On what is another busy weekend for those involved in greyhound racing, the undoubted highlight is the final of the Friends and Supporters of Cork Greyhound Racing Irish Laurels. The classic has often been described as the Derby of the South and it should live up to that billing on Saturday.
Curraheen Park is a wonderful place when the stands are packed and, thankfully, with the easing of restrictions on Friday, there should be a big crowd on hand for one of the great nights in Irish greyhound racing.
Of course, the dogs themselves will also play their part in making this a special occasion. After four weeks of wonderful racing, we are left with a hugely talented sextet. Five of the six runners are trained in Tipperary, while the remaining runner is training Kerry.
It is the Kerry greyhound in question that is likely to start favourite. Ballymac Fairone is bidding to hand legendary handler Liam Dowling with a first Laurels success and is certainly fast enough to do so. Although not the most consistent starter, the son of Ballymac Matt does have wonderful pace into the bend and is as fast as any greyhound in training down the back straight.
Tommy O’Donovan is double handed with One Time Only and Epic Hero. The latter handed O’Donovan a Leger title last year and how he would love to add a Laurels victory to his CV. Both O’Donovan’s runners have the pace to play a part in proceedings but need to be at their very sharpest.
One Time Only has the better chance of the pair after being handed the rails draw as a reward for his wonderful semi-final success. He may move off the fence but, in terms of giving him the best chance to triumph, he couldn’t be any better drawn.
Skywalker Barry is one of the leading fancies, although it’s worth pointing out he was a shorter price for outright success ahead of the quarter finals than he is ahead of Saturday’s decider. He suffered defeat in each of his last two starts and is facing a less than ideal draw in the trap five.
If he is to overcome his tricky draw and claim another big prize to add to his Juvenile Derby and Select Stakes successes, the Mark O’Donovan trained star needs to time his start to perfection.
Sweep The Yard is the outsider of the field and facing a poor draw in six but it would be brash to ignore his claims. He rarely finishes out of the frame and is trained by Graham Holland who has won the Laurels on our previous occasions. That said, if he is to win, he will need the gaps to arrive at the right time.
That leaves us with Droopys Good. Trained by the man of the moment, recent Derby winning handler Owen McKenna, the son of Ballybough Mike has incredible early speed and an okay draw in two.
So much will depend on the opening exchanges but it might be worth siding with Droopys Good. If he avoids a bump from One Time Only in the early yards, he is likely to get first run into the bend and, at a track like Curraheen Park that rewards early speed, could take some catching. Best of luck to all involved and hopefully they all come off safe and sound.
Incidentally, Racing Post Greyhound Television are showing the live action from Curraheen Park with the excellent Rob Catterson on hand to get all the reaction. RPGTV can be found on the Sky platform on channel 437 from 6pm. For those that can’t watch it on television, it is also live streamed at https://www.sportystuff.tv/#about or via the Racing Post’s own site https://greyhoundbet.racingpost.com/
Meanwhile in Dublin, there is a quality card featuring the opening round heats of the Puppy Oaks and a Novice 750. Expect a number of potential stars to flex their muscles in the Puppy Oaks including Magical Mary and Scooby Duchess, while there are a few really interesting runners in the Novice 750.
Generous Angel and Luna Babylon look capable of turning into really top-class stayers and should be noted while 2019 Derby runner-up Boylesports King is the most interesting of all the runners. He lines out in the stripes in Heat 2 and, while he has been lightly raced over the past two years, has shown enough in recent trials to suggest he could make a splash.
The sprinters take centre stage at Mullingar on Saturday night as the SIS Fair Warrior continues. The star of the two rounds to date was Ela Supremo and he can maintain his unbeaten record in the competition. The same can be said for defending champion Olympic Dollar.