It’s a big weekend for greyhound sport with one of the great competitions on the calendar, the Easter Cup, getting underway at Shelbourne Park, while the next generation of superstars will be unveiled at Tralee this evening in the opening round of the Juvenile Classic.
As you expect, many of the biggest kennels in the land are represented in the Juvenile Classic with the very best pedigrees on show. Given the very nature of the event, with each of the competitors yet to race, it’s difficult to pin-point the very best but there is no doubt a number of future classic winners will emerge in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Shelbourne Park will play host to the fastest in training in a vintage renewal of the Easter Cup, which is sponsored by Bresbet. Unlike the Juvenile Classic, it’s easy to point out the big names and likely leading contenders.
They are, of course, headed by the Puppy Oaks, Irish Oaks and Derby champion Susie Sapphire. She returned to the track after a near-five-month layoff last weekend and suffered her first defeat since early August but that run will have blown away the cobwebs.
She will be strongly fancied to return to winning ways on Saturday evening when she lines out in the blue jacket in Heat 5. In a race where early speed, with the exception of Susie Sapphire, is far from abundant, the Derby champion seems certain to race clear into the bend.
Catchmeflying is perhaps the greatest threat to Susie Sapphire if he can reproduce his very best form but, in reality, there’s probably little he can do to stop the favourite.
Romeo Magico, who handed Susie Sapphire only her second defeat in the last six months last weekend, is expected to come home in front in Heat 2. He hinted that he could be a real star of the future early in his career and his latest run is perhaps a sign that the penny has dropped.
Graham Holland has been champion trainer for each of the last ten years and knows how to bring a greyhound of Romeo Magico’s talent through the ranks. It seems his patience is paying off as the brilliant son of Magical Bale has realistic hopes of Easter Cup success.
Blessed with massive early speed and pace down the back straight, Romeo Magico should have too much ammunition for his rivals on Saturday night and he can make a winning start to his Easter Cup bid at the expense of the highly thought of Scarty Yank.
Romeo Magico aside, Graham Holland has a very strong team with a number of his nine-strong squad capable of going close. Part Blake is another with very obvious claims. He really came to prominence late last year in the St Leger and was one of the real eye-catchers at the Winter Racing Festival in early December.
He has his first start of 2022 in the opening heat of the round and won’t be able to make any mistakes with his kennel companion Swords Maestro and Knight Tornado, in particular, to contend with. Add in the in-form Auxerre and the very useful Russmur Pat and it’s a stern test for Part Blake.
Make no mistake, he is up to the task, however, and with a slick exit could provide another reminder that he will be a major force in the coming months.
As you might expect, the remaining heats are all very competitive with so many star names in action. Heat 4 is a perfect example with St Leger winner Ballymac Merlin needing to be at his very best with Crokers Spirit, Coolavanny Duke and Vanderbilt in opposition.
Coolavanny Duke looks a hugely exciting tracker and he might just have the best of the draw in four with Corkers Spirit likely to cut inwards from trap three.
Jacob Tashadelek has been in tremendous form and can continue his winning ways in Heat 6, although he needs to be at his sharpest as Fast Fit Paddy, Ballymac Fairone, Skywalker Cilla and Priceless Jet are all capable of a massive run.
One of the most interesting runners in the classic is Good Cody. Last year’s Irish Sprint Cup and Kingdom Derby champion is being tested over 550yds for the first time. Recent evidence would suggest he is a bit stronger than last year and, were he to stay the trip, he is likely to produce a massive run in the penultimate heat.