Ballyhill Sub was the outstanding performer in the opening round of the Bar-One Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium.
Taking in the fifth heat at Friday night’s session, Plunket Matthews’ Newry runner won as an odds-on shot should, but few could have expected the well-made black to register a time as good as 21.08.
That has set the standard in the €20,000-to-the-winner competition, which runs until August 19. On that day Dowdallshill will be alive with the sound of galloping hooves in the afternoon, and then later in the evening a top-class greyhound programme, highlighted by the final of the country’s only short-distance Classic.
Ballyhill Sub did all you’d expect from a good sprinter. He left the traps with speed, had a clear lead making the turn, and then charged up the home straight, putting a lot of distance between himself and the rest.
A 40/1 shot in the sponsors’ long-odds betting, Ballyhill will have stiffer opposition to face, but as he showed on Friday night, he’ll be fit to hold his own.
Other good displays were turned in at the opening session by the holder, Shoemakers Lad (21.35), Blackthorn Blue (21.31) and Knockglass Billy (21.29).
Shoemakers Lad failed to impress in either of his preparatory runs at the ‘Hill, but showed here he hasn’t lost his touch. The Pat Guilfoyle-trained dog was fast into his stride, and wasn’t troubled in coming home ahead of Beiber Junkie.
Several of the leading fancies – among them the long-odds favourite, Cambushmore - were lined up in Heat 6, but all were put in the shade by Maytown Ruler, a hugely consistent performer joint-owned by Hugh Markey from Doyle Fort Grove and Newry’s Peadar Woods.
Maytown Ruler broke in front, and that was the decider. Whereas most of the others were denied a clear passage, he got a clear run and was five lengths ahead of his nearest rival at the line.
Cashen Malouda (21.24) and Holborn Mac (21.29) were best in Saturday’s time-test. Tamoshanter and Kildallon Ranger justified odds-on favouritism, but came in with only ordinary times, which was due to neither getting a clear passage.
Among the other heat-winners was Come On Lamps, running for Togher lads, Michael Doyle and Thomas Butterly. This four-year-old, better known as a 525 runner, was drawn on the rails, and he made every post a winner, finishing with a two-length advantage.
The eight heats of the second round take place on Saturday night, and it will be interesting to see how first round form holds up. Ballyhill Sub will be of particular interest.