Those involved in greyhound racing haven’t had a moment to take a breath over the past three months with each weekend bringing really top-class racing. Certainly, Shelbourne Park hasn’t had any quiet Saturday night in months with the Oaks, Corn Cuchulainn, Champion Stakes, Derby and Juvenile Derby leading into each other.
The highlight of this weekend’s action at the famous Dublin venue are the semi-finals of the RPGTV Juvenile Derby with the semi-finals of the Yvonne Barry Track Bookmaker Open 600 acting as a wonderful supporting act.
Meanwhile, there is also classic action at Cork with the second round of the Irish Laurels dominating the action at Curraheen Park on Saturday night. As if that isn’t enough, Mullingar’s Saturday card will feature the second round of the Matchbook Fair Warrior Open Sprint.
Twelve of Ireland’s best and brightest remain in the Juvenile Derby and each of the two semi-finals offer quite a conundrum. Conventional wisdom would suggest what ever leads at the turn in the opening heat will go onto score.
The most likely pace-setters, Another Holiday and Droopys Got It, also happen to be the top two in the outright betting. Both greyhounds were foot-perfect last weekend with Another Holiday going just six hundredths of a second faster than his rival.
If he is to confirm that form, he must come away racing from trap four. Droopys Got It, despite being an inside seed, has to deal with a wide draw in six. They face some very talented rivals including Radical Hero, Three Canons and Romeo Command, but the big two should have too much ammunition in the early yards.
Of the pair, Another Holiday is perhaps the most likely pace-setter due to the fact that he is drawn on the inner of his rival. With one of his trade-mark flying starts, the Michael O’Donovan trained star could bring his tally to nine wins from ten starts.
The second heat is similarly competitive with Trinity Junior bidding to make all from trap two, although he will need to be at his sharpest. If failing to get loose, the son of Laughhil Blake would be facing a tough test with the Oaks champion Raha Mofo, the hugely talented Bogger Hunter and the promising duo of Bens Teddy and Clona Duke to contend with.
Even the rank outsider, Marinas Joker can motor to the turn and seems capable of playing a part. The draw does seem to favour Trinity Junior, however. The Peter Cronin trained star has only once suffered defeat and is a pretty natural trapper. He is selected to lead the field early before containing the challenge of both Bogger Hunter and Raha Mofo.
Derby third and Corn Cuchulainn champion Crafty Kokoro is the big name draw in the semi-finals of the Yvonne Barry Open 600. A brilliant 31.98 winner last week, making her only the fourth greyhound to dip under the 32 second barrier for the testing trip, she looks the part in the opening heat.
The second heat can go to Bockos Crystal. A real prospect with superb pace throughout, she lost nothing in defeat behind Crafty Kokoro seven days ago. If repeating that level of form, she can get the better of another top-class female, Bobsleigh Dream.
The Friend and Supporters of Cork Greyhound Racing Irish Laurels continues at Curraheen Park on Saturday and there are a number of contests that catch the eye amongst the eight second round heats. The undoubted highlight is the clash of superstars Serene Ace, Good Cody, Swords Rex and Bockos Budsit in Heat 6.
All four are amongst the favourites for outright glory but at least one of the quartet will exit the competition with only three to qualify. So much will come down to the opening exchanges but from an ideal draw in the stripes, Bockos Budsit does seem to have the advantage.
Serene Ace is also capable of making a bold bid from a rails pitch, while both Good Cody and Swords Rex have been handed a less than ideal draw in four and five respectively. It’s certainly a race worth watching but predicting a likely winner with any real confidence is an impossibility such is the depth of quality on show.
Instead, those searching for a winner should look at the likes of Hawkfield Ozark, Cryptopunk and Droopys Iconic with all three appealing in their respective heats.
Keeley McGee can record another double in the second round of the Matchbook Fair Warrior Open Sprint at Mullingar on Saturday night. Her Gizmo Cash was the standout performer in the opening round and he can again come home clear of the first of the four quarter finals. His main rival is Crafty Bonanza but Gizmo Cash is a talented sprinter with exceptional pace and he can justify a short price.
Hawkfield Ava lines out for McGee in the final heat and looks more than capable of completing a double for the Meath based handler.