Thirteen wonderful races at the most famous greyhound racing stadium on the planet, boasting huge prizemoney, featuring the very best greyhounds in training. It really is a winning formula as far as the RCÉ Winter Racing Festival at Shelbourne Park is concerned.
It all began in 2012 with the inaugural Night of Stars. Back then, the card featured eight championship races over all distances from 350yds up to 850yds. It was an immediate success and has become a must visit occasion for those that have even a passing interest in the sport.
Sadly, the Night of Stars was a victim to the pandemic amongst other factors but it was replaced by the Winter Racing Festival last year. The second festival will run over Friday and Saturday with the second night very much the main course.
The idea of eight championship races has been altered slightly with an Open Bitch 550 added to the list, meaning there are now nine races over all distances featuring the very best in the land. With the exception of the open sprint, each of the races is worth a whopping €5,000 and, with such money on the table, it’s no surprise to see an incredible entry again.
The action at the famous Ringsend venue gets underway at 7.28pm on Saturday evening and, such is the interest in the action, Racing Post Greyhound Television are showing the night live.
On a normal transmission from one of the Irish tracks there is one feature race but the very nature of the festival means that there are nine. Obviously, some are more competitive than others but, with the exception of the Open 1025, they all look incredibly hard to call.
The aforementioned marathon will see Dana Point going to traps the hottest favourite of the night. The 850yd and 1025yd record holder, she looks head and shoulders above her rivals and is expected to come home clear.
That is something that can’t be said for any other greyhound on the card, further highlighting how incredibly competitive most of the races are.
One of the races that jumps off the page is the Open 600. Each of the six runners are proven at the very highest level and it has the potential to go right down to the wire. Pierno, Russian Glory and Ballymac Wild will attempt to set the pace while Beach Avenue and Allforthebest will finish at speed. It would be no surprise if there were four dogs in contention up the home straight.
Part Blake is chosen to win the 550yd contest for Graham Holland. He looked a potential superstar through the Leger and might get the jump on his rivals from an ideal draw on the fence.
The sprint looks a hot affair but Two Amigos has sensational early speed and may be able to cut the bend a little better than his rivals rom trap five. For that reason, he is nominated to come home in front of Corbrack Prince and Ela Supremo.
As you would expect, the race to the bend will be vital in the Open 525. With the prospect of Coom Leo and Droopys Good bumping on the inside of the track, One Time Only might find himself in front into the turn. If doing so, the Laurels champion can go on to claim a first victory around Shelbourne Park.
The sole UK raider, Salacres Pippy is in action in the six bend race and can’t be dismissed given her current exceptional form. Here the last two winners of the Corn Cuchulainn, Ballymac Kingdom and Priceless Jet will look to dictate the pace, while Bockos Brandy would be a major player if returning to her best early season form.
There are some massive names in action in the two bitch races. Derby runner-up and Juvenile Classic winner Singalong Sally go head-to-head with English Oaks champion Billy Diva in the open 525. In what could be a wonderful spectacle, Billys Diva gets the nod on the back of a sizzling recent trial.
There is a similarly mouthwatering clash in the Open Bitch 550 where Juvenile Derby champion Droopys Gloss and the sensationally fast Ballymac Ariel lock horns. The pair take on some talented rivals but should go neck and neck at some point in the race which would be worth the admission alone.
That leaves us with the Open 575 which is another incredibly hot contest. Swords Maestro, Jacob Tashadelek, All About Ted, Auxerre and 2020 Leger champion Epic Hero are all amongst the best in the land and realistic claims can be made for each. Crafty Kokoro completes the field and looks a very special young talent but she may struggle to match her rivals early.
All About Ted was last seen in the Derby decider and is clearly a big player but Jacob Tashadelek gets the nod on the strength of being drawn on the right side of that rival.
The action gets underway on Saturday night at 7.28pm and it will be live on RPGTV from 6.00pm. RPGTV can be viewed on channel 437 on the sky platform or live streamed at sportystuff.tv.