Warm favourite gets the expected win – but only just

There were three finals at Dundalk Stadium over the weekend, and in the one on Saturday night, Monleek Empire got the widely-anticipated win, but not before giving her supporters quite a scare.

There were three finals at Dundalk Stadium over the weekend, and in the one on Saturday night, Monleek Empire got the widely-anticipated win, but not before giving her supporters quite a scare.

Available at no better than 1/4 after having routed her semi-final opponents with a superfast 21.22 run, the Drogheda runner had to dig deep to eke out a short-head win from Masters Hall, one of those she’d left a long way in her wake the previous week.

All seemed to be going to plan when Monleek rocketed from four, quickly opening up a tidy lead. But when rounding the bend she checked, and was immediately joined by Masters Hall.

The pair entered the home straight together before Masters Hall went a half-length in front. But, holding her place along the rails, Monleek Empire hit back and it was right on the line where she recovered the lead.

The nature of the race was reflected in the clock, 21.70. Second-fav, Clonrooske Bound, took the third spot. There was a surprise in one of Friday night’s deciders, Go Marcus Go winning the Ladbrokes 550 at 4/1. More than that, the Belfast dog wasn’t an intended runner, having done no better than finish fourth in the semi-finals. But with the fastest semi-final winner and probable favourite a non-runner, Marcus was slotted into the number two box

One of three winners on the card for Belfast trainer, James Hynes, Go Marcus Go trailed the early leaders early on, but made significant progress down the back. After hitting the front he went right away to score a comfortable win in a fine time of 30.19.

The other final, the You’ll Never Walk Alone 550, was won by Courtlough Arkle, the Balbriggan dog justifying favouritism. But it was close, Courtlough holding out for a photo-finish win from the Bellurgan Point runner, Hip Hop Katie, who made up a lot of ground in the second half of the race after making a slow start from the outside trap.