Saturday will go down as one of the best days racing of the year thus far with so many superstars in action on either side of the Irish Sea. Of course, the English Derby will continue at Towcester with the third round and the Irish will seek to continue their tremendous run of form through the classic, while on this side of the water, two major competitions will come to a conclusion.
The cream of Ireland’s female talent will be in action at Shelbourne Park on Saturday as the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks comes to a close, while Tralee will feature the final of the SIS Race of Champions.
As a nation, Ireland has a great reputation for breeding and rearing the very best greyhounds on the planet and, as a result, the Oaks has a special place on the calendar. So many of the finest bloodlines will be on show in the €25,000 to the winner decider and there seems little doubt that those in action will go on to throw some future stars when they are retired to the breeding paddocks.
The big two in the betting are Billys Diva and Front Amani. The pair were both triumphant in their respective semi-finals and are amongst the very fastest trackers in training, male or female. So much will depend on the opening exchanges but it seems likely Susie Sapphire will dictate the pace from an ideal draw on the fence.
The youngster of the six finalists, Susie Sapphire, who won’t be two years of age until November, is blessed with massive early speed although she isn’t as strong as many of her rivals. That strength may well come in the future but whether she can hold off the likes of Billys Diva, Scoooby Princess, Ballydoyle Rossa or Front Amani were they to get loose in behind her seems unlikely.
Instead, it may come down to which of the remaining competitors can get first run at Susie Sapphire. With that in mind, Billys Diva may well be the one to follow. Already a finalist in the National Puppy Stake, the Easter Cup and Shelbourne Open 600, the brilliant daughter of Good News is certainly due a big race success. She gets the nod over Front Amani and Susie Sapphire.
Tralee’s action is certainly headlined by the final of the SIS Race of Champions. Following his recent produce Stakes victory, Explosive Boy will seek to claim his second big prize in as many weeks. The Pat Guilfoyle trained star really is a special talent and his semi-final display was evidence of the fact.
Not only did he see off a top-class field with consummate ease, but he also smashed the existing track record. Remarkably, it was his first start over 550yds and he is now a red-hot favourite to win Saturday’s €15,000 as well as establishing himself as one of the leading fancies for Irish Derby glory later in the year.
That’s not to say he will have things all his own way this evening. Drawn in five, Explosive Boy will need to do everything right with early paced speedster Deadly Samuri drawn on his imme3diate inner, while impressive semi-final winner Ballymac Merlin also looks destined for great things in the future.
Both the Oaks and Race of Champions can be viewed live on Greyhound Racing Ireland’s streaming service Talking Dogs TV, which is available at half price this weekend.
Across the Irish Sea, for the first time in the competition, all the remaining competitors will be in action on the same night in the third round of the English Derby. Ireland are responsible for seventeen of the forty eight competitors and, thankfully, they have been spread out over the eight heats.
In fact, depending on market moves, the Irish could provide the favourite in as many as six of the eight heats. With the field halved to twenty-four competitors this evening, it is hoped that Ireland could be responsible for almost half of the qualifiers.
In terms of numbers the UK certainly do have the advantage but the strength of the Irish challenge remains hugely impressive. In fact twelve of the top twenty one in the betting are Irish. They are Native Maestro, Newinn Session, Knocknaboul Syd, Ballymac Fairone, Ballymac Wild, Ballymac Ariel, Ballymac Kingdom, Beach Avenue, De Machine, Unlock Unlock, Toolmaker Sydney and the defending champion Deerjet Sydney.
With a little luck the vast majority of those named will be in the draw for the quarter finals as Ireland chases a third English Derby success in a row and a fourth in six years. Best of luck to all involved.