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!

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