Greyhounds action. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
The BoyleSports Irish Derby is entering the critical stage, the third round heats scheduled for Shelbourne Park this weekend. In there pitching with the best of them are a number of contenders who’d be familiar to Dundalk Stadium regulars.
Our Surprise, Killmacdonagh, Great Eastern, Dromrich Altair and Ballyanne Sim have all been over the Dowdallshill circuit, the first-named carrying the Brian and Laurence Jones colours, Dromrich running for John Durrigan’s mid-Louth kennel.
Trainer Kieran Lynch feared that this year’s Dundalk International winner, Killmacdonagh, might go in season, thus denying the outstanding Cork tracker a shot at history.
Prior to eclipsing one of the best-ever International fields at Dundalk on July 12, Killmacdonagh won the Sporting Press Oaks, and there too she had some great trackers in her wake.
The Oaks/International double had been achieved in the past, but still to be registered is an Oaks/Derby double. Mother Nature hasn’t intervened in the past few weeks, giving the William Hennessy-owned bitch the chance to bid for further glory. She’s going great guns.
After scoring an easy first round win, the winner of 18 of her 41 races came out on Saturday night to spreadeagle a top-class field which included last year’s Derby runner-up, Magical Bale. She showed terrific back-straight pace, and was going away from them at the line.
Later in the night, Dromrich Altair kept herself in contention by taking third behind one of the best in the famed Dowling kennel in County Kerry, Ballymac Cooper. John Durrigan is getting a great run with the well-made black who was bred by former Louth GAA referee, Michael Hughes.
Not only did Our Surprise take one of the heats at Friday night’s session, he clocked a time that has him up there with the very best. Bred by the Jones boys, and representing Laurence’s Carrickmacross base, the son of Tullymurry Act and Corduff Flame gave Martin Lanney’s Great Eastern a start, but came through to win impressively in 29.42.
Title-holder, Ballyanne Sim, who is one of a very few to lower the outstanding Ardnasool Jet’s colours in a sprint at Dundalk, took second behind Slippy Cian, once again showing exceptional pace to the opening corner.
Forty-eight runners go to traps this Saturday night, and it will then be down to the quarter-finals. The premier Classic carries a first prize of €140,000.
There was a sensational run from Goal Machine in a semi-final of a novice 400 stake at Dundalk Stadium on Saturday night. The Dungannon runner came in with a 21.02, and if not sold in the meantime - following his kennelmate, Tasty Treat, to other pastures - he’ll be unbackable in Saturday night’s final.
Ambrose Quinn’s Dromiskin kennel continues to turn out the winners, Well Brother and Tammen Paloma bringing up a weekend double – and there was a deserved win for Vivian Sands’ Blackrock challenger, Sandygrove Bruno. This lad had found one too good for him in a number of his recent races, but this time made no mistake, coming with a late run to win by just over two lengths.