Saturday night is packed with classic action as the Sporting Press Online Edition Irish Oaks gets underway at Shelbourne Park, while the second round of the Larry O’Rourke National Produce Stakes continues at Clonmel.
Both competitions are amongst the most famous and historic on the calendar and should plenty in the coming weeks. Given the fact that Ireland is a national that is famous for it’s breeding and rearing of greyhounds and racehorses, both competitions are of added significance.
In fact, many breeders would suggest that winning an Oaks would be their biggest ambition in the sport. This year’s bitch classic will take some winning with so many of Ireland’s very best in the line-up including the defending champion Ballymac Beanie.
The latter, who is partly owned by leading jockey Pat Dobbs, was a brilliant winner of the classic late last year when only a raw youngster and she is, in theory, open to further improvement. That should concern her rivals as she is already a very special performer.
Of those looking to stand in her way, Billys Diva seems likely to offer the most resistance. The pair actually head the outright market at around the 6-1 mark and it’s easy to see why. They avoid each other in Saturday’s opening round but, should they avoid bad luck, they seem certain to meet in the latter stages of the competition.
Others of real note include the Puppy Oaks champion Susie Sapphire, the Limerick Oaks winner Scooby Princess, the incredibly fast Front Amani and Ballymac Art. There are twelve opening round heats in all with four to qualify from each contest so most of the big names should gain safe passage through to next weekend’s second round.
The action at Clonmel will be even more competitive as the remaining twenty-four runners bid for a place in the final twelve of the National Produce Stakes. The opening round saw numerous fine displays but the undoubted highlight was that of Deadly Destroyer.
The Karol Ramsbottom trained tracker seems to be taking giant strides forward in his career and will again take some beating in the opening heat. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat his sizzling 28.28 opening round return. Of course, his task is far from straightforward and the likes of Romeo On Fire, Vipers Buzz and Swords Maestro have to be respected.
Despite suffering defeat in the opening round, Explosive Boy is favourite for outright success but has another very tough draw to overcome. Racing from trap four, he must clear Jacob Tashadelek into the turn, a feat he couldn’t manage seven days earlier.
Explosive Boy is a real talent, however, and, if returning to his fast-starting ways, is likely to make every inch.
The two remaining heats are pretty open but a wide draw can work in favour of Billis Tudor and Agent Stanley. Both greyhounds have fine pace to the third turn and, if striking the front in the early yards, could take some catching.
The National Greyhound Awards were held remotely last Sunday and Newinn Taylor was named the Supreme Greyhound of the Year after also winning the Dog of the Year award. Liam Dowling had a night to remember, winning three awards including Brood Bitch of the Year with Cooolavanny Pet, the Future Star award with Ballymac Ariel and Stayer of the Year with Ballymac Kingdom.
After a remarkable 2020, Meenagh Miracle was named Bitch of the Year for Michael Corr, while it was no surprise to see Michael Hogan’s Grangeview Ten named Sprinter of the Year. For the second year running Droopys Jet won Stud Dog of the Year.
There were also three human awards. Sarah Hensman won the Welfare Award due to her continued efforts to rehome and look after retired greyhounds, while the Special Merit award winner was Brenda Powderly. She was a fully deserving winner given her complete devotion to greyhounds and the work she has been doing to raise the awareness of how wonderful greyhounds are as pets.
The Hall of Fame award went to GAA legend Jimmy Barry Murphy. Jimmy has been involved in greyhounds all his life and continues to be massive name in the sport. The man himself was on hand to accept his reward.
Meanwhile, preparations continue ahead of the English Derby and the Irish raiding party seems to be getting stronger all the time. A number of Ireland’s leading handlers including Graham Holland, Paul Hennessy, Liam Dowling, Brendan Matthews, Peter Cronin and last year’s winning trainer Pat Buckley are planning a raid.
Throw in a notable runner for Larry Dunne and it seems the trophy could be crossing the Irish Sea for the third year running. Many of those mentioned are travelling to the UK in the coming days with many of Ireland’s best hopes for glory in action over the next week.