Week after week, month after month, there is no down time in Irish greyhound racing. Just seven days after the competition of the Irish Laurels at Curraheen Park and the Puppy oaks at Shelbourne, attention quickly switches to the final classic of the year, the Matchbook Betting Exchange Irish St Leger.
It may be the final classic of 2022 but there is still so much to be packed into this year including the Winter Racing Festival at the end of December. But as of Saturday evening, the Leger will dominate the action in the coming month.
There are eleven opening round heats on Saturday’s Limerick card but, for most, the standout clash comes in the penultimate heat with Ballinabola Ed and Romeo Magico going head-to-head. Two of the very fastest greyhounds in training, both have made plenty of headlines this year and it’s no surprise to see them topping the ante-post betting lists.
Both won their latest outing, albeit in different style. Romeo Magico was ultra-impressive when scoring on the Cork undercard last weekend, while a week earlier, Ballinabola Ed was more workmanlike around Enniscorthy.
The Pat Buckley trained superstar will certainly come on for that run, however, and choosing between the pair is no easy task. In a race where their four rivals are not blessed with much early speed, it could come down to a straight shootout which would be something to really get excited about.
Another clash of note comes in the previous heat with Derby runner-up Ballymac Finn facing a tough return to the track with Vincenzo to contend with. The latter was actually withdrawn from the semi-finals of the Derby but recently posted a rapid time in a solo trial at Limerick suggesting he is as good as ever.
Ballymac Finn is the one to beat, however. He went within a half-length of immortality in the Derby and is entitled to improve for his exploits through the blue riband. If he produces one of his fast starts, Liam Dowling’s star can assert before the corner.
As with so many major competitions in recent years, there is a very strong female presence. The likes of last weekend’s Puppy Oaks champion Ballymac Run, Tipperary Cup champ Bobsleigh Dream, the in-form Bockos Crystal and Cork 525yd record holder Illnotbeback are all very capable of going deep into the competition. On current form, it would be no surprise to see all four winning their respective opening round assignments.
Other big-name contenders include the Race of Champions winner Bockos Budsit, former Cork track record holder for 525ys and Laurels finalists Droopys Edison. Add in so many more talented trackers and it really is a wonderful classic that will no doubt produce a worthy champion on December 10th.
It’s a quiet weekend as far as the action at Shelbourne Park is concerned but the silence will end in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night as 4000 students descend on the Ringsend venue. The night is a sold out affair and it will be interesting to see how it goes with potential for more nights like it in the future.