It’s been a hugely eventful seven days in greyhound racing. On this side of the Irish Sea the classic action continued to come thick and fast, while at Nottingham the Irish were again dominant in the final of the English Derby.
Deerjet Sydney was the undoubted star as he provided his handler Pat Buckley with a first English Derby victory. In doing so, Buckley became just the third man in history to win a Derby in Ireland, Scotland and England.
Incredibly, for the second year running, the first three home in the decider were representing Ireland and the bookmakers seem pretty certain the trophy will be returning to these shores in 2021 with the vast majority of the top ten in the betting Irish trained.
Closer to home, the Irish St Leger at Limerick and the Sporting Press Irish Oaks at Shelbourne Park are in full flow and both events are set to provide some enthralling action this weekend.
Only 24 remain in the Oaks and it remains a red-hot competition with most of Ireland’s fastest females still involved. The undoubted stars of the two rounds to date were Ballymac Beanie, Droopys Curio and Swanley Chick and all three will be fancied to progress on Saturday.
They have had contrasting luck in the draw, however. Ballymac Beanie and Droopys Curio are drawn a little further from the fence than ideal and both will need to be at their best in their respective heats. That said, both are very special performers and likely to continue their winning ways.
Swanley Chick, in contrast, has the draw in her favour and should also continue her unbeaten path through the competition. Aside from the from the front three in the betting, the like of Roanna Bess, Miss Joss, Scooby Princess, Grangeview West, Ballymac Art, Sliabh Liag, Priceless Verona and Fabulous Belle are all amongst the best in training and, should the majority of those named make it through to next week’s semi-finals, we could be set for an incredible finish to the bitch classic.
The opening round of the Friends of Limerick St Leger served only as shadow boxing with the real action to come in the next three weeks. Ballymac Kingdom went fastest in the opening round but his kennel companion Ballymac Wild could emerge as Liam Dowling’s best chance of retaining the classic he captured with Ballymac Anton last year.
Ballymac Wild, who had been a Derby finalist in September, suffered defeat in the opening round but probably needed the outing and, if producing anything close to his best, should come home clear in the first of Saturday’s second round heats.
The aforementioned Ballymac Kingdom faces a far tougher test this week with the Graham Holland trained pair of Newinn Session and Rathcoole Fox to contend with. All three greyhounds have incredible ability but Newinn Session is potentially very special and is selected to justify his billing as the one to beat in the classic.
Things may not be as straightforward in the remaining heats although the likes of Great Name That, Priceless Jet and Black Parachute appeal in their respective assignments.
There was also exciting news delivered in recent days that Greyhound Racing Ireland will run a Winter Racing Festival over the weekend of December 4th and 5th. Of course, December 5th was due to be the Night of Stars at Shelbourne Park but, given the current lockdown, it wasn’t feasible to run the event this year.
Greyhound Racing Ireland have stepped in and launched the Winter Festival at Shelbourne Park. The festival will coincide with the final of the €15,000 IGOBF National Puppy Stakes and will feature a number of valuable one-off open races over all distances. It should provide many of Ireland’s best an opportunity to sign off the year in style and should also serve up some exceptional clashes.