The coming weekend promises to be one of the best of the entire year for those that enjoy greyhound sport. There really is something for everyone with Ireland’s best sprinters, stayers, established four bends trackers and the stars of the future all in action over the coming forty-eight hours.
Of course, the action at Limerick and Shelbourne Park will attract most attention. The quarter finals of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial feature at Limerick and the likely destination of the €80,000 winner’s purse remains unknown.
There were some sensational performances in the opening round a fortnight ago, but eight of the thirteen heat winners made their exit last week. The fact that the quality of the competition remains so strong is testament to the incredible strength of the original entry.
Last weekend’s eight second round heats winners will attempt to avoid a similar fate but, given the competitive nature of the four quarter finals, it’s inevitable a few will crash out. Explosive Boy recorded a sensational fastest of the competition 28.08 in the opening round, displaying devastating early speed to run away from some talented rivals.
He encountered traffic last week but, again, ran a big race in defeat and remains the favourite for outright glory. As an inside seed, a trap six draw in the opening heat is not ideal but he certainly has the raw pace and talent to overcome the draw.
The presence of the fast-starting Scarty Lad in five is a slight concern but Explosive Boy can master that rival in the early exchanges before strengthening his position in the outright betting with a comfortable victory.
The remaining heats aren’t quite as straightforward. Pat Buckley has won three of the previous eight renewals of the competition and has a strong hand in two of the quarter finals. Bombardier was one of the more impressive winners last week and looks a big player in Heat 2.
This is a red-hot affair, however, and he needs to reproduce his flying start of last weekend or else he could find himself in a battle to even qualify. Each and every runner in this contest can play a part but, if Bombardier fails to come out on top, Darbys Delight and Epic News make most appeal from the draw.
Buckley’s main hope is Singalong Sally and she is ideally housed on the fence in Heat 3. A tight railer, the Juvenile Classic winner mistimed the start last week but was a creditable second. With a better start, she could come out on top at the expense of Ballymac Ariel and Deadly Destroyer.
That leads us to another flying female in the final heat. Fabulous Azurra is one of just two unbeaten runners remaining in the stake and she puts her record on the line against some notable rivals including fellow second round scorers Agent Stanley and Stonepark Leo.
Throw in Mallogs Marley, One Time Only and Zafiro and the Graham Holland trained Fabulous Azurra needs to be at her very sharpest. That said, she looks a true professional, even at this early stage in her career, and is chosen to make every inch.
Meanwhile at Shelbourne Park, the Shelbourne 600 could serve up the two most incredible races as the final twelve battle for a place in next weekend’s €15,000 decider. The big two in the outright betting after an incredible opening round are Beach Avenue and Billys Diva.
The pair have been kept apart in Saturday’s semi finals but neither can afford any errors, however small. Beach Avenue takes on Great Name That for the second week running with Priceless Jet joining them.
Billys Diva saw off Ballydoyle Rossa and Ballymac Wild last week and will need to do so again as they clash in the second heat. Pierno, Hello Hammond and Athlacca Zette complete a tremendous field. Should six of the top eight make it through to the decider, it has the potential to be one of the great races of the year.
As stated, there is so much more on offer over the coming days. On the Shelbourne undercard on Saturday, Ireland’s best young bitches will line out in the opening round of the Shelbourne Puppy Oaks. Friday’s card at Kilkenny features the best stayers in training as they take their place in the TP Weadick Open 725, while the sprinters will flex their muscles in the second round of the Greyhound & Petworld Supersprint at Cork on Saturday.
Kilcohan Park in Waterford will be the focus of much attention on Tuesday as the semi finals of the Select Stakes, featuring a number of classic winners, should provide some real clues for the coming year.