Action from Dundalk Stadium
Ballymac Bikmike and Aulton Jet are two of the country's finest sprinters of recent years. Their strike rate is exceptional, a combined 47 wins from fifty-nine outings.
Both, however, tasted defeat in last weekend's opening round of the Bar One Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium, much to the cost of favourite-backers.
Aulton Jet (20 from 25) couldn't match the home straight pace of Cometwopass, while Ballymac Bigmike (27 from 34) was put firmly in his place by Toolmaker Rambo, going down by three-and-a-half lengths.
But it would be unwise to discount these speedsters. Both were coming back after a lay-off, the Co Clare-owned Aulton Jet not seeing race action since early April, and Ballymac,opening his title defence, having his first race in over a month.
There's a look of real class about about this year's competition. All the top Irish kennels are represented, while there are several English regulars engaged, most of them based here for the duration of the €20,000-to-the-winner competition.
Toolmaker Rambo is one of the raiders. The son of Aero Majestic was part of the Paul Young team for the recent International meeting at Dowdalshill, but since then has been housed at Owen McKenna's Co Tipperary kennel. And the well-made black looked good in lowering Ballymac Bikmike's colours, clocking a decent 21.23.
Another who impressed at Saturday night's session was Junior Jet. The Newbridge record-holder went out in the betting in the face of strong support for English challenger, Fweshfromthesesh, and South Armagh's Matts McGregor.
But there was only one dog in it, Junior Jet not only winning easily, but setting the standard with a 21.13 clock, fastest of the twelve heats.
Compliance was the smartest at Friday night's session, in the process flooring the odds laid on Milldean Gem. The Co Dublin dog, who recorded 21.18, was led out by the favourite, but had the pace to get to the front at the turn and go on from there to win comfortably.
Laurance Jones' Acantha Magic finished third to accompany his kennelmates, Heisman and Jenny's Boy into this weekend's second round.
Heisman caused a surprise, by not only beating the warm favourite, Rathnashare Champ, but in the manner in which he lowered the Francie Murray-trained dog's colours.
A 21.23 winner at the big July 12 meeting, Rathnashare looked to be on his way to another success when he led into the home straight, but he couldn't match strides with the Jones dog on the run to the line, going down by almost a length in 21.36.
The win for Jennys Boy in one of Saturday night's heats completed a terrific session for Jones' Carrickmacross kennel. Jennys was a winner at the July 12 meeting – coming home ahead of Toolmaker Rambo – and in this outing he dashed to the bend, registering a 7.07 split, before finishing almost eight lengths clear of his nearest rival.
Leading trainer, Graham Holland's two Friday night winners took up the running early on. Riverside Chip overcame a trap one draw to lead home Claire's Turbo in 21.36, and Fleetwood Lee never saw another runner, winning by just over two lengths from Concrete Jungle in a swift 21.29.
Peter Cronin was another double-scorer, the aforementioned Cometwopass and Ela Ela Genie doing the business. The former has been campaigning with a lots of success in England this season, the Gymcrack Stakes final at Kinsley figuring among his wins - while Ela Ela Genie, who came in as a reserve to register a 21.41 win, is English-owned and is another of those over here specifically for the Classic.
Bakery Lane, better known as a middle distance runner, was an easy winner for Navan trainer, Ollie Bray, recording a 7.15 split on his way to a 21.30 success.
Trap 3 turned out four of the Friday's eight winners, while there was a couple for 2, and one each for 1 and 6. Saturday night's four wins went to 1, 2, 3 and 5.