It’s that time of the year again when Irish eyes are suddenly drawn to the action across the Irish Sea with preparations underway for the 2023 Star Sports/ TRC English Derby. Of course, the Irish have an incredible record in the classic, especially in recent years with four of the last seven winners representing these shores.
Last year was the first time the Irish finally got over the line around Towcester with Romeo Magico winning for Graham Holland’s all-conquering Riverside Kennels outfit. The Golden based handler is aiming to claim a second success this year and goes into the blue riband with arguably his greatest ever team.
The aforementioned Romeo Magico is back and will attempt to defend his title but his younger kennel companions Swords Rex and Clona Duke will head Holland’s challenge. Swords Rex was one of the stars of 2022 and has returned in even greater form this year, adding the Easter Cup to his Kirby Memorial title, while he also broke the track record at Towcester in a Derby Trial Stake last weekend.
On that sort of form, he will certainly justify his position towards the head of the market. Clona Duke also won in fine style last week and is rapidly developing into one of the very best in training. Already the Juvenile Derby winner at Shelbourne Park last year, he recently won the Select Stakes at Waterford and is also towards the top of the outright betting.
Holland will also send over the likes of Romeo Hanzo, Jacktavern Bella, Cryptopunk and Ballyhimikin Leo and none of them can be ignored given their level of ability.
Other Irish trainers planning a raid include Liam Dowling, Brendan Matthews, Jack Kennelly and previous English Derby winning handlers Paul Hennessy, who won it twice with Jaytee Jet and Priceless Blake, and Dolores Ruth who won it back in 1996 with Shanless Slippy.
All in all, it should be a strong Irish challenge, certainly, far stronger than was expected this time last month. The lure of the £175,000 winner’s purse, and prospect of becoming the seventeenth Irish trained winner in the history of the classic, has clearly proven too strong.
Meanwhile, on this side of the Irish Sea, there is plenty of quality racing to look forward to. Tonight’s action includes the second round of the Champion Open Unraced 525 at Kilkenny. There were some superb opening round displays from a very promising crop of young greyhounds.
Fastest of those in action last week was Unreal Bruiser and he can follow up, as can his kennel companion Ballinakill Alf, who was perhaps the most impressive winner of the opening round. No matter the outcome this evening, there will be plenty of future stars in action.
The sprinters will have their chance to shine at Shelbourne Park as the opening round of the Islandbridge Sprint dominates Friday’s action at HQ. After being named Sprinter of the Year seven days earlier, Gizmo Cash is set to dominate in his heat, while the top-class duo of Flashing Willow and Bogger Hunter can also come home in front.
Shelbourne’s Saturday night action includes the second round of the Champion 550. There were some superb runs in the opening round, including that of the extremely fast and equally powerful Bens Teddy. He faces a tough test in the opening heat but may have too much ammunition for his rivals which include Run Faster, Borna Mick and Storys Law.
The second heat is every bit as competitive. Slight preference is for the progressive Sober Glory from an ideal draw on the fence but Belindas Finn, Priceless Cathal, and Papa Di Oro are also respected.
2022 Bitch of the Year Raha Mofo can take the world of beating in the final of the Epic Hero Limerick Oaks at Limerick on Saturday night. The Murt Leahy trained star may have suffered defeat in the semis but displayed awesome pace and power in the process.
The 2022 Irish Oaks champion can return to winning ways in some style. Expect her to break smartly before racing prominently. If doing so, she can prove too strong for a talented field to add to her already impressive career tally.