Mark Gorman slipping the dogs at the Dundalk and Dowdallshill Coursing Club meeting at Dromiskin on St Stephen’s Day. Picture: Arthur Kinahan
Judiligence went close to replicating his success of last year in the Corn Cuchulainn, the feature event at Dundalk & Dowdallshill Coursing Club's centenary two-day Christmas meeting at The Commons, Dromiskin.
The Knockbridge-based dog reached the semi-finals, but in his bid to become the first to bring up the double in 26 years, he couldn't match strides with the favourite, Howdododo, who went on to take the coveted title, beating the Coalisland bitch, Choctaw Squaw, in the final course.
But, however disappointed he might have been with the outcome, Gerry Callan - who shares ownership of the the 2015 champion with his son, Mark - would have derived more than a modicum of compensation from the manner in which the meeting was run off.
Callan is the promoting club's chairman, and not for many years has there been a more successful gathering since the first was staged on the Green Road, 45 years ago.
Strong-running and well-trained hares gave an excellent account of themselves, most of them taking the first turn in front of the stand before leading their pursuers a merry dance as they made their way safely home.
Slipper Mark Gorman was faultless in charge of the leathers, and nearly all of the Judge, John O'Connell's decisions met with approval. The latter's job was made easier by an absence of courses with no turns.
Among the near-record attendance on the second day was Irish Coursing Club chairman, Brian Divilly, and the Galway man was lavish in his praise of what he had witnessed.
In celebration of its centenary, the promoting club restored the first prize for the Corn Cuchulainn to €4,000. The syndicate-owned Howdododo, already winner of a Cup competition at Balbriggan this season, was installed 2/1 favourite, and the Co Westmeath-trained dog wasn't troubled in winning his two opening day courses.
The son of Johnny Casanova and You're Symbolic continued to impress in the quarter and semi-finals, doing his best work at the top of the field. He was quoted at 1/5 going into the final with Choctaw Squaw, who had proven herself best among the 16 bitches in the top half.
The final was a thriller, the verdict closer than those who had supported the fav could have envisaged. The pair came away together. Choctaw stuck to her guns, looking at one point as if she might cause a surprise, but Howdododo is a stayer, and when it mattered he was a half-length clear.
There was a nice consolation prize for Choctaw Squaw, who is owned and trained by former Dundalk Stadium bookmaker, Fergal O'Donnell: as last surviving bitch she won the Paddy Carroll Memorial Cup and a €500 prize, as well as the €1,200 purse as Corn Cuchulainn runner-up. Connections hope to gain an entry to the Champion Bitch Stake at the National Meeting in addition to winning a place in the line-up for the Irish Cup at the end of the season.
Howdododo, who ran in the nomination of former Clan na Gael GFC stalwart, Barney Joe Grimes, who is now resident in the midlands, is almost certain to make the Champion Stakes field at Clonmel.
The Johnny Heeney Stake was confined to the promoting club's working members, and, as always, it created lots of interest. Danny Kerr's Blundel Zeek made it through to the final, but here came up against one too good for him, Cuine Lock, owned by the father and son partnership of Alan and Dean Watters, and trained in Clogherhead by Michael Kelly.
Bred in the purple, Cuine Lock is a son of a Derby winner, Adios Alonso and and Oakswinner, Dale Roisin.
There was another local win in the PP Coffey Cup, commemorating recently deceased club members, Paddy Arthurs sr, Peadar Hoey and Mal King. Owned, trained and bred by Martin Sharkey at his Kilkerley kennels, Fane Beequiatch beat Lowside Lark - owned by former MP, Bernadette McAliskey - in the decider.
A local treble was foiled when Niall O'Donnell's Two Gold Medals – named as a nod to Niall's one-time Clonmel mentor, Olympian Dr Pat O'Callaghan - went down to Gortmelia Wonder in the final of the Tommy Thornton Stakes. The winner hails from the Murray kennel in Duleek, which has an outstanding record at Dromiskin, listing a Corn Cuchulainn success among its achievements.
Dundalk will be represented by two Ulster runners in the Clonmel Classics. Rosskeen, owned by Gertrude Donnelly, Coalisland, won the Oaks trial stake, while Only The Lonely, the property of Caroline Deery, Newry, came out on top in a thrilling Derby Trial stake final, beating another Coalisland dog, Stowaway James, by the minimum margin.