath-taking performances on the road to victory. He re-appeared in Limerick`s annual classic, The Irish St Leger, last autumn but unfortunately injury struck in the semi-final when a short priced favourite to confirm his superstar status but a glittering career at stud now awaits our current title holder.

Astounding depth of talent is evident from the outset

To call the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake a Classic in just it`s second year would be a slight stretch but a palpable air of expectancy in advance of our opening heats coupled with stunning displays of racing excellence throughout the first round of action confirms that this event, although in it`s infancy, bears all the hallmarks of a Greyhound Racing Classic. Any concerns that the under subscribed entry of 66 runners may see a lack of depth as regards quality in the stake quickly dissipated with each heat as we witnessed some wonderful performances from the best youngsters in the country.

Patrons barely had time to get settled in their seats to see Paul Hennessy`s Jaytee Seville set the competition alight in heat 1. He showed phenomenal pace from the second bend to overhaul Sidarian Blitz at the home bends in a sizzling 28.37. The honour of being fastest on the opening night went to Anna Gleeson`s Redwood Mick when he claimed victory in heat 4 with a dominant display in 28.35. Vying for favouritism prior to round 1 were Deanridge Pennys and Vans Viking with the latter fully justifying the confidence when he made a very pleasing Limerick debut to remain unbeaten in his career, clocking 28.50. Deanridge Pennys suffered defeat in the opening round but remained just 6/1 in the outright market with improvement expected after chasing home Ivy Hill Prince at a deficit of one and a half lengths in 28.77.

Other highly impressive winners from round 1 were Jetson, who displayed a powerful galloping style from the second bend when clocking 28.62, a racing style also displayed by Bubbly Gold when very eye-catching in claiming heat 9 in 28.54. Green Prince scored a dominant early paced win when clocking 28.53 for trainer Liam Dowling who appeared to have a very strong team for the competition, even at this early stage.

Vulturi goes fastest as big kennels come to the fore

Benefiting for his first round outing, the Liam Dowling trained Vulturi turned in the most impressive performance of the heats when reversing the form of his round 1 defeat to Boylesports Hero in emphatic style. He overturned a three length deficit on the back-straight, drawing right away for a four length victory in an almost incredulous 28.25 but injury in the following round put paid to his chances. The opening heat of round 2 went to the Graham Holland trained Sidarian Blitz who had been eye-catching in the previous round and duly confirmed that promise, recording 28.68 in a two length victory. This was the slowest time of the second round heats, testament to the depth of quality in the competition and it was matched in the concluding heat when Declan Byrne`s Bubbly Gold stayed the trip very strongly to pass the pacesetting Jetson on the run to the line for a one and a half length verdict.

The first to register back to back wins in the competition was Green Prince who made it a double for Liam Dowling on the night, when again dominant throughout heat 2 in 28.54. The following heat saw the impressive Vans Viking score his sixth career win in as many starts when leading on the inside at the first bend, clocking 28.49 before Sidarian Blitz brought up the double for Graham Holland. Heats 5 & 6 then both went to the Paul Hennessy team when firstly Barefoot Agent got up to deny Deanridge Pennys off the final turn for a three quarter length victory in 28.47 before the powerful Jaytee Seville again looked imperious when flying on the back-straight for a two and a half length verdict over Jacks Ace also in 28.47. Also remaining unbeaten at this stage was Emers Superstar for Gerry Holian when he appreciated his trap 1 berth for a dominant early paced success in heat 4, clocking a slick 28.33. He was adding to a game opening round heat win when having to come from behind in 28.85.

Less than one length separates the Quarter-final winners

Opening the action in the quarter-finals was Peter Cronin`s Crokers Champ when he again displayed a slick breaking ability coupled with smart early pace to lead up from Vans Viking. Hard pressed for most of the journey, a game Crokers Champ stuck to his task off the final turn repelling a strong finish by Jacks Ace with a half-length to spare in 28.40, relegating the previously unbeaten Vans Viking into third.

A treacherous looking heat 2 proved to be just that for some of the competitions leading hopes as Noel Hehir`s Ivy Hill Prince took charge in the early exchanges to just show in front of Gerry Holian`s Emers Superstar. The pair had the race between them on the back-straight and it was the latter who got the better of a protracted battle all along the home stretch for a half-length verdict in 28.38. Pennys Deanridge filled the last qualifying place with big fancies Vulturi and Jaytee Seville exiting when denied racing room.

Liam Dowling guided the first two home in heat 3 as Green Prince and Adoremus dominated in the early strides with the former showing the best early pace to turn first before galloping impressively in 28.41 with a three and a half length winning margin. Adoremus stayed well to regain second place from Inslips Dino who found a career best run when tracking the winner on the back-straight.

Jetson just made the turn in front in heat 4 with Jackal Frampton doing best of those on the outside to track the leader into the back-straight. A moderate start from Boylesports Hero in trap 5 led to an early bump but what followed was an awe inspiring display of raw speed from the Brendan Matthews tracker as he overturned a four length deficit even before reaching the closing bends. He gamely fended off a renewed effort by Jackal Frampton on the run to the line by three quarters of a length in 28.43 with Bubbly Gold just getting up to deny Jetson in a photo-finish for the last semi-final place.

Imperious Hero goes fastest but Champ is tough in front

Early pace dominated the opening semi-final where Peter Cronin`s Crokers Champ blasted from trap 4 and put daylight between himself and the previously unbeaten Green Prince approaching the first turn. The latter shut the door on trap 1 runner Ivy Hill Prince at this point but Noel Hehir`s charge crucially held the inside pitch to enter the back-straight in third place as all those behind the leaders suffered crowding. Up front Liam Dowling`s Green Prince laid down a big challenge for the lead when ranging alongside the pacesetter on the inside at the third bend but displaying a willing determination, Crokers Champ was not for passing and despite taking the wider line began to assert again off the final bend and was full value for his one length victory in 28.61. Under pressure for the last qualifying spot at the top of the back-straight, progression for Ivy Hill Prince was assured with a three and a half length third when Jackal Frampton seemed to lose his footing at a crucial stage.

It appeared as though Graham Holland`s Vans Viking would return to winning ways in the second semi-final when he led at the first turn following a smart break from trap 4 to lead Bolyesports Hero by just over a length. The latter was again far from foot perfect at trap rise but afforded racing room in the early exchanges he showed exceptional pace to track the leader into the back-straight. A most entertaining buckle from this point saw the Matthew`s powerhouse range up on the outside of the Viking at the third bend before eventually getting the better of a protracted tussle when cornering faster despite being on the wider line. He clocked a magical 28.35 with one and a half lengths to spare and there was a further three lengths back to Pennys Deanridge who found a career best to grab the last final place when using his track craft to emerge in third from the early collision that put paid to the previously unbeaten Emers Superstar.