Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Unrelenting racing excellence in an epic Kirby 2014
                                                                                                                                                          by Paul Cooney

Four action packed quarter-finals on Saturday at Limerick Greyhound Stadium offered all the thrills and spills that one would expect of a Greyhound Racing Classic and with less than one length separating the four heat winners on the clock we are scarcely any closer to knowing the destination of our €80,000 winners prize in an epic renewal of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake. One thing we do know however is that this year`s event can lay serious claim to being the highest class puppy stakes in living memory and many of those eliminated from the quarter-finals can be expected to feature highly on the open race scene over the coming months and years. Sponsored by JP & Noreen McManus and named in honour of Noreen`s late parents, we must be grateful and consider ourselves lucky to benefit from their stalwart generousity and support of both Limerick and Greyhound Racing.

Champ takes the wind out of Viking`s sails
Pic.1 The Viking loses his unbeaten record!
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 by a length at the first bend with Vans Viking finding a clear path to his beloved rail from trap 5 to grab second place when cornering better than Jacks Ace in the stripes. The leader saw his one and a half length advantage reduced to the bare minimum as the Viking ranged upsides on the inside before the third bend but a game Crokers Champ stuck to his task off the final turn repelling a strong finish by Jacks Ace who relegated the previously unbeaten Vans Viking into third. This win represents a much better staying performance by the Cronin charge whose speed was never in doubt but he has now catapulted himself into outright contention, seeing out the trip better than he had previously managed for a classy 28.40 in a half-length victory. The big casualty here was the Joe Dunne Memorial winner Deanridge Pennys who forfeited his chances with a very tardy start when 4/5 favourite in trap 2.

A roller-coaster ride for Dowling as more big guns exit

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 when returning to his best trapping form in trap 4 to just show in front of Gerry Holian`s Emers Superstar who used his early pace for a clear run on the outside. The pair had the race between them on the back-straight and it was the Holian runner 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 a clear run on the rail from trap 1, avoiding the traffic jam that put paid to Jaytee Seville who found himself last off the second turn following repeated balking. A battle hardened professional, trainer Liam Dowling could easily accept the elimination of his powerhouse Vulturi when denied a clear run from trap 2 but unfortunately worse news was imminent as he pulled up lame at the top of the back-straight, a 28.25 winner in the previous round we wish him a speedy recovery.

Compensation was quick to arrive for the Dowling kennels when they guided the first two home in heat 3 as Green Prince in trap 2 and Adoremus in trap 4 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 showed a strong staying ability to regain second place from Inslips Dino who found a career best run when tracking the winner on the back-straight. The big casualty here was Barefoot Agent at 6/4 who did make a bold bid to qualify at the closing bends but just found those in front staying the trip too stoutly on this occasion.

Hero turns Houdini with breathtaking heat 4 victory

The column prediction of last week appeared to be materialising in heat 4 as Jetson just made the turn in front from trap 3 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 from his closest rival Sidarian Blitz in trap 4 before further contact entering the bend saw him shifted back to last place. A big collision between Sidarian Blitz and trap 2 runner Runaway Rover at this point put paid to their chances but somehow Boylesports Hero missed this traffic jam by what could only have been millimetres and he set off in pursuit of what appeared a qualifying place at best. What followed however 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.

Keep faith with the competition`s unbeaten duo

Seven of the twelve remaining runners have scored at least one heat win in the event but greater testament to the astounding strength in depth of this year`s renewal is that nine of the semi-finalists have bettered 28.50 during the first three rounds. Liam Dowling is the only trainer to be double handed at this stage following the heroics of Green Prince and Adoremus on Saturday but our semi-final`s feature some of the most prolific kennels in the sport along with newcomers to the big stage and all is in place for more scintillating action in the race for 80K.

Outright betting: 7/2 Vans Viking, Boylesports Hero 5/1 Emers Superstar, Green Prince 11/2 Bubbly Gold 9/1 Ivy Hill Prince,  Jackal Frampton 14/1 Crokers Champ 25/1 Jacks Ace 66/1 Inslips Dino, Pennys Deanridge, Adoremus.

Semi-final 1

1) Ivy Hill Prince 2) Green Prince 3) Bubbly Gold 4) Crokers Champ 5) Inslips Dino(w) 6) Jackal Frampton(w)

A big battle for the early lead will be crucial here and it is conceivable that Ivy Hill Prince, Green Prince and Crokers Champ will arrive at the first turn in close contact and the possibility of crowding towards the inside makes Jackal Frampton the pecentage call in the race as he looks set for a clean run on the outside, he can lead the other wide seed, Inslips Dino to the opening bend, making him a trio banker at least. All three of the afore mentioned early pacers do see out the trip well but the presence of strong stayers Bubbly Gold and Inslips Dino will see a big late test for those who lose out on the early lead. It is hard to oppose Green Prince in that race to the corner as he has not put a single paw out of place in the competition thus far and he gets a tentative vote to turn first and continue his unbeaten run in the event. The trap 3 draw looks ideal for Bubbly Gold to track the leaders from traprise and he can sneak a run on the rails ahead of Inslips Dino which may prove crucial for a qualifying place late on. Verdict 2-6-3
 Pic.2 Now a wide seed, Jackal Frampton can benefit from his trap 6 draw!

Semi-final 2                                                                                                                                             
1) Adoremus 2) Pennys Deanridge 3) Emers Superstar 4) Vans Viking 5) Boylesports Hero(m) 6) Jacks Ace(w)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
A heat to salivate over with Emers Superstar`s unbeaten record in the stake going on the line against some heavyweight superstars but he might just have the best of the draw and gets the vote to continue his winning march. He has more early pace than Adoremus & Pennys Deanridge so if breaking on terms he can hold the rails pitch at the first bend and in turn fend off the likely attentions of Vans Viking & Boylesports Hero. As the Holian runner glides gradually towards the rail, Vans Viking is likely to make a similar drift which will serve to give Boylesports Hero ample racing room and back him to claw back the smart breaking Jacks Ace before the bend and mount a big challenge on the back-straight. Traps 1, 2 & 6 have failed to win a heat thus far but should any of the big three find traffic problems, all are capable of reaching the final with Jacks Ace in particular being most likely to get a clear run on the outside. Verdict 3-5-4


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