Slippery Robert goes from trap 6 in Saturday night’s final of the ETS Irish Derby at Shelbourne Park and is not without a big chance of crediting local owner, Larry Dunne, with the €125,000 first prize.
Dunne, from Jenkinstown, had two in the semi-finals, and had he been told only one of his two could go through to the decider, probably would have given the nod to Slippery Sooty. The reason is obvious.
He has Sooty at his own kennel, which is presided over by Aidan Finnegan and his wife, Anne-Marie, and nothing would have pleased him more than to have his team involved in the biggest race on the biggest night in Irish greyhound racing.
But in the absence of Sooty, Dunne, one of the most feared men in the betting ring, will be happy to be represented by a dog he bred himself. Slippery Robert is in the care of young Co Kildare trainer, Robert Gleeson, and in reaching the decider has run a succession of fine races.
The son of Hondo Black and Steamy Windows finished second behind Tyrur Sugar Ray in the semi-finals, and prior to that had a couple of good runs in races won by the flying Kereight King.
Kereight was unbeaten going into the semi-finals, but struggled to take third in the race won by Cabra Buck. The explanation for this less than impressive run came when, in a post-race examination, the Co Wicklow-based dog was found to have shattered a toe, and as a consequence will not be taking his place in the decider.
Though he wouldn’t want it that way, Larry Dunne’s chances of taking the premier classic are greatly improved by the absence of Kereight. Slippery Robert will have Cabra Buck on his immediate inside, while the two big guns, Ballymac Vic and Tyrur Sugar Ray – who was a runner in last year’s final – are alongside each other on the inside, the Kerry dog, Ballymac, wearing the red sheet. The five-dog field is completed by Carrowgariff, who was 150/1 for outright honours going into the semi-finals.
The race, timed for around 9.15pm, goes out live on RTE television.
Local owners, Pat Duffy and Harry Lawrence, had their own Derby night last weekend. They had two runners on Dundalk’s Saturday’s card and scored with both, Lonestar Blue going in at 7/2 in a 525 and Tullna Amy, a 3/1 chance, taking the concluding race over the 550.
The dogs are based at Duffy’s Haggardstown kennel, which has been most consistent in the number of winners it has sent out over the years.
Another local establishment which knows a thing or two about getting them ready is Colm Farrelly’s at Hackballscross. Pats Kingdom is one its current stars, and in also winning on Saturday’s card, the home-bred brought her tally to thirteen. A kennelmate, Pats Rumble, was successful at Dowdallshill 24 hours earlier.
Peter Noone was also on the mark on Saturday night, winning with Valeries Angel, the Co Meath-owned bitch scoring by almost seven lengths in the night’s fastest time for the 525, 28.92.