There might be no Classic winners lined up for Friday night’s Boylesports Dundalk International, at the local stadium, but that’s not to say the field lacks quality. It has it in abundance, and while the home team is numerically stronger, the raiding party is not short on class.
Screen Critic was a close-up fourth behind Sidaz Jack in the English Derby final, while Sawpit Sensation lived up to his name at Coventry recently, breaking the 485 record. But, oh, how the track management would have loved it had Charlie Lister taken up their invitation to travel with the latest of his seven Wimbledon heroes. More than anything else, Charlie could have counted on the warmest of Irish welcomes, and win or lose, his champion would have received a huge reception.
Three of the home team represent kennels that have previously sent out a winner of the International; incredibly, Paul Hennessy’s is not among them. But, with Priceless Sky running for him this time, the Gowran Maestro is not without a huge chance of filling his cv’s most glaring void.
Pat Buckley, who won with Droopys Electric, has Tralee record holder, Farloe Trent, going for him; Owen McKenna (Si Senor) runs Roxholme Bully, and Francie Murray (Brush Tim, Hunday Dook, Lisglass Lass) is represented by the title-holder, Quail Hollow.
The big race is the highlight of the second part of Dundalk Stadium’s big day of sport. A top-class horse race meeting takes place in the afternoon, and it won’t be long after the last of the gallopers makes it over the line that the first batch of dogs go to traps.
Only three dogs have successfully defended their Boylesports Dundalk International crown. Farloe Melody was the first, in the early 1990s, and it was later that decade when Pa Fitzgerald twice led out Patsy Byrne’s Dynamic Fair. The most recent to do the double was Definate Opinion, beautifully turned out in 2010 and again twelve months later by Pat Guilfoyle. Among the holders to fail at the second attempt were Rugged Mick and more recently, Droopys Electric and Skywalker Queen.
Quail Hollow’s double attempt adds spice to this year’s renewal. Twelve months ago the son of Royal Impact and Girl With Guitar, owned by Castleblayney-based Kieran Lonergan, ran a blinder to win from a top-class field, which included an Irish Derby and Oaks winner, and Mildean Panther, at the time the most talked about greyhound in these islands with wins in fourteen of his sixteen races. Kieran Lonergan’s dog was lightning from traps, and after that stayed on well to win by a length from Sporting Press Oaks runner-up, Cabra Millie.
The Murray-trained runner has had no shortage of injuries in the meantime, the reason indeed for his very light twelve-month campaign. His last race, in fact, was in January when he contested a sprint at Shelbourne. But signs that trainer Francie Murray’s patient handling has paid dividends was evidenced by the 72-pounder’s smart sprint trial the weekend before last and, on Friday night, a 28.48 solo spin over the 525. That compares with the 28.38 he did in preparation for last year’s race, and with the 28.24 Roxholme Bullet recorded immediately after him on Friday night, and Priceless Sky’s 28.32. The splits for the three were almost identical.
Lack of outings may prove to be Quail Hollow’s undoing, and he is reluctantly passed over having done this column a big favour last year, going off at 4/1. As an alternative to the Castleblayney-owned runner, we’re taking Roxholme Bully to win. He looked good stretching out in his trial, and if he can get to the first bend in front, then Owen McKenna’s dog could be on his way.
Local kennels are represented in a number of finals on the card, and these, along with five opens and the big race should provide for a great night’s entertainment.