It goes without saying, given the time of year, that there is so much happening in the greyhound racing world this weekend. From an Irish point of view there is real interest in proceedings across the Irish Sea as preparations continue at Towcester for the upcoming English Derby.
To highlight the strength of the Irish challenge for the classic, sponsors Star Sports are offering 4-9 about the winner being trained in Ireland. The sponsors have also announced a wonderful bonus of £50,000 should the English Derby champion go on to win the Irish equivalent in September.
It’s worth noting the double has never been achieved in the same year, although Toms The Best did win both events. He won the 1997 Irish Derby before going on to capture the English version the following year.
While history will confirm it is nearly an impossible double, it will add real interest to the Irish Derby should the English Derby champion turn up.
As for the early preparations for the Towcester blue riband, there were two hugely impressive Irish trained winners in the Trial Stakes earlier in the week. Beach Avenue, who has been one of the best greyhounds in training since the start of the year, came from an impossible position to score but the real headlines went to his kennel companion Priceless Jet.
Not only did the powerful son of Droopys Jet win by a wide margin for dual English Derby winning trainer Paul Hennessy, but he also posted a new track record. It certainly bodes well for the Irish challenge.
On this side of the Irish Sea, there are a number of top class events underway or getting underway in the coming days. On Friday, the Champion Open Unraced at Kilkenny, the Lee Strand 500 at Tralee and the Islandbridge Open Sprint at Shelbourne Park will continue but the real highlights come later in the weekend.
The feature of Saturday’s action, as far as monetary value is concerned, is the final of the Clona Blaze at Stud Open 525. The contest, worth €7,500 to the winner, is the feature of the racing at Curraheen Park, Cork and in-form handler Mark O’Donovan will be hoping Skywalker Barry can add another big prize to his CV.
The 2020 Juvenile Derby champion recently added to the Select Stakes at Waterford to his tally and he stands out as the one to beat at Cork. Blessed with sizzling pace to the third turn, Skywalker Barry has both the draw and the class to see off a talented field. Seomra Nate will be seen, by many, as the main danger but big finisher Hello Hammond is nominated to chase home Skywalker Barry.
The Limerick Oaks will conclude on Saturday also and Scooby Princess has understandably been installed the warm favourite despite a wider than ideal draw in six. An inside seed, she has the pace to overcome the draw and she is likely to come through in the second half of the contest to see off Azzabi and Ballymac Orna.
There will also be huge interest in the Larry O’Rourke National Produce Stakes which gets underway at Clonmel on Saturday. One of the classics, the event has been won by some truly great greyhounds in the past including last year.
Newinn Taylor, who subsequently went on to capture the Derby, was a magnificent winner of the 2020 renewal, which was run a little later in the year than normal due to the pandemic. Behind him in the final was subsequent Leger champion Epic Hero, which highlighted the strength of the competition.
This year’s Produce Stakes promises to be a vintage renewal with many of the stars of the recent Kirby Memorial lining out. Chief amongst them is Explosive Boy. Beaten favourite in the Kirby decider, the Pat Guilfoyle trained star looks made for Clonmel and, should he put his best foot forward in the coming weeks, he could be a major player.
Incidentally, Clonmel will be featured on the GRI’s streaming platform, Talking Dogs TV on Saturday night along with the action from Shelbourne Park.
Sunday is also action packed with the final of the SIS Irish Cesarewitch featuring from Mullingar. A tremendous line-up will battle it out for the €7,000 winner’s purse and Pat Guilfoyle has an outstanding chance of grabbing a fourth win in the midlands classic with both Akay Forty Seven, who is both named after and owned by Labour politician Alan Kelly, and Amazing Alice representing the Tipperary based handler.
The kennel companions race from traps one and two and have obvious claims. Amazing Alice was runner-up in the classic last year and if she can turn close to the pace her massive back straight pace could prove decisive. Ripley Lad and Rioja Smasher are others with claims.