This is one of the many weekends in the year when greyhound racing enthusiasts would need an extra twelve hours in the day and a second set of senses to keep up with the action.
On this side of the Irish Sea, there is an abundance of top-class racing on offer across the entire weekend with Shelbourne Park, Newbridge, Kilkenny, Curraheen Park and more expecting big crowds but plenty are also watching proceedings at Towcester with the opening round of the English Derby spread across Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
As I write these words, Ireland already have six wins on the board after an incredible start to the classic on Thursday. In fact, Ireland’s first five greyhounds to put their foot on the sand at the Northamptonshire venue managed to come home in front, while all eleven Irish trained runners in action on Thursday progressed to next week’s second round.
Fastest of the six heat winners was Swords Rex but each of them impressed. Expect more of the same tonight and Saturday, although Ireland have only sixteen greyhounds left to take their place in the opening round. Of those left to begin their Derby challenge, the likes of Clona Duke, Ballymac Marino and Gaytime Nemo appeal.
Hopes are high that the vast majority of the remaining Irish will join the Thursday eleven in the second-round draw. Certainly, it has been a very encouraging start and we look forward to some exceptional racing ahead of the July 1st decider.
The ladies will dominate proceedings at Shelbourne Park on Saturday night with the second round of the Sporting Press Irish Oaks the feature attraction. The opening round was littered with superb performances although the headlines went to Undisputed who belied the slightly slower conditions to post a rapid 28.20.
Any repeat of that form would see her again come home clear, although she will have plenty of strong challengers in the coming weeks with defending champion Raha Mofo, Puppy Oaks winner Lets Go Bubbles, the brilliant Leger and Cesarewitch champion Bobsleigh Dream and so many more showing their well-being last week.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the sprinters will light up Shelbourne Park tonight in the final of the Islandbridge Open 350. Gizmo Cash may have suffered a rare defeat in the semis but he is an exceptional sprinter and has the draw to return to winning ways in the decider.
The reigning Sprinter of the Year and 350yd track record holder need only start on term to put himself in the perfect position to strike. Promising youngster Gallant Knight can emerge as his nearest rival.
Sunday evening will see the final of the Champion Open Unraced take centre stage at Kilkenny. A wonderful line-up will go to traps for the valuable prize and picking a winner is no easy task. Each of the six finalists have shown real promise and many could be destined for stardom in the future.
In such a competitive contest, nothing will come easy in the battle for the €15,000 winner’s purse and the start is going to prove crucial. Ballinakill Alf is drawn on the fence and is perhaps the most likely pace-setter but he was picked up in each of his last two starts by Clonroosk Sydney a fortnight ago and Droopys Doughnut last weekend.
Given the likely warm conditions, it could suit front-runners and he just gets the nod but last week’s sensational 28.58 winner Carrick Fergie, the powerful Clonroosk Sydney, the unbeaten Droopy Doughnut and the well thought of Stonepark Syd all have claims.