Stonepark Leo brought the curtain down on the 2021 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial at Limerick last weekend with a display of real quality to land the €80,000 showpiece. What the future holds for the potential star is anyone’s guess but he does seem destined to challenge for major honours through the remainder of the year.
With the aforementioned Kirby Memorial, Select Stakes and Shelbourne Open 600 now done and dusted, we are facing into a quieter weekend although there is plenty still happening including at Shelbourne Park, Limerick and Curraheen Park on Saturday.
The feature in Dublin is the final of the Shelbourne Puppy Oaks and a talented line-up will battle it out for the €3,000 prize. Susie Sapphire and Front Amani won their semi-finals, albeit it in very different fashion.
The rapidly progressive Susie Sapphire shot from traps to make every inch of the running, again taking a step forward in her career. At her current rate of improvement, she could yet establish herself as one of Ireland’s best in the near future.
In contrast to her rival, Front Amani came with a withering run to win from off the pace. She has already recorded a sensational 28.11 at the famous Ringsend venue but will need the gaps to appear at the right time given her running style.
That said, this is a race that could be run to suit Front Amani. With the exception of Susie Sapphire, none of the remaining competitors fly to the turn which leaves Front Amani with a chance of turning a little closer to the pace than normal. In such circumstances, she could be hard to contain.
The ladies will also have their chance to shine in the opening round of the SIS Limerick Oaks which gets underway on Saturday. A few stand out in the field including the well-established Scooby Princess, Miss Joss, Azzabi and Right So Belle, while the younger generation are represented by the exciting Skywalker Angie, Ballymac Orna, Newinn Lisa, Magical Poppy and Clona Skye.
Of those mentioned, Scooby Princess is the proven performer and, after a brilliant 28.24 victory at Limerick last week, she is going to be hard to stop. She lines out in the penultimate heat and can get the better of some notable rivals which include Miss Joss, Newinn Lisa and Magical Poppy.
Skywalker Angie is perhaps the most interesting runner. Known as Droopys Joyful through the Brownstown Tango & NTSC Open Unraced Bitch 525 at Newbridge, she has changed hands and is now under the care of Kirby Memorial winning trainer Mark O’Donovan.
She races in the second of the four heats and is expected to develop into a real star in the coming months. If she can put her best foot forward, she will be hard to stop.
Mark O’Donovan also trains Skywalker Barry, who is one of the main fancies in the valuable Clona Blaze at Stud Open 525 which gets underway at Curraheen Park, Cork. Skywalker Barry was already the 2020 Juvenile Derby champion before racing to a superb success in the recent Select Stakes at Waterford.
It was confirmed during the week that he would not be making the journey to Towcester for the English Derby and will remain on this side of the water. His presence will come as a real boost to the Cork competition and he is expected to get off to a winning start from a favourable draw in the opening heat. Expect him to make all.
After the weekend, the SIS Irish Cesarewitch continues at Mullingar on Monday night. Akay Forty Seven and Rioja Smasher went fastest in the opening round and should again go well, but many of their rivals seem likely to step up on their latest efforts.