Greyhound racing has generally been run year-round in Ireland, although for many years the major competitions were crammed into the middle months, avoiding the bad weather conditions.
With the introduction of sand tracks, however, more and more in these modern times, the feature events and classics have been spread throughout the calendar year. It means there is scarcely time to take a breath.
Of course, it also means there is always something on the horizon to look forward to. Just in the past seven days, One Time Only emerged a wonderful winner of the Irish Laurels at Curraheen Park last weekend and Billys Diva confirmed her standing as one of Ireland’s very fastest on Thursday when racing to a famous success in the English Oaks at Perry Barr.
It certainly was enough to whet the appetite. Thankfully, we had no time to wait as one of the great competitions on the Irish calendar also got underway during the week. While Billys Diva was doing her thing in the UK, on this side of the Irish Sea, the Matchbook Betting Exchange Irish St Leger was getting underway at Limerick.
There were sis opening round heats and Pat Buckley had a night to remember, providing three of the six winners including a fastest of the session Scarty Yank. The opening round will come to a conclusion on Saturday night and many of Ireland’s very fastest will be on show including Explosive Boy.
Even the most casual of greyhound racing fans will be well aware of the Pat Guilfoyle trained star. Not only did he win both the Race of Champions at Tralee and the Produce Stakes at Clonmel, but he was also favourite to win both the Kirby Memorial at Limerick and the Derby at Shelbourne Park.
His brilliance hasn’t escaped the layers as he is as short as 6-1 for outright glory, half the price of his nearest rival in the outright market. A glance through the entries will highlight the fact that Explosive Boy seems to have the measure of so many of his rivals.
He may have had a very busy year but he hasn’t been seen since finishing fourth to Susie Sapphire in the Derby and the break should really stand to him. He also has some exceptional form around Limerick. In short, he is certainly the greyhound to beat.
Explosive Boy lines out in Heat 10 and will be odds-on to come home in front of the likes of Knight Tornado, Knocknaboul Syd and Sentimental Lad.
Elsewhere on the card, Jacob Tashadelek can lay down a marker in Heat 12. He too won’t be a big price but has the profile of a greyhound that could have a big say in the outcome of the classic. Expect him to dominate, in turn justifying his lofty position in the outright market.
Others that look likely to emerge triumphant in their respective opening round heats include Scooby Princess, Beach Avenue, the aforementioned Laurels winner One Time Only and Com Leo. It could also be worth watching the likes of Pierno and Russian Glory.
Mullingar’s Saturday night action features the semi-finals of the SIS Fair Warrior Open 400. Ela Supremo and Olympic Dollar remain unbeaten in the competition and get the nod to remain so. Ela Supremo had to work hard last week but boasts an ideal draw in the stripes in the opening heat and can come home clear.
The second heat is somewhat tougher with defending champion Olympic Dollar needing to be at his very sharpest to account for hugely impressive quarter final scorer Gizmo Cash.
There was also great news during the week for those involved in greyhound racing in the north west with Lifford set to reopen early next year. It had been widely known that the Donegal venue was set to reopen their doors in the future but confirmation arrived on Thursday.
Harry Findlay, who is the best-known member of newly formed Lifford Greyhound Racing Club, confirmed that the opening date has been set for Sunday, March 6th, 2022.
Said the ever-animated Findlay of the venture, “Some of the best kennels and breeders in Ireland are based in this region. We already have some major sponsors lined up and I don’t think it will be long before we have some high-class open racing on a Sunday evening.”
Let’s hope so and best of luck to all involved in Lifford. It comes as a real shot in the arm for those based in the region and those involved in the sport in Ireland.