The Con & Annie Kirby Memorial may only be relatively new to the Irish calendar but it has quickly become one of the great competitions in world greyhound racing. First run in 2013, there have been eight previous renewals with Covid forcing the cancellation of the stake in 2020.
In previous years, many future stars have emerged but it’s no exaggeration to suggest that this year’s classic is the best ever. Twelve greyhounds remain in the competition and they are a very select group.
In fact, each of the remaining dozen have the potential and ability to go onto classic glory in the future. Given their relative youth and inexperience, it’s no surprise to see a few improving through the competition. Chief amongst this group is Magical Kuba.
The Pat Guilfoyle trained star was a stunning winner of his quarter final, showing new found early speed to dominate throughout before stopping the clock in a fastest of the competition 28.02. It could be the run of a greyhound just starting to find his feet. If that run can be taken at face-value, he is already amongst the very fastest in training and could be anything going forward.
Magical Kuba will again wear the stripes of six when he lines out in the opening heat. He faces more early speed this week but may have the best of the draw. The presence of rails-seeking The Other Kobe in three is a worry for Swords Rex in two.
Should that pair clash in the early yards, Deadly Showtime could emerge as the main threat to Magical Kuba. That’s not to dismiss the claims of Da Bold Freddie and Kildare. The last named is very inexperienced but is improving with each outing, while Da Bold Freddie was actually the ante-post favourite ahead of the opening round.
The second heat is no less intriguing with all six competitors expected to be stars in the coming months. Pat Buckley was unlucky enough to see his three remaining runners drawn against each other in the second heat.
Of his trio, Ballinabola Ed is fancied to go closest. A massively talented son of Confident Rankin, he is already a track record holder after setting new figures at Tralee last month, while he left Deadly Showtime standing last week on his way to a magnificent success in 28.15.
A repeat of that form would almost certainly be enough, although Scooby Prince, Droopys Edison and Crafty Kokoro will all be lying in wait should he fluff his lines. No matter semi-final results, next Friday’s decider, which will be televised live on RPGTV, should be one of the races of the year.
It’s at this time of the year that Ireland’s best and brightest start to eye up the top prize on the UK calendar, the Star Sports & TRC English Derby. This year’s classic commences just five weeks from now and Towcester will be bracing itself for a huge Irish challenge.
While many of the Kirby Memorial challengers will be making the journey, so too will many of Ireland’s more established performers. Ireland’s Dog of the Year Explosive Boy recently captured the Select Stakes at Waterford and his handler Pat Guilfoyle confirmed he would be making the journey across the Irish Sea.
That will come as a major bonus to the competition. As it happens, Explosive Boy is due to trial at Towcester on Sunday and, should he handle the circuit, is likely to establish himself as one of the favourites for Derby glory.
Back on this side of the Irish Sea, Shelbourne Park, Cork and Enniscorthy will also feature top class racing this weekend. The Puppy Oaks continues at Shelbourne Park on Saturday and Ballymac Snazzy and Maries Wedding are chosen to win their respective semi-finals.
At Curraheen Park, Cork, Flashing Willow will look to justify favouritism in the final of the Greyhound & Petworld Supersprint. He has won eight of his last nine starts and has rapidly developed into one of the very best sprinters around.
All roads lead to Enniscorthy on Sunday where the aptly named Future Champion & Michael Fortune Memorial concludes. A very talented field will chase the impressive €8,000 winner’s purse. In a race packed with early speed the opening exchanges will have a huge say on the outcome.
Roanna Scooby, Stefans Rock and Jim Be Slick can all motor into the turn but the nod goes to the hugely exciting Future Tune. He has improved with each outing through the competition, culminating in a sizzling 28.64 victory last week. If he can make a slick exit from a less than ideal draw in the stripes, he can again emerge on top.