The Sporting Press Irish Oaks has a special place in the hearts of those that are involved at the grass roots level of greyhound racing in Ireland. The classic which is solely for the female of the species has been won by some superstars through the years and another will be crowned at Shelbourne Park on Saturday night with this year’s competition a vintage renewal.
It really is a contest of the highest calibre and picking a winner is no easy task. Indeed, the bookmakers struggled somewhat earlier in the week to make a favourite but Ballymac Beanie has emerged as the market leader in recent days.
She is potentially a superstar with exceptional pace from start to finish. She actually suffered her first defeat of the competition last week but her reputation grew as she did incredibly well to finish within a length of Swanley Chick.
The latter is another with outstanding claims and, were she to make a flying start as she did seven days earlier, she would certainly make a bold bid. The other big two in the betting are Ballymac Art and Droopys Curio.
Droopys Curio is amongst the fastest greyhounds in training be it male or female and she is clearly one to consider but her inconsistency at boxes, allied with a tough draw in four, means she can be opposed despite her incredible talent.
Ballymac Art is sure to be popular. She is the sole runner in the line up to go through the preliminaries unbeaten. Representing the all-conquering kennel of Liam Dowling, the youngster has astonishing early speed and is perhaps the most likely pace-setter. That could have a large bearing on the outcome.
It is her namesake Ballymac Beanie that gets the nod, however. Should she make a good start from trap two, she is likely to lead or sit just behind Ballymac Art into the back straight. In such a scenario, she is likely to have too much ammunition for her namesake.
Meanwhile at Limerick, the ‘Ballymac’ prefix is also expected to be to the fore in the semi finals of the Friends of Limerick Irish St Leger. After a sensational fastest of the competition 29.40 last weekend, Ballymac Wild is now a warm favourite for outright honours.
The Juvenile classic winner at Tralee earlier in the year, he also made the Derby final where he was somewhat unlucky in running. Liam Dowling’s powerful tracker is set to claim his place in the decider on the back of a victory with the son of Vulturi standing out as the one to beat in the opening heat.
Of his rivals, his kennel companion Ballymac Kingdom is an obvious threat as are Amazing Alice and Priceless Jet. Derby runner-up Meenagh Miracle is another notable runner although she does seem to have gone off the boil in recent outings.
The second semi final is a little more open with many of the line-up holding strong claims. The draw might just favour Epic Hero, however. A talented performer with superb pace throughout, he has the best of the draw on the fence and might get first run at the turn.
Outnumbered, Newinn Hero and Oran Don are also capable of going close, while Ballymac Anton never runs a bad race and will seek to keep the possibility of defending his title alive.
Outside of the Oaks and Leger action, there will be huge interest in the opening round of the IGOBF National Puppy Stake. Over the years the competition has provided a springboard to greater success for some of the biggest names in the sport including this year’s Derby champion Newinn Taylor and the legendary Premier Fantasy.
The presence of Ballymac Ariel in this year’s event adds real intrigue. She qualified in a faster time than any greyhound in history and then displayed stunning pace on debut, finishing third to some very talented greyhounds. With that experience behind her, she could potentially produce a spectacular display in the opening heat of the competition.