Vans Viking went fastest in the opening round of the Bar-One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium, the Swedish-owned, Graham Holland-trained dog coming in with a 21.16 at Saturday night’s session. That beat by just one spot Crown Champ’s return 24-hours earlier.
With 48 of the 60 strong entry guaranteed a place in this weekend’s second round, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for surprises. Still, Jims Blessing, a 21.06 winner at the International meeting the previous week, was expected to go far, but was eliminated, as was Hes Smart, a stake winner at Shelbourne Park on the night of the Sporting Press Irish Oaks final.
The choicely-bred Vans Viking (Vans Escalade-Razldazl Lily), closely related to last year’s winner, Razldazl Rioga, came into the competition with a very good record, six wins and two places from nine outings. Being an inside seed, he wasn’t ideally suited by a trap six draw, but although he wasn’t very fast away he had the pace to make it to the front at the bend.
Holding his place on the outside, the two-year-old went clear, and with the others getting into a bit of bother, he was able to come home alone, almost nine lengths clear of Dromore Impact.
Crown Champ, winner of the prestigious Kelly Sprint at Harold’s Cross earlier in the season, had English Derby final third, Crokers Champ to contend with, but he saw of all challenges, finishing four-and-a-half lengths of the Haggardstown dog, Bit Of Berlin, who ran a fine race to deprive Crokers Champ of the runner-up spot.
Steely Champ, who ran a blinder to finish third in last year’s final, got her campaign off to the perfect start, Catherine Kerr’s Castleblayney-based runner finishing just over a length clear of Mesedo Black, another who figured prominently in the 2013 competition.
Last year’s consolation final winner, Junctionthirteen, opened proceedings with a smart win, and here’s one who could go places in the €20,000-to-the-winner competition.
The Boylesports.com Irish Derby trial stake also featured on Saturday night’s card, and it resulted in a hugely impressive win for the Downpatrick dog, Rocky Domain. Running from six, Damien Maginn’s charge quickly made his way on to the rails, and opening up impressively galloped the opposition into submission, winning by five-and-a-half lengths from the favourite, Swords One, in a swift 29.77.
Knockbridge’s Gerry Callan had a graded race win with Piece Of Fluff on Friday night, and on the same card, Peter Noone sent Quintessential to win for his Lordship kennel.