This evening’s opening round of the RCETS Gold Cup at Shelbourne Park marks the real start to the greyhound racing year. In terms of racing action, the year seems to be getting longer with feature events running right up to the end of December.
In fact, this year’s Winter Racing Festival is penciled in for December 30th, meaning the very best of Ireland’s canine talent could be on the go longer than normal. Whether many of those in action this evening in the Gold Cup will be at the Winter Racing Festival has to be seen but, there seems no doubt, the traditional early season showpiece will provide some superb racing.
After winning both the Irish Sprint Cup and Kingdom Derby in 2021, Good Cody heads the betting. A greyhound with massive ability, he is clearly amongst the best in training but his record at Shelbourne Park doesn’t make terrific reading.
In fact, in his only two starts at the famous venue, he failed to make the frame on either occasion. That can probably be put down to bad luck but, until he does open his account in Dublin, it will remain a concern.
He will be fancied to come home in front this evening although his assignment is far from easy as he takes on some hugely talented rivals including the Leger champion Ballymac Merlin. Knight Tornado is also an exceptionally fast greyhound when things click, while the remainder of the field, which includes Beach Avenue, Coolavanny Blaze and Boylesportsbingo, is also top class.
Th Pat Guilfoyle trained Good Cody gets the nod but be wary that he needs to come away racing from the inside box.
One man that certainly has the firepower to go close in the Gold Cup is young Mark O’Donovan. He has three runners in the competition and all three are amongst the best in training. Serene Ace, Skywalker Barry and Skywalker Angie are all prominent in the ante-post lists and look certain to start favourite for their respective heats.
Serene Ace was beaten favourite in the Juvenile Derby last year but has been in great form in recent weeks, capturing the RCETS Open Sprint at Shelbourne Park. He is ideally housed on the fence in Heat 6 and looks likely to go to the front early. Coom Leo, Ballymac Kingdom, Corbrack Prince, Matts Rocket and Priceless Jet complete a wonderful line-up but an early advantage could make the difference for Serene Ace.
Skywalker Angie was a hot favourite to land the Christmas Oaks when last seen but a missed kick and early traffic ended her hopes. She is selected to get back to winning ways in the penultimate heat at the expense of the hugely talented duo of Ballymore Border and Droopys Optimum.
Skywalker Barry has long been a star for his connections and he gets the nod in the final heat. The former Juvenile Derby and Select Stakes winner can turn close before outstaying Zoom from the third turn.
Sunday’s action is highlighted by the second round of the Rural Kennels ON2 525 at Clonmel. As promised last week, a number of potential stars emerged in the opening round and it will be intriguing to see how they progress over the coming months.
Before then, expect some fine performances on Sunday. Of those that really caught the eye last weekend, Silverhill Frank was perhaps the most impressive. He lines out in Heat 4 and can get the better of his kennel companion Swords Rex, who actually set the standard in the opening round.
Another that appeals is Emers Spike. He displayed huge early speed after an early bump last week and looks a really bright prospect for JJ Dunne and 2021 Derby winning handler Owen McKenna. Have no doubt, there will be plenty of improved performances from last week and a few more potential stars could yet emerge.