Wednesday, 1 April 2015

2015 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake……The Story So Far!

The success of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake since it’s inception in 2013 has seen the event grow to one of the most influential competitions not only in Ireland but on the world stage, with it’s lofty tag as the richest puppy stake on the planet drawing envious attention from all corners of the greyhound globe.

Making this success possible is the generosity of Noreen & J.P McManus through their sponsorship and innovative inclusion of the GAA Clubs in County Limerick which has made this festival of young greyhound talent a compelling spectacle on the track but also in the stands with enthusiastic support for all 72 contenders, guaranteed. All patrons, owners and trainers are encouraged to express a debt of gratitude to the McManus Family at every turn for the chance to race for our €80,000 first prize is a rare and precious opportunity.

Roxholme Bully
Inaugural winner Roxholme Bully
Unique in many ways, the relaxed age restriction on these pups to 26 months of age means that the event receives these talented young trackers at a further stage of development than any other puppy stakes around the country and ready to launch themselves to the upper echelons of the sport in what has become the birthplace of superstars. We have seen two phenomenal greyhounds land the outright honours in our previous staging’s as Owen McKenna’s Roxholme Bully took the inaugural event in 2013 with powerful displays throughout, while Brendan Matthews Boylesports Hero was breath-taking in his march to glory last year. Both these wonderful winners subsequently had their race careers cease prematurely but such was their prowess that we now eagerly await the first of their progeny to hit the racing scene. We have also seen an Irish Derby winner emerge from this stake through Slippery Robert along with finalists Vulturi and Emers Superstar and last season’s English Derby third Crokers Champ.

Matthews back for another tilt with opening round brace!

Brendan Matthews (left) bids for back to back Kirby glory!
A fantastic night of opening round action set the scene for another epic renewal with many outright ante-post fancies laying down markers from the outset but just as the event ended last year, so it began in 2015 with a Brendan Matthews winner! 
He claimed the very first heat on night one when Leave At Dawn scorched to a highly impressive victory in 28.53 and completed the double when litter brother Boylesports Jet was the fastest winner of the night with a brilliant display throughout heat 10, registering 28.37! Completing the Matthews trio of entries from a litter by Foleys Folly out of Toms Delight was Cable Bay, who although only fourth in heat 5, gamely found a qualifying run after a slow start for an ultimately more significant result as he would subsequently progress further than his litter comrades!

Claiming victory in that same heat 5 was Robert Gleeson’s Droopys Braedon when leading at the first bend from trap 4 to record a one length verdict over Beaming Bucko in a smart 28.63, keeping his unbeaten career record intact but it was Graham Holland who led the way in the training stakes on the opening night with three heat winners from his seven entries. He saw Ballydoyle Honey build on her Clonmel Champion Unraced Stake victory with a pleasing 28.58 in a seven length win before Cabra Mufasa dominated heat 4 in 28.98. However it was Rural Hawaii who impressed most when completing the Holland treble in heat 9, claiming a place on the outright shortlist with a brilliant early paced display despite being led from trap 6. He cleverly switched inside his wide running trap 5 rival on the run to the bend, gaining clear racing room that would see him dominate throughout in a slick 28.55.

Three remain unbeaten as Jap goes fastest!

Lighting up our second round heats was a stunning performance by the Pat Buckley trained Coolavanny Jap with a sizzling 28.22 in his heat 4 victory having led to the first bend from trap 3, catapulting him to the top of the outright betting market. The night saw three runners register back to back victories in the event and first up in heat 1 was Rural Hawaii when again displaying impressive pace throughout after a good start from trap 6. He paced up well on the outside, crucially denying Cable Bay an early lead in 28.48. Our next repeat winner came in the following heat where Rachel Wheeler’s Cunning Barney warmed to his Kirby task by posting a Limerick hat-trick. He had a favourable draw in a heat that contained some serious outright fancies and used his rails pitch from trap 1 to good effect for a clear run. He stretched clear for a five and a half length verdict over Baile Mhic in 28.57 with Ballydoyle Honey in third. The big casualties here were first round winners Leave at Dawn and Farloe Hunter when finding traffic at the opening turns.

Closing the second round heats with a six timer to start his career was Robert Gleeson’s Droopys Braedon when dominating heat 8 following a blistering 1.19 sectional from an ideal trap 1 on his way to a six and a half length verdict over Fastaway Jayfkay in 28.49. Other notable winners on the night were Beaming Boost who showed pleasing progression for his Limerick debut to repel Go Django by two lengths in heat 7, recording 28.53 while Ivy Hill Bart gave a thoroughly professional performance in heat 6 with a smart break and all round pace to defeat Boherna Pedro by four lengths in 28.63.

Droopy remains unbeaten in sizzling seven

Breaking extremely fast from trap 1, Droopys Braedon registered his seventh straight career win when dominating the second quarter-final, again displaying brilliant early pace to record his career best time of 28.35. Impressive when chasing him home in second place was Boylesports Jet who made significant headway from the second turn to go down by just three quarters of a length with Beaming Boost another half a length back in third. 

This came after Pale Moon had caused an upset in the first heat of the night when leading in the early strides from trap 2 for a first bend lead that would see him home by a short-head in 28.71 from the fast finishing Boherna Pedro with Cable Bay finding another game qualifying effort in third after a slow start. This heat saw the elimination of hot favourite Coolavanny Jap when his menacing challenge was thwarted by losing his action at the third bend.

Noel Hehir has reached back to back Kirby Finals!
This was followed by a trap to line victory in heat 3 for Fastaway Jayfkay who just lasted home by a neck from a fast finishing Country Legend in 28.73 with Liscahane Royal in third before the big clash of two unbeaten stake runners in our concluding heat 4. Cunning Barney & Rural Hawaii both had suitable draws in a mouth-watering tussle and they duly delivered the buckle of the competition with the Holland charge prevailing by just a neck in 28.45 with Noel Hehir’s Ivy Hill Bart in third.

Rural keeps it Country in semi-finals!

Our semi-final heats brought two supreme performances with breathtaking winning displays and Graham Holland’s Rural Hawaii will go to traps a warm favourite for outright glory in the final as the fastest remaining runner having recorded a brilliant 28.22 when ending the unbeaten run of Droopys Braedon by a convincing five lengths. He kept his own unbeaten record in the event intact when outpacing both Ivy Hill Bart and Droopys Braedon to the second turn despite being a half length adrift of that pair in the early stages. He stretched readily clear on the back-straight with victory secured as the scramble for coveted final places unfolded in his wake. Boylesports Jet was attempting to recover from a very tardy start and appeared to have his final place secured when passing Ivy Hill Bart to range alongside Droopys Braedon at the third bend but was cruelly checked at this point. He lost significant ground and the third qualifying place to Ivy Hill Bart as a consequence.

The opening quarter final was a much more straight forward affair as Maurice Heffernan’s strong stayer Country Legend found a rare fast start for a first bend lead that he would never surrender and announced himself as big final contender with a blistering 28.33 in a four length victory over Beaming Boost who had tracked him for all of the trip. Cable Bay filled third when again displaying impressive back-straight pace to fend off the attentions of Liscahane Royal and closed to within a neck of Beaming Boost at the line.

Thanks again to the Racing Post. Link

 The Final Draw


Maurice Heffernan’s Country Legend arrived at Limerick with a sole novice race win to his name and had just registered his first official open race time in an A1 defeat at Shelbourne Park. He has however developed throughout this event showing an admirable staying quality to fill qualifying places in the early rounds. Not noted for his prowess to the bend he found a fast break in the semi-final to lead at the opening turn for the first time in his career and made a virtual procession of a hot heat. Has he found the necessary improvement at just the right time? Has the penny dropped at traps? If so, he could make a mockery of his 5/1 quote!

Pat Buckley’s Beaming Boost had already made a lasting mark in all-aged open race company before arriving at Limerick when running-up the Kingdom Derby at Tralee with brilliant clocks. Improving for his first race at the track he registered a smart round 2 heat win in 28.53 and showed further progression with his best clock of the event next time. Only beaten by one and a quarter lengths to Droopys Braedon in the quarter final, he was himself recording 28.44, from this trap. He now has Braedon on his outside and it is conceivable that he could gain a clear run on the rails for a possible reverse of that form if finding his best break as his splits compare very favourably to all. He is definitely not without hope at 6/1.

Robert Gleeson’s Droopys Braedon gave due notice of his Kirby credentials when arriving at Limerick for an A3 stake in mid January. Recording 28.38 in the second round heats of that event he went straight to the top of the outright betting market for the Kirby and remained there until beaten by Rural Hawaii last week. Discounting his chances solely on that defeat would be a mistake now for his career start of seven straight wins still merits huge respect. He must prove that he can be as effective from trap 3 as he has been from the red jacket but a repeat of his sizzling early round splits may bring the decisive first bend lead that he will need for victory. He will merit the support of his legion of admirers at 9/4.

4) CABLE BAY (m)  
The only one of Brendan Matthews trio of supremely talented litter comrades not to register a heat win, Cable Bay has plotted his path to the final like a veteran, with track craft beyond his years. Displaying phenomenal back-straight pace, he has gamely earned qualifying places from unpromising positions in the wake of his slow starts. The bare face of his form would appear to offer only a place claim now but he would benefit from any traffic among early leaders and mount a serious challenge if close off the second bend. One other source of hope for his supporters is his brilliant trial form at Limerick in advance of this event. He must have been breaking smartly to record 18.70 and 18.76, if he translated that sprint form in the first half of the final his chances would be much more realistic than his 10/1 price.

Ivy Hill Bart gives Noel Hehir his second consecutive Kirby finalist and having entered the stake as an A1 racer he has steadily improved throughout the event. He recorded a second round heat victory when producing his best start for a first bend lead in 28.63 and will need that slick exit again now for he must deny the favourite in trap 6 a second bend lead if he is to hold reasonable win claims. That will prove a tough task but he almost managed to match him in the semi-final until inconvenienced by Droopys Braedon on the rail when shuffled back to third. It will take a career best but he is no forlorn hope at 12/1.

Graham Holland’s Rural Hawaii posted some sizzling trials in advanced of his Kirby campaign and confirmed that promise from his very first heat at Limerick when recording 28.55 and has improved with every run since. Beating three fellow finalists along the way he has recorded 28.48, 28.45 and thrilled patrons last weekend with his brilliant 28.22 when ending the unbeaten career record of Droopys Braedon in emphatic style. Not a proficient trapper just yet, he is devastating once in full stride and is a true trap 6 tracker. He maintains a straight line to the bend and only begins his drift inward when clear room is available. There are very few points on the track where he gets close to the rail thus allowing him to avoid potential bumping and the prospect of another clear run on the outside of Ivy Hill Bart makes him a truly worthy favourite at 6/4.

The Verdict!

The make up of the final appears to offer highly plausible claims for a cleanly run race with the outside trio all justifying their seeding and expect them to keep a straight line in the early exchanges. Widest of the inside seeds, Droopys Braedon has twice raced from middle draws at Limerick showing no significant inclination to move dramatically inward which all points to a clear run for all.

Should that be the case, the fastest runner and warm favourite is justifiably Rural Hawaii. He continues to improve and his semi-final performance, if repeated will see him home in front. Expect Ivy Hill Bart to make a forward showing to the first bend with Rural Hawaii ranging alongside upon turning the corner. Provided none of the inside runners run dramatically into his path at this stage, his powerful second bend gallop can see him take command. 

The biggest threat would come from Droopys Braedon if he found one of his flying starts but even so, he would need clear air between himself and the selection to prevent him leading into the back-straight, for the presence of Rural Hawaii on his outside would stifle his crucial second bend gallop as it did in the semi-final.

Any final punt would have to take into consideration a possible repeat of Country Legend’s semi-final win form. If he reproduces his fast start and leads those on the inside, the strong stayer would prove extremely difficult to repel. His rails berth offers a clear claim for a rails run even if he does not lead on the inside and must enter trio calculations as a runner that can do it both ways!

A career best would be needed from the remaining three contenders if they were to cause a minor shock and the most likely to do so may be Beaming Boost. His starting splits compare quite favourably with those around him and there is a scenario where he could be the one to command the rails. He would not need to improve much on his best time of 28.44 if so and merits plenty of respect. For Cable Bay to deliver back to back Kirby wins for Brendan Matthews he would need the early pacers to become entwined at some point but his back-straight pace does warrant trio consideration while the outsider of the field, Ivy Hill Bart must turn the opening bend in front which seems a big ask but he possesses enough early pace to turn in a prominent position for plausible place claims.

Prediction: 6-2-4

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