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

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                                       How the Final was won!

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