Once St Patrick’s Day passes, the Irish greyhound racing calendar tends to kick up a gear. That is certainly the case this weekend with top class racing tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, including the opening round of the Kirby Memorial from Limerick, the second round of the Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park, while the Cesarewitch draws to a conclusion at Mullingar on Sunday.
Throw in the finals of the Brownstown Tango & NTSC Open Unraced Bitch 525 and the final of the Frightful Flash Kennels McCalmont Cup this evening and it’s certainly a crazy weekend.
The JP and Noreen McManus sponsored Con & Annie Kirby Memorial was first run at Limerick in 2013 and has since become one of the most significant competitions on the calendar. Worth an incredible €80,000 to the winner, it is second only to the Derby in terms of monetary value.
This year’s renewal, which is open to 2021 whelps, will see the emergence of some superstars while others like Clona Duke are already established amongst Ireland’s best. Early market moves would suggest that Ryhope Beach and Pape Di Oro are amongst the likeliest winners.
The former was stunning in the early rounds of the Juvenile Classic, posted a rapid 28.12 around Tralee on two separate occasions. The Michael O’Donovan trained prospect has come in for strong support, indicating all is well after his elimination from the Juvenile Classic.
The son of Droopys Sydney will be a very short price to win the penultimate heat and, barring accident, should oblige in comfortable fashion.
Pape Di Oro faces a tough opening round assignment in Heat 3. The aforementioned Clona Duke will test his credentials, while Run Faster has the early speed to bother both into the turn.
Others expected to run well, confirming their standing amongst the favourites for outright glory include the lightly raced Boylesports Dazl, the powerful Bens Teddy and Terezas Mendoza. No matter the results on Saturday, it is certain there will be some incredible action through the classic ahead of the April 21st decider.
Meanwhile, in Dublin, the Bresbet Easter Cup continues at Shelbourne Park with the four quarter finals featuring many of the best and most established greyhounds in training. Derby runner-up Ballymac Finn went fastest in the opening round and is clearly a big fancy but his second-round assignment is less than straight forward with 2022 Kirby memorial champion Swords Rex to contend with. In fact, from the draw, Swords Rex is nominated to return to winning ways.
Callaway Pro Am has been introduced as favourite with the sponsors to come home in front in Heat 3. He has an ideal draw on the fence in Heat 3 and should have room to get up to full stride into the corner. That could be enough to secure success for the Owen McKenna trained star.
The opening heat is a story of two Sydneys. Galloping Sydney was a brilliant opening round scorer, showing exceptional early dash to make all but he needs to repeat that level of performance to lower the colours of Stream Of Sydney. The latter is top class and particularly strong. If he gets a clear run at Galloping Sydney, she might have too much stamina for her rival.
That leaves the final heat where Romeo Magico stands out as the one to beat. The 2022 English Derby champion has yet to win this year but has been showing signs of a return to his brilliant best. He can take charge before halfway to run out a ready winner.
The Irish Cesarewitch decider will be televised live on Sunday afternoon by the sponsors RPGTV. Magical Mary is back defending her title and has every chance of becoming the second dual winner for Pat Guilfoyle after he captured the classic with Definate Opinion in 2010 and 2011.
She is well housed in trap three and is the likely favourite but faces a worthy adversary in the form of Bobsleigh Dream. The Leger champion actually saw off Magical Mary in the semis but the draw is less favourable on Sunday.
Racing from trap four, Bobsleigh Dream will bid to get across Magical Mary in the early yards before making her way to the fence. If doing so successfully, it would need a herculean effort from one of her rivals to deny her another classic success.
Were Magical Mary and Bobsleigh Dream to clash in the early yards, it could potentially open the door for Jacktavern Bella and Killahan Sydney but the vote remains with Bobsleigh Dream to see off Magical Mary.
The highlights of tonight’s action come at Newbridge and Kilkenny. At Kilkenny, Crokers Spirit is chosen to add his name to an illustrious list of previous winners of the Frightful Flash Kennels McCalmont Cup. Meanwhile, at Newbridge, the final of the Brownstown Tango & NTSC Open Unraced Bitch 525 features a high-class line-up. Very little separates the six runners on the clock with so much depending on the start. Boylesports Coco may have been turned over at very short prices in the semis but she can return to winning ways to land the valuable prize.