This Friday night’s final of the Johnny McArdle Memorial 550 at Dundalk Stadium has a couple of interesting sub-plots.
Three of the finalists are based in north County Dublin, while another two are housed close to each other in Castleblayney. It all makes for a very interesting decider, which carries a first prize of €1,100.
Balbriggan-based trainer, Anthony Rooney, has the John Clinton-owned Courtlough Megan going for him, and having recorded the faster of the two semi-final times, this lad is likely to be among the favourites. The Sean Browne-bred is not inconvenienced by a trap three draw.
Courtlough battled bravely in front having taken up the running going into the back straight. Sky Blues Boy was her nearest challenger for almost the entire journey, and James McCorry’s charge, the only cross-border runner to make the decider, stayed on well to hold second, one and a half lengths off the 30.31 winner.
Des and Marie Gilbert’s Maggies Chips was back in third, and like Courtlough Megan will be flying the flag for Skerries in the decider.
This pair will be joined by another used to breathing the sea air, Netherville Hawk. Michael Kearns’ bitch came in as a replacement for Quarterland Mary, and was right on the premises at the finish, a length off Cheyenne Chief, whose front-running tactics were too much for the rest in the opening semi-final.
Owned by his breeder, Castleblayney’s Kieran Lonergan, Cheyenne Chief took a flier from the inside and at one stage in the back had four lengths on Ni Dar, who is trained for Rathcoffey’s Donal Moloney by Lonergan’s long-time friends and neighbours, Joe and Catherine Kerr.
The gap closed rapidly in the home straight, but the classically-bred Cheyenne Chief had enough in reserve to make it home with a half-length to spare in 30.47. Netherville Hawk, a further half-length back, was another fast finisher.
As always, the break will be important in the decider, and should Cheyenne Chief come away as fast as he did last Saturday night, then he can build a winning lead. But for those who rely on the clock, Courtlough Megan has most going for her. She’s fastest of the sextet, and is well placed in trap three. She could be the one.
The line-up for the final is - 22: Ni Dar (Hondo Black-Salleo) Owner: Donal Coffey, Rathcoffey; trainer: Catherine Kerr, Castleblayney; 43: Maggies Chips (Crash-Tyrur Holly) Owner: Des Gilbert, Skerries; trainer: Marie Gilbert, Skerries; 21: Courtlough Megan (Head Bound-Rockcliffe Megan) Owner: John Clinton, Skerries; trainer: Anthony Rooney, Balbriggan; 53: Netherville Hawk (Westmead Hawk-Fois Gras) Owner/trainer: Michael Kearns, Balbriggan; 41: Cheyenne Chief (Hondo Black-Girl With Guitar) Owner/trainer: Kieran Lonergan, Castleblayney; 32: Sky Blues Boy (Ace Hi Rumble-Dooey Lemon) Owner: Sean Paul Smyth, Portaferry; trainer: James McCorry.
Saturday night’s meeting was the only one of the weekend, and its graded section threw up a couple of winners from around these parts. Paddy Kerr won a sprint with Banshee Tom, the Quay dog making a flying start from three and leading all the way for a comfortable win.
Then, as competition hotted up and times got faster, Swift Iniesta lived up to his name, the Clogherhead-based dog, trained by Craig Kelly, returning a superb 28.60 for the 525 after leading for the entire journey.