Last season's classic form held up well in the Bexhill Eoin Corn Cuchullain, the feature event at a well-run Dundalk & Dowdallshill meeting at The Commons, Dromiskin, on Thursday and Friday last.
Victory went to Prevalence, who, while he failed to justify all the hype that surrounded his Derby challenge last February, still gave the winner, Adios Alonso, his closest call on the Wednesday morning.
Prevalence was all the rage at Dromiskin, showing at no better than evens on the first morning and being quoted at 1/4 before taking on Lucan Glory in the decider. He was never headed in the deciding course after bolting from slips, but still needed every yard of the advantage he gained immediately after being dropped by Alan Kelly.
A beaten semi-finalist in the 2010 Oaks, Lucan Glory closed with every stride from halfway, and it was by a fading half-length that the Annemarie Courtney-owned bitch failed to collar Prevalence.
It was the shortest slip of the finals, and the arguments will rage as that would have happened had the hare gone further upfield. Lucan Glory closed, and closed fast, but in each of his previous four courses Prevalance did his best work late on.
The winner, who is almost certain to make the Champion Stakes line-up in Clonmel, is owned by Carlow lady, Joan Hutton, and trained in Tipperary own by Thomas Donovan. He was nominated by Bellewstown-based Joe Dolan, who was also successful last year with Tower Cross.
Conditions at Dromiskin were perfect. The meeting had been scheduled for the previous Sunday and Monday, but fell victim of the very harsh weather. The hares gave an excellent account of themselves, but could, perhaps, have been asked to do more work, especially on the second day. There was quite a number of straight runs over the two days.
The Kilnaleck, Co Cavan, boys were in full voice as Chancey Soprano raced to a convincing victory in the Derby Trial Stake. This Trajectory May pup runs for the Three Chancers Syndicate, comprising Michael Lyng, Francie Walsh and Brian Walsh, with the latter taking charge of the training.
The fawn's task on the last day was made easier by his semi-final opponent, Cantalach Cocaim, having to be withdrawn, injured. In the other semi-final, Barbers Mac, running for Drogheda's Eamon Kierans, proved three lengths too good for Brian and Laurence Jones' Hululu.
Chancery Soprano always had the call in the final, showing ahead from slips and opening up well to score a four-length win.
The Reserve Oaks Trial Stake, run in memory of Dublin's Paddy 'Catunda' Byrne, whose kennel enjoyed outstanding success at this meeting in the past, went to Lils Lady, a homebred daughter of Janey MacAroo and Lils Glory.
The aforementioned Laurence Jones, from Carrickmacross, and Ronan McAnulty share ownership of the January brindle, who, figuring at five on the reserve panel, has more than an outside chance of making the Oaks line-up.
Joint-owner McAnulty, whose Bessbrook-based father, Maurice, trains the bitch, is living in Australia, but each year comes home for a month or so, his visit always planned to coincide with the Clonmel festival. He'll have a greyhound on tow for his trip southwards this time, and is hopeful of raising a flag or two, if not in the Oaks, then the subsidiary stake.
There was rejoicing among club members when one of their colleagues, Niall O'Donnell, senior, won the Johnny Heeney Workers' Stake with Bit View Spunk. This Top Honcho bitch is Tipperary-bred, just like her owner, who thought it couldn't get any better in 2010 when the county hurlers triumphed at Croke Park in early September.
What could we do but believe him when he said this win was better. He's had many runners at Dromiskin, including Irishtown Magic, who reached an Oaks trial Stake final. This was his first winner, however - and it would be disappointing to hear the success wasn't celebrated in style somewhere in the Castletown area of Dundalk.
Niall said he was particularly glad to break his duck in this competition, as it commemorated a long-time neighbour and friend of his.
The long-established PP Coffey Cup went top King Tosca, who proved too good for Heart Of Success, owned in partnership by Ann Quinlan, Emly, Co Tipperary, and handler, Michael Heeney's daughter Eimear, in the final.
Owned by Brian Keogh, Kent, and Navan's Ian Reilly, who is well known for his exploits on the track, King Tosca is trained by Seamus Murray, who has a tremendous record at this meeting. The Duleek man figures trial stake winners among his wins there, and he's hopeful King Tosca can add to his Clonmel collection, the aim being to take in the Tubbercurry meeting.
Dromiskin's Thomas McKevitt, who admits to being more of a track man, won the Tommy Thornton Stakes with Sat Nav Needed.
And, yes, the January '08 is bred to go around four bends rather than up the field, being by Mineola Farloe ex Gootoon Trendy.
But Sat Nav Needed's performance here showed he was well capable of mixing it with - and getting the better of - the bluebloods of the field. He led up well against Paddy Farrell's Knockbridge challenger, Cnocbride Deas, in the semi-final, before proving four lengths too good for Blue Eyed Jane in the final.
Like Niall O'Donnell, owner McKevitt was scoring for the first time at the meeting.
Bexhill Eoin Corn Cuchullain: Semi-finals: Prevalence 6l bt Blueview Pines; Lucan Glory both uns bt Derryveen Disco.
Final: Joe Dolan's N/s, Mrs Joan Hutton's (Carlow) Prevalence (Cillowen Harbour-Lantern Girl) 1/2l bt Hugh Courtney's N/s, Annemarie Courtney's (Lucan) Lucan Glory (Bexhill Eoin-Ardnalee Orla).
Derby TS: Semi-finals: Barber's Mac 3l bt Hululu; Chancey Soprano bye, Cantalach Cocaim abs.
Final: Three Chancers Syndicate's (Kilnaleck) Chancey Soprano (Trajectory-Chubby's Accord) 4l bt Eamon Kierans' (Drogheda) Barber's Mac (Janey MacAroo-Long Stream).
Res Oaks TS: Semi-finals: Lil's Girl 3l bt Carolina Crystal; Isaacstown Lady 5l bt Erline Glory.
Final: Laurence Jones (Carrickmacross) and Ronan McAnulty's (Bessbrook) Lil's Pride (Janey MacAroo-Lil's Glory) 3l bt James Allen and M Begley's (Trim) Isaacstown Lady (Janey MacAroo-Slieveroe Lady).
Workers' Stake Final: Niall O'Donnell's (Dundalk) Bit View Spunk (Top Honcho-Lark Star) 3l bt Brian Larkin's (Newry) Ridgemount Lad (Crash-Nailer's Tara).
Coffey Cup: Final: Ian Reilly (Navan) and Brian Keogh's (Kent) King Tosca (Bexhill Eoin-Tosca) 6l bt Ann Quinlan (Emly) and Eimear Heeney's (Dundalk) Heart Of Roses (Bexhill Eoin-Quarrymount Val).
Thornton Stakes: Final: Thomas McKevitt's (Dundalk) Sat Nav Needed (Mineola Farloe-Gootoon Trendy) 4l bt Bertie McGuinness' (Duleek) Blue Eyed Jane (Yeah Man-Saltee Nell).
LEFT: Local man Gerry Heeney taking part in Thursday's coursing at Dromiskin