Greyhound racing is entering a very important period. After a year and a half of restrictions with limited numbers, if any, allowed on track, its great to see punters finally coming through the stiles in bigger numbers.
Fittingly, the Boylesports Irish Derby decider saw the biggest crowd of the past two years a fortnight ago but that crowd could be eclipsed by that at Curraheen Park on October 23rd, the night of the Laurels decider.
There is a real air of anticipation about Laurels final night in particular. With restrictions set to ease on October 22nd, so many are looking forward to making the journey to Cork and it should make for a very special occasion.
Of course, the canine stars will also play a big part in making it a wonderful night. The Laurels commenced last weekend and, race after race, Ireland’s best greyhounds produced the goods. Derby runner-up Singalong Sally was amongst them and she looks likely to make it two wins from two starts around Cork on Saturday.
She again faces an ideal draw on the fence and looks likely to start a hot favourite for the third of the eight heats. Her kennel companion Coom Leo was also an impressive scorer in the opening round and stands out as one of the main dangers, while Skywalker Angie is another entitled to respect.
Mark O’Donovan would have been delighted with the display of Skywalker Barry last week. He posted a fastest of the round 28.19, winning by an incredible sixteen lengths in the process. He also wears the red jacket of trap one in the final heat and a repeat of his latest display would almost certainly see him emerge a comfortable winner, although Droopys Good and Rural Star can’t be ignored.
The six remaining heats feature plenty of mouthwatering clashes. Kennel companions Ballymac Fairone and Ballymac Wild clash in the opener and so much will depend on which of the duo gets first run.
Epic Hero hasn’t won a race since capturing last year’s Leger around Limerick but a return to an inside draw could see him put that right in Heat 4. Clona Skye and Droopys Sputnik are the obvious dangers.
No fewer than three opening round heat winners clash in Heat 7. Broadstrand Ryan and Epic News are both entitled to run well but Jacob Tashadelek really looked at home around Cork last week and can add to his latest success.
The quarter finals of the SIS Juvenile Derby are the feature attraction in Dublin and Serene Ace will look to light up Shelbourne Park for the third week running. The Mark O’Donovan trained star has incredible early speed and looks the one to beat in the opening quarter final.
Should he come away racing, which is his style, the son of Scolari Me Daddy can assert before the corner to see off the likes of Droopys Optimum and Barefoot Supremo.
Mark O’Donovan also has strong claims in the final heat with Coolavanny Duke bidding to bring his career tally to seven wins from seven starts. The absence of Spinosaurus from trap two should, in theory, aid his cause but it may also work in favour of Droopys Gloss. The latter posted a fastest of the competition 28.06 in the opening round before suffering defeat last week.
The remaining heats are more open affairs. Crokers Spirit is a huge talent but needs to find his trapping boots if he is to account for the likes of Droopys Soldier, Feora Chris, Feora Noel and Off The Pitch in Heat 3. Heat 2 is also wide open and picking a winner with any degree of certainty is impossible.
The Juvenile Derby isn’t the only top-class action at Shelbourne on Saturday as the RCETS Open 600 has attracted some really big names. There are no certain winners but Pierno and Beach Avenue appeal in their respective heats.