October has been a particularly busy month for those who love their greyhound sport and there is no let up this weekend with some really significant action on offer on Saturday evening on both sides of the Irish Sea.
There are two major finals on this side of the water with the Friends & Supporters of Cork Greyhound Racing Irish Laurels at Curraheen Park and the final of the Irish Cesarewitch from Mullingar the feature, although there also be real interest in the Sporting Press Irish Oaks which gets underway at Shelbourne Park.
On the other side of the pond, the Irish are in pole position to take the English Derby with their five remaining runners amongst the top six in the betting ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals. It’s highly unlikely all five will make the decider but it’s fair to believe that at least three will progress.
The betting would suggest that kennel companions Knocknaboul Syd and Deerjet Sydney are the most likely to qualify with the Pat Buckley trained pair favourite to land their respective heats. Knocknaboul Syd has yet to see a rival in the competition and has a favourable draw in a red-hot opening heat.
Drawn in four, he should have room to race in the early yards, although will still need to be at his sharpest in a contest where his compatriot Coolavanny Chick and the UK’s best hope Southwood Jet stand out as obvious dangers.
Ireland’s other hope in this contest is Ballydoyle Valor, and while he seems unlikely to set the pace, he won’t be far away if avoiding traffic. His connections would certainly settle for third if it were offered now.
The main talking point in the second heat is the draw of both Deerjet Sydney and Wolfe. The only two Irish trained runners in the contest, both will need to be at their very sharpest with the live prospect of the pair clashing in the early yards.
Deerjet Sydney races from four and will dive inwards early which could cause Wolfe, drawn in three, a major headache. Hopefully, they can avoid each other before going on to book their place in next week’s showpiece.
At home the final of the Laurels is very much the standout contest of the weekend. Boasting a winner’s purse of €30,000, the southern classic has provided some exceptional racing and real drama in recent weeks.
The drama came thick and fast in the semis. The opening heat was a straightforward affair with Runningta Seeya, Blastoff Fire and Witches Ethiopia always first, second and third, but the second heat was a far different story.
The big two in the outright betting since the opening round draw, Grangeview Ten and Brodys Magic, had a great tussle and ended up costing each other valuable momentum at the third turn. This left the ever-green warrior, Ballymac Anton to come through to score. Brodys Magic was second but the battle for the third qualifying spot dragged into this week.
With the judge unable to separate Grangeview Ten and the big finisher Droopys Hamish, the pair were due to run off for a place in the decider on Tuesday. That never transpired, however, with Grangeview Ten pulled out.
It means that we have our six finalists ahead of Saturday’s decider and the draw could again have a major bearing on the outcome. Brodys Magic and Runninta Seeya head the betting with the latter certainly better housed in trap two.
Brodys Magic is housed in trap six and will aim to get across his rivals in the early yards. If doing so, he could emerge as the one to beat but he has absolutely no room for error. Ballymac Anton is another with outstanding claims, although he must turn in a handy position in a contest where there is no shortage of strong runners.
Michael Corr has three runners in the final of the Cesarewitch at Mullingar with his Derby runner-up Meenagh Miracle nominated as the one to beat in the €6,000 contest. As the sole middle seed, she is drawn in six and should have room to manoeuvre in the early yards.
That could make the difference in a race where room will be at a premium in the early exchanges. Should Meenagh Miracle get to the front it’s hard to see her surrendering her advantage.