We’ve have entered the golden period on the Irish greyhound calendar. From now until the end of the year, almost every week will offer up classic action. As we speak, the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup is underway at Dundalk, while the Boylesports Irish Derby is due to get underway just a fortnight from now.
Then comes the Juvenile Derby, the Laurels and Leger. For those that follow the sport, it’s the most wonderful time and, thankfully, Ireland is packed with an incredible group of racing greyhounds at present.
This year’s Derby promises to be amongst the very best in memory. The quality of this year’s entry is likely to be much deeper than recent years and the betting market reflects that view. To highlight the strength of those at the top of the betting lists, English Derby winner Romeo Magico, Champion Stakes winner One Time Only and Champion Plate winner Born Warrior aren’t even in the top ten in the betting.
Add to those outside the top ten in the betting Part Blake, Hoodoo Brown, Bockos Budsit, Wi Can Dream, The Other Kobe, Droopys Edison, Sentimental Lad and last year’s runner-up Singalong Sally and it really does start to hit home how exceptional this year’s competition should be.
Ballinabola Ed and Coolavanny Hoffa head the sponsor’s betting for the classic and both are clearly exceptional. Ballinabola Ed has yet to race around Shelbourne Park but is a very special greyhound.
In theory, the Pat Buckley trained star should actually improve for a step up to 550yds at the famous Ringsend circuit and is worthy of his lofty position in the market. In contrast to Ballinabola Ed, Coolavanny Hoffa has been given plenty of recent experience at Shelbourne.
The Michael O’Donovan trained speedster has won his last three starts and looked every bit a potential Derby winner in the process.
Ahead of the Derby, plenty with Derby aspirations will look to get in a prep run. There will be plenty of clues on offer on Saturday night with many of those in action likely to be entered for the blue riband. These include the very exciting duo of Tullig Cryname and Storys Cashout.
There will also be huge interest in the open bitch 550 which features the Oaks champion Raha Mofo, the Corn Cuchulainn winner Crafty Kokoro and the brilliant duo of Scooby Duchess and Droopy Nextone.
Meanwhile, up the road at Dundalk, the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup continues on Saturday night with the semi-finals of the sprint classic the highlight of the weekend’s action. The undoubted star of the competition to date has been Serene Ace.
The Michael O’Donovan trained speedster has been in irresistible form winning his last three starts in the competition in comfortable fashion. He will again need to produce one of his trade mark flying starts but, if doing so, should come home in front of the talented quartet of Fantasy Jesse, Ross Dame, Hawkfield Ozark and Westside Frank.
The opening heat isn’t as straightforward. Realistic claims can be made for each and every runner with the start likely to have a huge bearing in the outcome. Flashing Willow has yet to finish out of the first three, has won twelve of his eighteen starts to date but, yet, has suffered three defeats in a row.
He can be forgiven for his latest defeat when stumbling at traps. If finding his trapping boots, the brilliant son of Laughil Blake has enough to see off a top-class field. Shancol Johnny has been in exceptional form and looks a big threat, as does Runninta Shay, while last year’s finalist Corbrack Prince can’t be dismissed either.