The Jones bangwagon keeps rolling, showing no signs of slowing down.
Dundalk Stadium's Bar One Irish Sprint Cup is at the semi-final stage, and among the dozen still standing – from an original entry of 72 – are the Laurence Jones-trained trio, Heisman, Jennys Boy and Acantha Magic.
More than just making up the numbers, each of the Carrickmacros challengers has a real chance of landing the sprint Classic's €20,000 prize.
Heisman not only carries an unbeaten record into Friday night's penultimate round, he has the track record - set in the second round - to his credit, and on Friday night last went faster than anything else. Jennys Boy, arguably the fastest breaker in the line-up, has a near 50% career record, while Acantha Magic dispensed with his 'reliable back-up' tag on his latest outing, leading from flag-fall to record his first win in the competition.
Also vying for the big prize is Create A Star, running for the Tullyallen husband and wife team of John and Rita Downey. This lad has yet to register a win in the competition, but he's game and in finishing runner-up to the English challenger, Fweshfromthesesh, on Friday night had a number of fancied candidates for outright honours in his wake.
The opening quarter-final was won by Concrete Jungle, the Pat Buckley-trained dog coming with a late run to pip Forest Natalee on the line, with the strongly-fancied Aulton Jet taking third but once again looking as though the 400 trip is beyond him. A time of 21.21 was the winner's fastest run to date.
Fweshfromthesesh came from a near impossible position to win his qualifier in 21.46. The two-year-old was no better than fifth turning in, but displaying huge pace got up in a crowded finish to win by a half-length from Create A Star, with Jennys Boy taking third.
Acantha Magic was the first leg of a Jones double. The son of Barefoot Bolt and Durrow Abbie, owned in partnership by his trainer and Brian Jones, made his best break in the competition to date, and that was vital. Central Cloud was a persistent challenger to the Carrick runner, and the Derry runner stayed on well to take second just over a length off the 21.39 winner.
Heisman, in the same ownership as Acantha Magic, is the only semi-finalist with an unbeaten record, and in keeping it intact, the choicely-bred black was brave as well as very fast. He ran from six and had all the others in close attendance when he reached the bend. Without breaking stride, he forced his way into a clear lead, and with the others getting into a bit of a tangle raced away to register an excellent 21.17.
Heisman, running from four, will have kennelmate, Jennys Boy, alongside in the first of the semi-finals and is almost certain to go off favourite. Aulton Villa (2) is likely to lead in the second semi-final, but may not hold the challenge of Concrete Jungle, who is improving with every run.
Create A Star, running in opposition to Heisman, is John Downey's fourth Sprint Cup semi-finalist in five years – while the Jones runners will be attempting to give their kennel a fifth finalist since the competition was first run, in 2004.
The line-up is:
First semi-final: 1 Riveraside Chip, 2 Michelito, 3 Jennys Boy, 4 Heisman, 5 Create A Star, 6 Forest Noble. Second semi-final: 1 Concrete Jungle, 2 Aulton Jet, 3 Fleetwood Lee, 4 Acantha Magic, 5 Central Cloud, 6 Fweshfromthesesh.
The four first round heats of the North East Greyhound Owners' & Breeders' Association 550 stake provided backing for the Sprint Cup quarter-finals, and top performer here was Highview Passion, winner of the opening contest in 30.22.
The Downeys provided a 30.37 winner in Monleek Seattle, and among the qualifiers fior this weekend's semi-finals were the Togher runner, Valeries Master, and Kevin Commins' Debidee Spirit.
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