Despite plenty of optimism, last weekend’s cold snap saw the postponement of the Matchbook Betting Exchange Irish St Leger from Limerick. It’s not ideal for a classic final to be postponed with the greyhounds largely sitting on their beds for the week but, given the severity of the cold weather, it was the correct decision.
Of course, it provided the powers that be with a logistical dilemma; when to run the rescheduled final? With Limerick booked to the rafters on Saturday night with Christmas revellers, it would have been difficult to run the Leger final with no hospitality availability for those with a runner.
As a result, the decision was made to run the final as part of an extra meeting on Sunday evening. It seems like a wise decision and will also give the opportunity for the track staff to get a little extra work in on the racing surface itself.
As we stated last week, all six trainers in the Leger final have tasted classic glory in the past so the fact that they’ve had to keep their dogs ticking over for an extra eight days won’t come as too much of a problem.
The likes of Pat Buckley, Pat Guilfoyle, Dolores Ruth, Rachel Wheeler, Peter Cronin and Graham Holland are amongst the best in the business at what they do and they are likely to have their respective challengers in tip top form ahead of the decider.
In fact, a couple may have been happy with the delay as there has been a bit of a kennel cough going around over recent weeks and it may have offered them extra time to get their dogs back to themselves.
Certainly, there will be no excuses in Sunday’s €30,000 to the winner decider. As she was last weekend, Bobsleigh Dream is favourite to provide her handler Pat Buckley with a third Leger success. He last won the classic in 2014 with the hugely talented Paradise Silva.
Bobsleigh Dream is very different in terms of racing style but is every bit as talented. She is immensely strong and has long been amongst Ireland’s fastest. This may be the first time she has started favourite for a classic decider but it is an honour she richly deserves.
Few would dispute her claims from a favourable draw on the fence and she is no bigger than 6-4 to come home in front. On current form, she would be very difficult to contain, even allowing for the brilliance of her five rivals.
Amongst them is English Derby champion Romeo Magico. He had a dip in form earlier in the competition but gave signs of a return to his brilliant best in his last two starts. Despite taking a bump on the turn, he ran a huge race to finish second to Annagh Bailey in the semis.
A trap four draw isn’t ideal with the early paced Trinity Junior on his immediate inner, although it is worth noting he won the English Derby from the same box. Not always the fastest starter, he can’t afford to sleep at traps.
If starting on terms, he has both the early speed and pace down the back straight to match any in training.
Wi Can Dream and Trinity Junior are both blessed with tremendous early speed but, on this stage, they will need to be on the front foot from the start. Neither can be ruled out but an early advantage is imperative if they are to score.
Mustang Jet is also respected from a wide draw. He should be in superb form after overcoming the cough and has the best of the draw. His handler, Dolores Ruth, is an expert at producing a greyhound to peak on the night that matters, a fact that is worth remembering.
Annagh Bailey completes the line-up. He was a superb semi-final winner, showing his many qualities but the draw is a big concern for the Rachel Wheeler trained star. He too will need a career best start to turn close enough.
It may be over a week later than expected, but Sunday’s decider should be worth the wait. Bobsleigh Dream and Romeo Magico are chosen to lead home a stellar field but it has the potential to throw up a less expected result. The action can all be viewed live on RPGTV on Sunday. It could serve as the perfect dessert to the World Cup action.
Meanwhile, the ladies will take centre stage in Dublin on Saturday night with the semi-finals of the Christmas Oaks the highlight. Both heats are hugely competitive but the second heat is particularly open with a number of Ireland’s best amongst the line-up.
Illnotbeback and Maries Wedding could potentially get in each other’s way in the early yards but both are incredibly talented. Should the pair get tangled in the early yards, Clogheen Lass has the pace to capitalize, while Puppy Oaks champ Ballymac Run is also respected.
Ballymac Drama and Speedels About make most appeal in the opening heat, although neither are noted as flying starters and need the gaps to arrive at the right time.