Weather conditions played havoc with Irish greyhound racing last weekend with many meetings cancelled in the interest of welfare due to frozen racing surfaces. Thankfully, conditions are a bit more benign this week and we can now look forward to a couple of days of tremendous racing.
The Clonmel card was postponed last Friday, meaning the Rural Hawaii @ Stud Unraced Stakes gets underway seven days later than planned. It will be of huge interest to those who follow the sport with a few potential stars expected to emerge in the coming weeks despite it’s ON2 status.
But the real highlight of the weekend’s action is the Best Car Parks Gold Cup at Shelbourne Park. Last weekend’s quarter finals saw four outstanding performances and the semi-finals will dominate Saturday’s card at headquarters.
It seems each week we highlight the incredible kennel strength of the ‘Ballymac’ man, Liam Dowling and, yet again, he has a massive hand in one of the major competitions. Both Ballymac Cashout and Ballymac Art are amongst the best in training and have strong claims in their respective heats this evening.
Ballymac Cashout was the undoubted star of last weekend’s proceedings, displaying real track craft and brute pace before stopping the clock in a superb 28.01. He faces a somewhat tougher test this evening but fully deserves his position at the head of the outright betting.
Drawn in three in the opening semi, the son of Droopys Sydney will need to come away racing as his main rival Knocknaboul Syd is drawn on his immediate inner in trap two. Knocknaboul Syd captured the Kingdom Derby prior to Christmas and is normally razor sharp into the bend.
By missing the kick last week, he allowed Ballymac Cashout the room to get across from a tough draw in five. A week on, that may not be the case on Saturday. Certainly, if Knocknaboul Syd hits the lids, as he can, Ballymac Cashout could find himself with a real battle on his hands.
If there is to be a shock, Deadly Destroyer and Another Dream have the best of the draw. The latter has improved out of recognition in recent weeks and looks certain to fly up on the outside of the track. If he were to turn in front, any traffic behind would aid his cause.
There could be quite a race to the turn in the second heat. Minglers Popeye, Inforapenny and Catchmeflying are capable of going up fast but it’s the aforementioned Ballymac Art that looks the most likely pace-setter.
She was uncharacteristically slow at boxes last week but ran a fine race to qualify in third. Expect her to be far sharper tonight and she gets the vote to lead the field around the corner. Boylesportsbingo comes into the race as the in-form dog in the contest after winning his last three outings but he faces a tough draw in the stripes. Instead, Inforapenny is nominated as the main threat to Ballymac Art.
Of course, the Best Car Parks Gold Cup is only the start of what will be a frenetic period in greyhound racing. A week after the Gold Cup concludes, the oldest competition on the calendar, the Easter Cup, gets underway and this will see the return of many of the very best dogs after a festive layoff.
Pat Buckley has already confirmed that his English Derby winner Deerjet Sydney and a couple of his other kennel stars could be aimed at the event, while Ger Hutton confirmed during the week that his Leger champion Epic Hero would also be in the Easter Cup.
It’s also worth noting that the nominations for the National Greyhound Awards will be announced next week. We’ll be able to give a full run through of those chosen in next week’s column.