We’re facing into another massive weekend in greyhound sport. There may not be any major finals up for decision but there is plenty on the line on both sides of the Irish Sea in the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks, the SIS Race of Champions and, of course, the Star Sports & TRC English Derby.
There were a remarkable thirteen Irish trained winners and twenty nine qualifiers in the opening round of the English Derby at Towcester. The second round gets underway on Friday and a glance through the heat betting would suggests that the Irish can expect another fruitful time of it with so many of the sixteen second round heats featuring an Irish trained favourite.
Graham Holland had a particularly good opening round, sending out six heat winners and it’s one of his stars that heads the ante-post lists. Native Maestro posted a rapid 29.10 in his opening round assignment and is now the clear favourite for outright success.
He again looks certain to take some stopping in Heat 4 where he faces the best possible draw on the fence. With Bettys Book likely to move right from trap two, Native Maestro seems certain to assert into the turn and, in that scenario, he should come home clear. Incidentally, he takes on fellow Irish trained runners Ballymac Fairone and Kameko and both seem capable of making the frame also.
As stated, so many Irish trained runners have outstanding claims in their respective heats but those that standout include Beach Avenue, Ballymac Ariel, Deerjet Sydney and Knocknaboul Syd. With any sort of luck, Irish could have as many as twenty runners in next week’s third round. Is it any wonder the sponsors, Star Sports, have Ireland at 1-4 to win the classic?
Meanwhile on Irish soil, the cream of Ireland’s female talent will be in action at Shelbourne Park on Saturday in the semi finals of the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks. It’s often said that getting to a major final is harder than actually winning it.
That could be the case in the Oaks. Both semi-finals are absolutely stacked with quality, although the make-up of the two heats couldn’t be any more different. The opening semi-final features so much power in comparison to the second heat which looks a real speed test.
Scooby Princess, Ballydoyle Rossa, Swanley Chick, Sinfonia and Razldazl Mya are all classed as strong running, powerful trackers and each of the quintet have prospects of qualification but Billys Diva is the one to beat.
Blessed with incredible pace and power, the daughter of former Derby champion Good News faces a tricky draw in five but she can force her way to the front in the early yards before emerging a good winner.
The second heat is less straightforward. Defending champion Ballymac Beanie races from trap two and is certain to be amongst the favourites but she is flanked by early speed with Highview Magnet, Susie Sapphire and Ballymac Art all certain to fly to the turn.
Things could get pretty tight on the inside of the track and this could play into the hands of brilliant quarter final winner Front Amani. She gave Ballymac Beanie a start and a beating last week, displaying massive pace from the second turn.
Whatever the result in the two semi-finals, it has been a vintage Oaks and seems likely to have a fitting final line-up next weekend.
The aptly named Race of Champions will dominate the action at Tralee on Saturday night. Boasting a whopping purse of €15,000 for just two runs, it’s no surprise to see a number of top-class names amongst the eighteen-strong field.
Skywalker Barry is already the Select Stakes and Juvenile Derby champion and he should handle the step up to 550yds in the opening heat. Expect the Mark O’Donovan trained star to get loose in the early yards before seeing off Ballymac Belvult and Amazing Alice.
Ballymac Cooper is getting on a bit but retains plenty of ability and his superior strength could prove decisive in the second heat. Buttsys Bengal can set the pace from trap three but Ballymac Cooper can pounce in the closing yards to add to his already impressive career tally.
Fresh from his Produce Stakes success last weekend, Explosive Boy can take some stopping in the last of the three heats. Blessed with stunning early dash, he can make all to win in his first crack at 550yds.
Much like the Oaks, next weekend’s final should provide a fitting conclusion to the valuable competition.