Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake 2016! ...................The story so far!

Now in it’s fourth year as an early season highlight on the greyhound racing calender, the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial has not so much carved a niche over this short history but more it’s own enclosure within the pantheon of a vibrant Irish Open race spectrum and in 2016 the richest puppy race on the planet again promised compelling entertainment from 72 talented young trackers in search of our €80,000 first prize.

The most generous sponsors package from JP & Noreen McManus allows a total prize fund of €160,000 which in monetary terms leaves only the Irish Derby as a more lucrative event throughout the entire season, but the McManus initiative to include a further €20,000 prize for participating Limerick GAA Clubs whose associated greyhounds have reached tonight’s final, ensures a colourful influx of flag bearing supporters which adds greatly to an already intense atmosphere. With young and old mixing from these respective sporting backgrounds, Limerick Greyhound Stadium, the GAA and the McManus family have created an event which extends our sport’s reach in a unique and wonderfully social manner.

Registering an achievement of epic proportions twelve months ago was Brenadan Matthews when training Cable Bay to victory in a brilliant battle against Rural Hawaii, claiming a second consecutive Kirby Memorial for the Newry kennels following a win for Boylesports Hero in 2014. Responsible for the runner-up last year, Graham Holland arrived to Limerick this time around with a team of ten hopefuls and holds big claims to gain a title he so obviously craves as he now trains half of our six final survivors in what has arguably been the greatest puppy stake ever staged!

Leading the Holland assault throughout the event has been the wonderful Clares Rocket who began his campaign with an eight length defeat of Anopheles in 28.27 for owners, the Full House Syndicate, who claimed four of the twelve opening night heats. Their Jo Jo Fantasy was supremely impressive in scoring a fifteen length verdict over subsequent semi-finalist Tommys Lord in 28.25 before Balinakil Clare posted 28.32, with Clares Queen completing the 4-timer in 28.94.

While these connections dominated on the opening night, one runner still managed to wrestle away much of their limelight as the brilliant Witches Belle went fastest of all in round 1. Edel Twomey’s bitch completely dominated in a nine length win over Sparta James as the strong stayer found a blistering start to record 28.20 and elevated herself to outright contention in the process.

The round delivered many more top class displays throughout the night with Brinkleys Katie returning a thoroughly professional performance in 28.57, six lengths in advance of Double Oh Seven who was supremely eye-catching when fastest of the night from halfway. Eightythreelarch left a good impression when claiming heat 9 in 28.50, as did Drumsna Legend with 28.61 having entered heat 1 as a reserve before Droopys Awesome lived up to his name from the second bend when claiming heat 2 in 28.63.

A big fancy before the competition commenced was Pat Buckley’s Droopys Roddick and he opened his account with victory in heat 5 but not without having his credentials examined by game early pacer Maytown Eclipse before finally taking control at the closing bends for a four length success in 28.65.

Clare Rockets to top of the market

Round 2 saw Clares Rocket overtake Witches Belle as the fastest runner in the event with a exceptional display of back-straight pace, leaving the talented Lenson Rocky in his wake while scorching to the third bend sectional clock in 15.95 which had never previously been seen on the new Limerick circuit. Now shortening to 11/4 in the outright market, he had firmly installed himself as the leading contender in 2016.

Witches Belle couldn’t match her sizzling time from the opening night this time around but she did further enhance her reputation by again displaying an admirable durability when recovering from third place off the second bend to grab subsequent semi-finalist Calzaghe Billy on the line in 28.56. Staying well, she gathered yet more admirers as a runner who simply refuses to accept defeat.

Two more contenders protected their unbeaten tag in the second round and retaining his position at number two in the market at 6/1 was Droopys Roddick. Despite returning what would turn out to be the slowest time, he nonetheless left a huge impression when recovering from significant early bumping and further crowding at the closing bends to gain a neck verdict over Ela Alecko in 28.89. The remaining unbeaten runner entering the quarter-finals would be Eightythreelarch who displayed exceptional back-straight pace in a three and a half length verdict over Skywalker Manner in 28.43.

Flying Witch back on top in quarters

The quarter-final session would see the elimination of all bar one of the original seventeen bitches who contest the Kirby Memorial in 2016 but the fairer sex could not have been better represented than by Witches Belle who claimed the fastest time of the night for the second time in three rounds. Breaking well from a middle draw in the second heat, she had the result beyond doubt when turning the first bend in front. The strong runner was never seriously threatened despite a game chase by Droopys Awesome when posting a sizzling 28.18 in a three length success with Eightythreelarch surrendering his unbeaten record in third.

Clares Rocket was long-odds on to land the following heat 3 from an ideal draw in red and duly obliged after a tight early tussle which saw him use the rails pitch for a back-straight lead before stretching readily clear to a decisive seven length victory over Ela Alecko in 28.32. Also advancing to the semi-finals with an unbeaten record would be Pat Buckley’s Droopys Roddick who displayed a pleasing battling quality coupled with all round pace in his one and a half length victory over strong staying Double Oh Seven in 28.50.

The closing quarter-final appeared the weakest, not that there has been a weak heat in the entire competition, but saw two runners display top class early pace from apparently poor draws as Riverside Chip(5) led home round 2 winner Maytown Eclipse(6) by a length and a half in 28.48 and both gave notice that they could not be overlooked in the outright picture.

Rocket is flawless in semi sizzler

The opening semi-final on Saturday last brought the fastest runners of 2016 together in a hugely anticipated clash and with the pressure on in what appeared a very complicated draw, Graham Holland’s Clares Rocket produced his best break of the competition to ensure a solo passage throughout. From trap 3 he swept the opening bend with two lengths in hand over kennel companion Riverside Oscar with Witches Belle in hot pursuit on the rails. The latter was hampered when forced to check behind Riverside Oscar entering the back-straight and her concern now would be qualification for the winning spoils were already destined for Clares Rocket who was streaking clear up front.

Now in full flight, Clares Rocket was in a race against the clock as he has been all throughout the competition and when the third bend sectional flashed up 15.87 (the fastest ever at Limerick), we knew were witnessing something very special indeed. Maintaining his relentless gallop, he stopped the watch at 28.00, less than a length outside the track record and the fastest of the event thus far. He was followed home by Witches Belle who recovered admirably on the back-straight and stayed strongly to deny a game Riverside Oscar for second place on the line, eight lengths behind an simply awesome winner.

Although not posting the sizzling times of the competitions “big two”, Droopys Roddick has shown a determined battling quality in every round and he will join Clares Rocket as an unbeaten finalist following his semi-final win over Maytown Eclipse. As expected, the latter fought out the early exchanges with Riverside Chip and these two were chased on the back-straight by Droopys Roddick who claimed second before the closing bends. His strong finish earned him a one length win at the line in 28.52 and these three occupied the qualifying places throughout.


3rd Bend
Final 225
Ht 1
Clares Rocket

Witches Belle
16.49 crd/ckd

Riverside Oscar

Ht 2
Droopys Roddick

Maytown Eclipse

Riverside Chip
16.43 bmp

The Finalists

RIVERSIDE CHIP The first of Graham Holland’s three finalists, Riverside Chip is an early pacer who has made a steady rise through the sport since landing an A3 stake at Shelbourne Park last December. Solid qualifying efforts saw him through the opening rounds before a highly competitive career best when winning his quarter-final in 28.48. He will be a big outsider now but any runner who is capable of leading to the first bend always has claims of victory, even if it would require some luck. Also, he is an inside seed who has only once raced from trap 1 and failed to break well. It will require another career best and is one for the optimists at 25/1.

CLARES ROCKET Clearly the first string for his trainer in the final, Clares Rocket is already a new superstar of the sport. Having signalled his abilities when posting 28.06 at Shelbourne Park in February, he has surpassed that with simply brilliant displays throughout this event. Unbeaten thus far, he is a best priced 4/6 to complete the job tonight and is very hard to oppose. The fastest greyhound ever to the third bend at Limerick when clocking 15.95 in round 2, his sectional of last week was hardly thought possible and had patrons stunned when flashing up at 15.87. He trapped brilliantly then and supporters would appreciate the same again now with a fast kennel companion on his inner but in reality, all that is required is a clear run, for that would see him in front beyond halfway and having also improved his finishing figures to 12.13 when posting 28.00 last week, he could not be passed.

WITCHES BELLE Edel Twomey’s Witches Belle drew the attention of the sport when landing the Joe Dunne Memorial at Shelbourne Park but has graduated to stardom in this competition. She has been fastest on two of the four night’s of Kirby action so far and is the most plausible threat to Clares Rocket now. She flies from the third bend to home and will frighten any prospective leader if within a couple of lengths at the closing bend. A huge factor in her favour is that unlike many stayers, she can sometimes lead to the first bend following fast breaks and should she find her best now, is capable of giving this a real scare. However, her achilles heel in this precise situation now, may be her inclination to move right on the run to the bend which will only serve to give her biggest rival plenty of racing room. Despite that reservation, the brilliant bitch can’t be ruled out and for she has a willing and determined attitude to match her immense talent and she will exit Kirby 2016 as a true superstar regardless of tonight’s result. 3/1

DROOPYS RODDICK Pat Buckley’s Droopys Roddick is the second of our finalists with an unbeaten record in the competition. However his victories have come harder than those of the favourite as he has been forced to pull out all the stops on more than one occasion. A huge talent, he was a superbly impressive winner of the RFS Juvenile at Wimbledon before Christmas when only just outside the track record for the 525 yard trip there so his times here, even when leading early on, have been below his very best. He will require a fast start now on the outside of the competition’s fastest runners but if able to turn close, his finishing kick as a strong stayer at the trip does still give claims of victory at 3/1.

RIVERSIDE OSCAR A third finalist for Graham Holland, Riverside Oscar is likely to be the outsider of the field tonight but owner Larry O’Rourke will be proud and delighted to have two brothers from the same litter in such a prestigious final. He has just a sole heat win to his name and it is a little difficult to make a case or see a scenario that could recommend him as a betting option. He has however improved throughout the competition with his best career time coming in last week’s semi-final. It will take another improvement on that to cause a big shock and he would need to blast from traps, he is priced at 33/1.

MAYTOWN ECLIPSE Peader Woods’s Maytown Eclipse will attempt to take the Kirby prize across the border for the third year in a row and the Co.Armagh kennels must be immensely proud that the fast early pacer has fully justified the decision to make the long journey’s week on week. He took nine race outings to post his first open class time at Dundalk but has found an admirable level of consistency in this event. The unluckiest dog in the draw is an inside seed who has now drawn trap 6 for the third time in a row. However, he appears to have become accustomed to his surroundings on the outside now and a repeat of his latest break could complicate this final if first to the bend. He would be all out at the closing turns even if leading but do not be shocked if he is challenging for the lead early doors. We’ve all seen worse 16/1 shots!

The Verdict

There is always concerns for any favourite ahead of a big final but there is not enough concerns to pass on the 4/6 available about Clares Rocket. A huge factor in his favour is that Witches Belle will edge to the right upon leaving trap 3 and he is assured racing room even if Riverside Chip blasts out from trap 1. This likely clear run will see him in command off the second bend from which point he is simply showing too much pace to conceivably get caught late on.

The only real threat is the wonderful Witches Belle and if she can produce her best start, she does hold claims. But she would need to keep the deficit to within two lengths at the third bend for analysis of the finishing splits suggests that anything over that will see Clares Rocket repel even her finishing kick.

These are the stand out performers of the competition and only some unforeseeable bad luck will return a winner outside this pair. Droopys Roddick has the talent and times in the book to compete with these for talent, but he hasn’t shown that at Limerick despite being undefeated and as with the three remaining contenders, has a half a second to find on Clares Rocket’s best run. Verdict 2-3-4



Flying Witch is Belle of Kirby ball

A thrilling night of quarter-final action in the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake has left us with twelve supremely talented young hopefuls in search of an €80,000 first prize for the richest puppy event in the world and few could argue that the class of 2016 are as affluent in talent as the sponsorship of the McManus family is in it’s generosity.

If the intention of Noreen & JP McManus was to attract the very best that the sport had to offer and present the highest standards possible on their local track, well they have certainly achieved that. Many of the times recorded by the competitions leading fancies are simply phenomenal for greyhounds in the infancy of their racing careers. The sectional times from early pacers, coupled with the finishing figures from the events strong runners mean this year’s Kirby can with much credence lay claim to being the greatest puppy event ever staged and it must be remembered that these figures are being posted throughout a month of inconsistent and inclement weather, not in the height summer!

Amidst all this wonderful talent and now entering the semi-final’s as the sole remaining bitch, Edel Twomey’s Witches Belle has captured the imagination of an entire sport. Arriving at Limerick having claimed Joe Dunne Memorial success in the capital, she scorched to a fastest of the night 28.20 in round one before battling like a champion for her 28.56 success next time. However, the February ’14 blue sent pulses racing throughout the stadium last week when making light of what appeared a nightmare draw in a treacherous heat.

From trap 4 she made a fast start to lead Droopys Awesome and Eightythreelarch to the opening bend and despite both these rivals possessing powerful pace beyond the second turn, the result was already beyond any reasonable doubt. Fraser Black’s less experienced Droopys Awesome, who is improving with each run, did however press the brilliant bitch all the way along the back-straight to race on her tail before ceding victory in the home-straight. Witches Belle stayed strongly for a three length verdict at the line in a sublime 28.18, again the fastest of the night. The round would inevitably see big outright fancies fall throughout the quarter-finals and the main casualties here were Jo Jo Fantasy and Lenson Rocky.

Trainer Graham Holland made a big assault on Kirby 2016 with a total of ten entries and began last Saturday night with 7 still remaining! It was inevitable that number would reduce further in the quarter-finals but his claims of outright victory will not have lengthened following another slick performance by the powerful Clares Rocket. Long odds-on from an apparently ideal trap 1 draw, he took a little longer than expected to fully show his nose in front on the run to the turn and benefit of the rails pitch was fully appreciated as he again displayed an ability to gallop the bends while appearing to accelerate.
Graham Holland

The true extent of his talents are seen once swinging off the second turn and his back-straight pace is as a thing of beauty, which must been witnessed first hand to truly appreciate. Stretching beyond a six length midway lead, he had victory secured in a race against the clock before recording a seven length success in a 28.32 with the game Ela Alecko staying on for second ahead of Riverside Oscar who battled hard to overcome his unsuitable trap 6 draw.

Three remain unbeaten

Both these breath-taking performances had followed an opening heat where Pat Buckley’s Droopys Roddick kept his unbeaten Kirby record intact in a highly competitive affair. Breaking smartly from trap 2 he defended the inside line and turned the opening bend with Calzaghe Billy in hot pursuit having used his trap 1 draw for a run in behind the leader. The order remained the same on the back-straight where Double Oh Seven again displayed his top quality back-straight pace to claim third but the strong running pair up front appeared likely to fight out the victory.

Calzaghe Billy never allowed Droopys Roddick a comfortable lead and was a threatening presence on the leaders tail before running into his back end at the third bend when reluctant to switch wide for a challenge. Hampered, he presented the race to Roddick who prevailed by one and a half lengths from Double Oh Seven who claimed second at the closing bends. Staying well, he led Calzaghe Billy by a further two lengths in 28.50. 

Droopys Roddick

The closing heat appeared to be a very competitive race before Graham Holland claimed his second quarter-final as Riverside Chip blasted from trap 5 to effectively seal his semi-final place even before reaching the first bend. He was followed throughout the journey by fellow early pacer Maytown Eclipse with Tommys Lord in third and the order would remain the same to the line with Riverside Chip scoring by a length and a half in his fastest career time to date of 28.48.

Your guess is as good as mine!

It would take a brave pundit to draw a line through any of our remaining twelve aspiring champions and fascinating draws have made our semi-finals extremely difficult puzzles to decipher. The two fastest runners of the competition have been drawn in the opening heat, and as impressive as they have been in the event thus far, nothing will come easy for either.

Witches Belle is an inside seed now, having abandoned her previous middle tag before the commencement of the Joe Dunne Memorial but the opening semi-final on Saturday will be her first time donning the red jacket and this has to be a big concern for her, and for the prospects of a cleanly run race from traps. A review of her recent races will see her moving towards the hare rail in the early exchanges, even when quick to exit trap 4 last week, so it is highly conceivable that she will make a similar move now. She would need to gain over a length in the opening strides to clear her opposition and avoid causing a collision but with the quality of runner on her immediate outside, that is unlikely.

Declan Byrne trains Calzaghe Billy
That prospect makes this heat a more complicated affair than just, the fastest runners get through! Clares Rocket(3) could well be inconvenienced by any outward move from the bitch, especially as he is, despite his third bend sectionals, not so electric in the opening 50 yards as it would seem from his times. He needed all the run-up and the benefit of the inside rail to take control at the first bend last week and a similar effort could bring his first real scare of the competition now if, as is likely, Calzaghe Billy takes an early shunt from Witches Belle and the Declan Byrne runner truly does look to have a nightmare draw here, despite being well suited by the blue jacket.

A further complication for Clares Rocket is the presence of kennelmate Riverside Oscar in trap 4. While not the fastest trapper in the event, he will seek to move towards the rail at the soonest available opportunity. Droopys Awesome has matured throughout this event and ran a blinder behind Witches Belle last week when not inconvenienced by his same trap 5 draw and he can elevate himself to real outright contention with a clear run again here.

The one runner in the heat that can honestly be labelled “well drawn” is the sole remaining wide seed, Eightythreelarch. Jacquie McCann’s powerful runner lost his unbeaten tag behind the latterly mentioned pair in the fastest quarter-final but has real claims of progressing to the final now at the very minimum as the most likely of the field to gain a clear run. The heat is as treacherous as any Kirby semi-final should be and qualification will be at a premium. Investment should carefully considered but if pushed, I would probably back Clares Rocket to hold strong and reach the bend in front for victory thereafter.

The second semi-final has a familiar look about it, on the outside at least and as the fastest of these thus far in the event, Riverside Chip looks nailed on to lead again from trap 5. He might not have been the main fancy of the original ten Graham Holland entries but the smart trapper is warming to his task, improving all the while and merits huge respect. He can again lead Maytown Eclipse(6) to the bend who followed him round a week ago and is likely to lie second on the back-straight as the runners on the inside do not possess the same early prowess.

Pat Buckley trains Droopys Roddick
Another likely scenario is that Droopys Roddick will have the freedom of Limerick on the inside from trap 1 and this spells trouble for the remaining strong runners. In fact the early part of this heat looks highly likely to be cleanly run and if so, the three previously named runners have huge claims to fill the trio places as neither Tommys Lord(4), Ela Alecko(3) or Double Oh Seven(2), whose finishing power gives him claims of qualification if the principals fail to race cleanly around the home bends, have matched them on the clock so far in the event. For victory, well Droopys Roddick has been an enigmatic sort in the Kirby thus far, but he does “get the job done” and he may again now!


3rd Bend
Final 225
Ht 1
Droopys Roddick

Double Oh Seven

Calzaghe Billy
12.35 ckd

Ht 2
Witches Belle

Droopys Awesome


Ht 3
Clares Rocket

Ela Alecko
16.51 ckd

Riverside Oscar
16.51 bmp

Ht 4
Riverside Chip

Maytown Eclipse

Tommys Lord
16.49 ckd


Rocket lifts off and lights up Kirby 2016

Having already given notice of an extreme strength in depth throughout our opening round session, the 2016 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake had patrons exclaiming that this current renewal was set to be our strongest event in the competition’s short history as the most talented young trackers in Ireland returned simply stunning performances throughout Saturday night’s eight second round heats.

Leading the way with the fastest time of the night and propelling himself to clear outright favouritism at 11/4 was Graham Holland’s Clares Rocket with a superb performance in his five length defeat of Lenson Rocky in a brilliant 28.13. Blessed with phenomenal early pace, he dominated throughout following a smart break from trap 4 and his sectional time of 15.95 to the third bend is the fastest ever recorded at the new Limerick circuit.

Graham Holland still has 7 remaining
Retaining his position at number two in the market at 6/1 is Droopys Roddick and despite opening the action last week in what would turn out to be the slowest heat, he nonetheless left a huge impression when recovering from significant early bumping and further crowding at the closing bends to gain a neck verdict over Ela Alecko in 28.89. The Pat Buckley charge clearly possesses ample pace to justify his big reputation and also appears capable of returning a very fast time when securing a clear run.

Four remain unbeaten

Both these market leaders were recording back to back Kirby heat wins and two further runners remain unbeaten ahead of our quarter-final session. Fastest winner from the opening night, Witches Belle, again showed that she can win the hard way when being made to pull out all the stops for a thrilling half length verdict over Calzaghe Billy when the pair reeled in pacesetter Riverside Chip at the closing bend. A brilliant buckle was settled in 28.56 with both displaying impressive pace from the second turn as Witches Belle gathered yet more admirers through he teak tough racing manner.

Witches Belle(5) swings wide to grab Calzaghe Billy late on
Completing the unbeaten quartet was Jacqueline McCann’s Eightythreelarch when the wide seed tracked Skywalker Manner to the back-straight before asserting at the closing bends for an impressive three and a half length verdict in 28.43 with Droopys Awesome back in third. Clearly suited to the Limerick circuit, he now seriously enters outright calculations, especially with just four seeded runners left in the event.

The night brought many more impressive winners and another wide seed who will merit much respect going forward is Fraser Black’s Coolavanny Wendy following his dominant display in a seven length defeat of Double Oh Seven, who was again balked in the early stages, posting a slick 28.40.

The closing heat of the night saw two further wide seeds secure a quarter-final berth bringing a total of four for the subsequent trap draw as Silverhill Pat again displayed his immense early pace when scorching to the third turn in 16.05 by leading throughout in 28.48. He was chased home by fast round one winner Jo Jo Fantasy who lost little in defeat here with Rockburst Riva back in third.

Coolavanny Wendy(6) shows smart early pace
The remaining winners on a wonderfully entertaining night of top quality Kirby action were Maytown Eclipse who led throughout heat 2 with three lengths in hand over Westway Hawk and Riverside Oscar who claimed the following heat when repelling the late challenge of Coolykereen Rake by a half length in 28.69.

Big names will topple in quarter-finals

The quarter-final draw had to throw up some huge clashes with such an abundance of talent among our twenty-four remaining youngsters and so it proved. Right from the outset tonight we will see aspiring champions with real outright claims go head to head for a precious semi-final place and our opening heat is arguably the most fascinating of all.

Three of the remaining four wide seeded runners have been drawn alongside each other in a heat where a reasonable case could be made for all. We have had some minor shock eliminations thus far but now the Kirby axe will wield it’s blade through some big name challengers and supporters of Droopys Roddick could be made to sweat now if he fails to improve on his most recent breaking form.

Droopys Roddick

Drawn in trap 2, the Buckley powerhouse has a big challenge on his hands to remain unbeaten with the highly respected Calzaghe Billy drawn on his inside and should he fail to match the Declan Byrne runner early doors he could be chasing his tail for much of the trip as Billy displayed exceptional pace from the second turn to home last week. The main reason that is a complication is the presence of Silverhill Pat(6) & Coolavanny Wendy(5) on the outside who look set to fight out the early lead. 

The former has been superbly impressive thus far and although tiring somewhat off the final turn, he must be fancied to skip clear again now and post a time that will make him difficult to reel in.
Indeed, should he lead it would be very hard to see three runners pass him late on and with Coolavanny Wendy likely to be next in line down the back-straight, this leaves no room for error regarding those in behind and could conceivably leave just one place up for grabs for the strong runners. 

Trap 1 is a big bonus for Calzaghe Billy and in so many other scenarios, you could not see him eliminated but how does Droopys Roddick not qualify?! Well, with a clear run he will qualify but that is not assured and with the powerful finish of Double Oh Seven(3) becoming a factor with every bump and the presence of game bitch Rockburst Riva(4) who will battle at every point, this heat is treacherous!

Unbeaten runners clash

More big fancied casualties are assured in heat 2 where the unbeaten records of Witches Belle and Eightythreelarch are on the line. Trap 6 is ideal for the latter and does in fact seem to offer very reasonable claims for a clear run with just a competent break on the outside of Droopys Awesome in trap 5. He looks set for a bold bid here but it is hard to look past a similarly ideal draw for Jo Jo Fantasy in red. A slick round 1 winner he has claims to defend his rails pitch for a clear passage to the back-straight from which point he will show his powerful pace and is the narrow choice for victory provided he can fend off the attentions of Lenson Rocky in trap 2.

The latter was impressive when chasing home Clares Rocket in the fastest time last week and has real claims of progressing now but to do that he may have to contain the brilliant Witches Belle. Although trap 4 is not ideal for the bitch, she does appear to have claims for racing room early on and if avoiding any bumps, will qualify at the minimum. A case can also be made for Droopys Awesome in a less that perfect trap 5 but he must find a better break than last week.

Our third heat looks a straight forward opportunity for Clares Rocket to extend his Kirby record to three from three and that is not a reflection on the opposition now but more an acknowledgement of his brilliance thus far combined with an ideal draw in trap 1. It would appear that only a mishap from traps could scupper his chance and he is the clear choice. All remaining runners have claims to fill the places here and although poorly drawn in a heat with all inside seeds, Riverside Oscar’s winning display of last week must be respected if he can manage to cope in trap 6 now while Westway Hawk may get an ideal tow behind the favourite and occupy a qualifying place throughout.

Peter Cronin is still three handed
With just a sole heat win amongst the six inside seeds in the closing heat, it would on paper at least appear to be the weakest of the quarter-finals but in such a vintage year for pups, it still houses fantastic talent. Maytown Eclipse(6) displayed smart early pace last week and looks set for an early battle on the outer with Riverside Chip(5) who actually reached the third bend in a quicker time last week and much will depend on how each copes with wide draws now although it is worth noting that Riverside Chip looked plenty comfortable in trap 6 last time. The red jacket for Tommys Lord who is still a maiden can however make him a sneaky fancy here and the Tralee Juvenile finalist could get off the mark if defending the rails pitch early on while a return to her best form would make Amanita Chic a big danger.

In an impressive statistic, Graham Holland still has 7 runners remaining from his starting team of ten while Peter Cronin retains 3 of his four original entries. Of the others, just Pat Buckley and Fraser Black have multiple entries still remaining with two each.

All traps have now got off the mark with an very even spread and just four seeds remain from a starting 13, all four are wide. However last week proved tough for the fairer sex and just four bitches remain in search of our €80,000 first prize, from an original 20.


3rd BEND
Ht 1
Droopys Roddick
16.71 crd/bump
12.18 crd

Ela Alecko
16.57 crd

Dream Believer

Ht 2
Maytown Eclipse

Westway Hawk
16.51 crd

Amanita Chic
16.53 blk
12.25 ckd

Ht 3
Riverside Oscar

Coolykereen Rake

Blackrose Buddy
12.38 ckd

Ht 4

Skywalker Manner

Droopys Awesome
16.37 bmp

Ht 5
Coolavanny Wendy

Double Oh Seven
16.88 bmp/blk

Gift Of Patience
16.86 bmp

Ht 6
Clares Rocket

Lenson Rocky

Tommys Lord

Ht 7
Witches Belle
16.35 chk

Calzaghe Billy
16.36 chk

Riverside Chip

Ht 8
Silverhill Pat

Jo Jo Fantasy

Rockburst Riva


Belle casts her spell on Kirby 2016

Carrying a tag as the richest puppy race in the world, it scarcely matters how we endeavour to promote the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake in the weeks prior to commencement for as last Saturday proved, it only requires one session of opening round heats for this wonderful celebration of young racing talent to deliver on any, and all possible billing.

The class of 2016 returned some simply brilliant performances throughout our first round heats but on a night of outstanding achievement, one bitch stole the show and how appropriate that Witches Belle should return the fastest time of the round on a track where her dam, Lemon Belle, still holds the 600 yard track record. Edel Twomey’s strong 525 yard stayer may have caused a shock when landing the Joe Dunne Memorial final in late January but there was an air of inevitability about the sizzling 28.20 that she posted on her Limerick debut in heat 6 once reaching the opening bend in front.

Streaking clear throughout, she left onlookers in no doubt that she is a real outright contender for although breaking very smartly then, a fast start is not essential to her chances and she is a runner that will prove very difficult to eliminate. Her finishing split time of 12.06 puts her among the strongest stayers to ever race at the circuit and this obvious liking for Limerick certainly runs in the family!

Full House fill four of a kind

The owner and trainer plaudits from our first night were claimed in no uncertain terms by runners from the Riverside Kennels of Graham Holland as he delivered four winners, all vocally encouraged from the stands by the lively Full House Syndicate. Their Jo Jo Fantasy returned the second fastest time of the heats when just making the bend in heat 10 before impressively streaking clear with eye-catching back-straight pace. A facile fifteen length success over Tommys Lord in 28.25 puts him right to the fore in the outright market, alongside kennelmate Clares Rocket who had already claimed heat 8.

Holland still has 9 remaining in Round 2
Confirming his superiority over Juvenile Derby winner Anopheles, the 6/1 outright favourite was the fastest early paced runner of the night with a sizzling 16.02 at the third
bend split mark and this can prove a potent weapon in the event as he will prove very difficult to reel in if continuing to record 28.27! After Witches Belle, connections recorded the next three fastest clocks of the round and their Ballinakil Clare was superbly impressive when posting 28.32 in heat 4. Smartly from traps, she was passed by Silverhill Pat who showed exceptional early dash but was unable to repel the Holland bitch who powered all along the back-straight before forging clear to a decisive four length verdict.

The quality quartet of winners was initiated by Clares Queen who extended her prolific strike rate in heat 3 when battling hard to get to the front at the third bend before a four length verdict over local runner Varra Bawn in 28.94. Trainer Graham Holland led the list of entries with ten runners ahead of the opening round and guided all bar one of those to a qualification place and he, along with the Full House Syndicate, hold the strongest hand at this early stage.

The Matthews factor

2014 Champion Boylesports Hero
Having claimed the last two renewals of the Kirby, any runner from the Brendan Matthews kennel should always command respect ahead of the opening round. However, his sole challenger in 2016 could hardly be adamantly fancied by even the most fervent supporter of the Newry kennels, especially as he was only having his second race after a troubled debut outing. Well nobody told Slipalong Champ that he was facing a mammoth task in heat 11 and learning his trade at the highest level, he showed huge progression when defending his rails pitch from trap 1 for a clear run at the bend before posting 28.67 in a four length verdict over Riverside Oscar. He keeps the Matthews treble hopes alive and with arguably more scope for improvement than any of his rivals, must be afforded the utmost respect in his campaign to realise a near impossible dream.

The round delivered many more top class displays throughout the night with Brinkleys Katie returning a thoroughly professional performance in 28.57, six lengths in advance of Double Oh Seven who was supremely eye-catching when fastest of the night from halfway. Eightythreelarch left a good impression when claiming heat 9 in 28.50, as did Drumsna Legend with 28.61 having entered heat 1 as a reserve before Droopys Awesome quite literally lived up to his name from the second bend when claiming heat 2 in 28.63.

A big fancy before the competition commenced was Pat Buckley’s Droopys Roddick and he opened his account with victory in heat 5 but not without having his credentials examined by game early pacer Maytown Eclipse before finally taking control at the closing bends for a four length success in 28.65. Showing big back-straight pace against the favourite here was Tyrap Dragi before significantly checked at the third turn and he will command respect going forward.

Big clashes in round 2

The second round draw has produced some intriguing clashes and none more so than heat 6 which houses two first round winners but also some runners who will be expected to improve greatly for last week’s experience. Clares Rocket is likely to start favourite from trap 4 where he should contain Anopheles(5) who he has defeated here the last twice. Commanding the outside early doors, he will hold every chance to land victory if turning first but there are some on his inside who may complicate matters greatly. Lenson Rocky(3) and Kilara Rex(2) are superbly talented pups who would give the favourite much to ponder if trapping better than last week, while the heat also contains Slipalong Champ in an ideal trap 1 and Tralee Juvenile Classic finalist Tommys Lord(6). Any qualifying place here will be a relief to connections.

Droopys Roddick
Our opening heat is similarly difficult to adamantly predict and outside draws for some fancied runners will make this a compelling watch. Ballinakil Clare will clearly be fancied after her
impressive round 1 display but a trap 6 draw has to be a big concern for her two career defeats have come when drawn wider than trap 3. On her inside is Droopys Roddick who would also prefer a draw closer to the rail and with the smart Ela Alecko unlikely to come away as slowly as he did last week, the heat looks fraught with possible danger which makes this heat one to avoid as a betting prospect.

Ideal draws for both Droopys Awesome in red and Eightythreelarch on the wide outside in heat 4 could see a big battle on the back-straight between two serious outright contenders should all go to plan on the run to the bend but be wary of a better start from Skywalker Manner in trap 4 this week. Although still learning his trade, he possesses pace to trouble that brace of round 1 winners if away on terms.

With so many of our remaining runners carrying inside seeds, it may be good advice for punters to seek out those who are less draw dependant than most and Witches Belle is an inside seed who has never raced from trap 1. She has however won from four of the five remaining traps, including three times from trap 5 which is where she will contest heat 7 now. If she produces the same fast start as last week, she will win, but supporters need not panic if she is led in the early strides for she has already shown that she can come from behind at this level and will be a worthy favourite in the heat despite the presence of round 1 winner Tynwald Baz on her inner.

Trainers with multiple entries remaining; 9 Graham Holland(10),4 Peter Cronin(4), 3 Paul Hennessy(4), 3 Pat Buckley(4), 2  Liam Dowling(2) Philip Gough(2) Pauline Quinn(2) Fraser Black(2)


6/1 Clares Rocket
8/1 Droopys Roddick, Jo Jo Fantasy.
10/1 Ela Alecko, Eightythreelarch.
12/1 Slipalong Champ.
14/1 Lenson Rocky.
16/1 Aghaburren Lola, Droopys Awesome, Ballinakil Clare, Coolavanny Wendy, Witches Belle, Brinkleys Katie.
20/1 Silverhill Pat, Double Oh Seven.
25/1 Calzaghe Billy, Riverside Oscar.

The Numbers from Round 1

Outside of the starting splits that accompany the official results, the table below details the remaining split times that can be garnered from the opening round. Many are of course calculated for runners who were not leading at the 300 yard mark approaching the third bend but any inaccuracy would be very minimal. Runners who were affected by crowding or bumping are detailed beside the affected split time.

3rd Bend
Final 225
Ht 1


Ht 2


Ht 3


Ht 4


Ht 5
16.52  BUMPED



Ht 6

16.49 BUMPED


Ht 7



Ht 8




Ht 9




Ht 10


Ht 11



17.09 CRD

Ht 12

16.94 CRD/BMP

16.84 BMP


                                                                        WITCHES BELLE 28.20
                                                                         JO JO FANTASY 28.25

                                                                          CLARES ROCKET 28.27 (Fastest to 3rd bend)


Round One

Colourful Kirby Memorial is carving a rich history

It’s back! Now in it’s fourth year as an early season highlight on the greyhound racing calender, the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial has not so much carved a niche over this short history but more it’s own enclosure within the pantheon of a vibrant Irish Open race spectrum and in 2016 the richest puppy race on the planet again promises compelling entertainment from 72 talented young trackers in search of our €80,000 first prize.

Noreen McManus at the 2016 launch
The most generous sponsors package from JP & Noreen McManus allows a total prize fund of €160,000 which in monetary terms leaves only the Irish Derby as a more lucrative event throughout the entire season but the McManus initiative to include a further €20,000 prize for participating Limerick GAA Clubs whose associated greyhound reaches the final on April 9th, ensures a colourful influx of flag bearing supporters which adds greatly to an already intense atmosphere. With young and old mixing from these respective sporting backgrounds, Limerick Greyhound Stadium, the GAA and the McManus family have created an event which extends our sport’s reach in a unique and wonderfully social manner.

Matthews the Master

Receiving €10,000 when the Brendan Matthews trained Cable Bay denied Rural Hawaii in a thrilling final 12 months ago was Fr Casey’s GAA and the Abbeyfeale club look set for another exciting campaign having drawn the talented bitch Brinkleys Katie, but while they set out in search of a double, their successful trainer of 2015 is seeking a treble.

Fr Casey's celebrating in 2015
Brendan Matthews is renowned as one of the greatest coursing trainers of all time but over the past two seasons he has masterminded a phenomenal Kirby double with Boylesports Hero in 2014 before the brilliant success of Cable Bay last year. This time around he travels with just one contender and his Slipalong Champ faces a tough opening heat for one so inexperienced. Making his debut here when finding trouble in running last week, he needs to learn quickly for that experience in a heat with some well fancied rivals. But who could adamantly rule out the possibility that kennel-hand Michael Keenan will be strolling back along the track with arms aloft alongside the Kirby winner for a third consecutive year?! The bookies are taking no chances and if you believe that can happen, the Newry raider is priced at 16/1.

So many of Ireland’s top trainers have turned out in force again this year with the Kirby Memorial now a coveted and potentially career defining accolade to decorate their sporting CV’s. Topping the entry list is Graham Holland with 10 hopefuls who will be spear-headed by his superbly talented Clares Rocket. Giving notice of his abilities at Shelbourne Park before Christmas, he rocked the greyhound world with a stunning 28.06 in just his seventh career start last month and having accounted for current Juvenile Derby champion Anopheles on his Limerick debut last week in 28.39, the pair renew rivalries in a hot heat 8 tonight, he fully justifies his joint favourite quote of 8/1.

Vying for favouritism at the same price is the Pat Buckley trained Droopys Roddick who began his career with a brilliant campaign to victory in Enniscorthy’s Champion Unraced Stake last October. He further enhanced his reputation when scoring an impressive win in Wimbledon’s RFS Puppy Derby just three weeks later and although suffering defeat when enduring a luckless outing in the Joe Dunne Memorial final behind Kirby rival Witches Belle, he can be a real contender over the coming month with the suspicion that he will be ideally suited to the wide expanses and testing nature of Limerick’s 525 yard trip.

If you ever questioned how much it means!
These are just some of the principals ahead of the event and there will be some thrilling clashes throughout the opening round following a spicy draw. Heat 2 brings the talented duo Aghaburren Lola(2) and Droopys Awesome(4) together in what is likely to be a fast spin should either find their best break but with the benefit of greater experience and a suitable draw, the former gets the vote where Newlawn Peter should also make his presence felt from trap 3.

Skywalker Manner attracted the advances of leading owner Ray Patterson when scorching around Tralee last month and will face Graham Holland kennel companion Clares Queen(4) in a fascinating Heat 3 clash. The pair should dominate the heat but while the game bitch has much more experience to draw on, Skywalker Manner can prevail here with a competent break from trap 3 and add yet further substance to the Holland assault behind the market leader Clares Rocket.

Joe Dunne Memorial winner at Shelbourne Park, Witches Belle makes her Limerick debut in heat 6 and although the circuit should suit her talents, she will need to be sharp to hold a good pitch at the bend from trap 2 as the heat contains some highly promising rivals. Trade Biscuit(6) looked a real star when posting 28.44 in his career start at Enniscorthy before a brief, unfruitful spell in the UK. However, should he arrive to Limerick in top form, he is a runner worthy of huge respect. Adding further intrigue to the heat is Calzaghe Billy(3) who is contesting his first race in Ireland after a pleasing career start across the pond. His trials suggest he is ready for a prominent tilt at the Kirby and is the choice for heat victory in the heat.

Heat of Death

Probably the most competitive heat of the night, heat 10 brings some big reputations from leading kennels together in the competitions first “heat of death”! Turree Bolt(1) was runner-up in the Juvenile Classic at Tralee just one week ago and comes here without a previous look at Limerick, as does Tommys Lord who was fourth in that same Tralee final. Exceptionally talented runners, they face a tough task here with rivals such as Kilara Rex(3), Jo Jo Fantasy(4) and Lenson Rocky(6), favourite in that Tralee final, who all have brilliant times to their name. Add the twice raced Ballymac Boxcar who scored here last week in 28.54 and you have a race complexion more akin to a semi-final than a round 1 pipe opener. Keep well focused for this clash, for if any of these get loose before the first bend, this could be a clock buster!

Enjoy the night’s action and mark every result in detail for as past renewals have taught us, future Derby contenders, Classic winners, Award winners and stud dogs are scattered throughout every Con & Annie Kirby card. Having learned their trade at various venues throughout the country, they come here with intent to exit Limerick as the next superstar of greyhound racing and over the next month they will bring us the most enthralling sporting action in the unique and colourful atmosphere that can only be the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake.

Betting Guide; 8/1 Droopys Roddick, Clares Rocket. 12/1 Jo Jo Fantasy, Lenson Rocky. 16/1 Aghaburren Lola, Ela Alecko, Coolavanny Wendy, Slipalong Champ, Razldazl Tierna. 20/1 Droopys Awesome, Skywalker Manner, Riverside Oscar. 25/1 Barefoot Ruler, Clares Queen, Silverhill Pat, Witches Belle, Calzaghe Billy, Eightythreelarge, Droopys Tee, Ballymac Boxcar, Kilara Rex, Mustang Noplan, Double Oh Seven. 33/1 Bar

Trainers with multiple entries; 10) Graham Holland, 7)  Paul Hennessy, 5)  Pat Buckley, 4)  Peter Cronin, 4)  Liam Dowling, 2)  Pat O'Connor, Fraser Black, Declan Byrne, Philip Gough.

Seeding; We commence with 3 Middle seeds and 10 wide, while 20 bitches will contest the opening round.

A big thank you to the Racing Post who will publish the previews each week Click Here

Trap Draw with associated GAA Clubs

First Round Saturday 12th March (Don't forget each Club must register on the night!)

Race 1 
1 PENNYS BEAST Cappamore
2 MOTORBAR DUCHESS Newcastlewest
4 THANKS AWFULLY Tournafulla
5 RAMBLE INN Ballylanders
6 CARRIGMORE YOUNG Ballybricken Bohermore

Race 2 
1 WESTWAY HAWK St. Kierans
6 VERY JOLLY Blackrock

Race 3 
2 GIFT OF PATIENCE Feohanagh Castlemahon Ladies Football
4 CLARES QUEEN Granagh Ballingary
5 BAREFOOT BARON Dromcollogher Broadford
6 VARRA BAWN Knockane

Race 4 
1 HOLYCROSS LEAH Camogie Galbally
3 HYNESS MILL Rathkeale
5 CLONLEIGH BRAVE Patrickswell

Race 5
2 MAYTOWN ECLIPSE Kilteely Dromkeen
4 TAMMEN TWISTER Feenagh Kilmeedy
5 TYRAP DRAGI Killeedy
6 ROCK SONG Kilmallock

Race 6 
2 WITCHES BELLE Kildimo Pallaskenry
3 RIVERSIDE CHIP Camogue Rovers
5 SPARTA JAMES Mountcollins
6 TRADE BISCUIT Newcastlewest Camogie

Race 7
2 TYNWALD BAZ Croagh Kilfinny
3 AMANITA CHIC Abbey Sarsfields
5 SIDARIAN PEARL Old Christians

Race 8 
1 CLARES ROCKET Ballinacurra Gales
2 BUDGIE POWER Stalker Wallace
4 EDWINAS PET Ballysteen
6 ANOPHELES Murroe Boher

Race 9

Race 10
1 TURREE BOLT Dromin Athlacca
3 KILARA REX St. Patricks
5 TOMMYS LORD Monaleen
6 LENSON ROCKY Casteltown Ballyagran

Race 11
1 SLIPALONG CHAMP Gerald Griffins
3 BLACKROSE BUDDY Cappagh Handball
4 KILARA LEXY Hospital Herbertstown
5 MUSTANG NOPLAN Garryspillane
6 CONS REX Granagh Ballingarry Camogie

Race 12
4 DOUBLE OH SEVEN Feohanagh Castlemahon
5 DROOPYS ACROBAT Templeglantine
6 AIRMOUNT TESS Pallas Sarsfields Ladies Football

Second Round Saturday 19th March
GAA Club Banner Competition

Quarter Finals Saturday 26th March
Easter Family Fun Event
Children’s Colouring Competition

Semi-Finals Saturday 2nd April
Poc Fada Competition

Final Saturday 9th April

TRAINERS with multiple entries
10 Graham Holland
 7  Paul Hennessy
 5  Pat Buckley
 4  Peter Cronin
 4  Liam Dowling
 2  Pat O'Connor
 2  Fraser Black
 2  Declan Byrne
 2  Philip Gough

  3 Middle
10 Wide

*20 bitches will go  to traps for the opening round

525                                     Split 1        Split 2         Time
RAZLDAZL TIERNA        4:17            16:14          28:46
CALZAGHE BENNY        4:15            16:15          28:39
KILARA REX                    4:19            16:23          28:44
KILGRANEY JUNE          4:10            16:06          28:47
KILARA LEXI                   4:18            16:38          28:75
BRINKLEYS KATIE         4:87                               18:71
DROOPYS RODDICK      4:91                               18:62

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