The crowds remain absent at greyhound racing venues throughout the country but the dogs themselves have been ensuring that interest remains high in proceedings on the track. Tonight, a number of Ireland’s very best will be in action at both Limerick and Shelbourne Park.
The feature at Shelbourne Park is the final of the , an event with a long and rich history. Paul Hennessy is very much part of the history with six previous wins in the classic and the Gowran based handler will bid for a seventh with the exceptionally talented Beach Avenue.
An immensely fast greyhound, as he displayed in the Easter Cup, finishing like a train to grab the runners-up spot, he has been at the very peak of his powers this year and is a hot favourite to come out on top in the €15,000 to the winner showpiece.
Scarcely has a greyhound been so suited to the 600yd trip at Shelbourne Park, highlighted by his latest sensational run in the semi-finals. Running clear of a top-class field, he stopped the clock in a brilliant 32.00, a time only bettered by two greyhounds in the history of Irish greyhound racing.
If repeating that form, he should again take some stopping although his task is far from straightforward with the likes of Billys Diva and Ballymac Wild to contend with. Razldazl peaky and Pierno complete the field and, while both will be available at double figure odds, they can’t be dismissed.
In fact, Pierno is likely to have a big part to play in the contest. He can really fly to the third turn and looks the most likely pace-setter. Beach Avenue does look the part, however. On current form, there are very few greyhounds that can match him, especially over the 600yd trip.
Billys Diva and Ballymac Wild are nominated as the main dangers but they will need to be at their brilliant best to upset the favourite. Whatever the outcome, it promises to be a tremendous contest with a top-class winner.
There is an incredible €80,000 on offer to the winner of the JP and Noreen McManus sponsored Con & Annie Kirby Memorial at Limerick and, as you would expect with such a prize on the line, there are some real superstars remaining ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals.
Explosive Boy put a second-round defeat behind him last week when making every inch after a flying exit to record a sizzling 28.15. His reward, an ideal draw on the fence in the opening semi final and he looks almost guaranteed to make next week’s decider.
Should he produce another of his trademark flying starts, the Pat Guilfoyle trained star will likely enter the back straight with a clear advantage, leaving his five rivals to battle it out for the remaining qualifying places.
Those that will seek to follow Explosive Boy into the decider include the well housed Benalmadena Roxy, the early paced Agent Stanley, Mallogs Marley, Bombardier and Ballymac Merlin.
The second heat won’t be as straightforward, although Singalong Sally is a hot favourite on the fence. She captured the Juvenile Classic last month and continued her progressive ways into the Kirby Memorial, winning her opening round heat and quarter final in fine style.
She stays tight to the rail throughout and looks perfectly housed in trap one. Should she make a slick exit, as she often does, the Pat Buckley trained starlet will take some catching although a couple of her rivals are noted big finishers.
De Machine and Ballymac Belvult, in particular, finish with a wet sail and, if either was to turn close, they could make a bold bid. Valegro continues to run very well, as do Luminous Light and Stonepark Leo but they will need to produce a career best display.
Singalong Sally is the safest choice but, have no doubt, plenty will be looking behind at the second bend to see how close De Machine and Ballymac Belvult are. Both the Shelbourne Park and Limerick action can be viewed live via the GRI’s pay-per-view streaming service, Talking Dogs TV.