It could be that a locally-based runner will be in the mix. Brian and Laurence Jones’ Our Surprise ran another solid race in last weekend’s quarter-finals.
What a weekend of sport coming up, the really big presentations taking place in Dublin. On Saturday alone, there’s the All-Ireland final replay, top-class racing at Leopardstown, and then to round it all off, 12 of the country’s fastest greyhounds competing for a place in the final of the Boylesports Irish Derby, at Shelbourne Park.
It’s back to Croker the following day for the ladies’ All-Ireland finals; and if those travelling to see Louth playing in the programme’s opener are on the road only a matter of hours after the sun comes up, it’s because the Redettes’ junior match with Fermanagh is timed for 11:30.
This column is concentrating on what goes on at Shelbourne. The country’s richest Classic is at a crucial stage – at around 10 o’clock when all the action on the track is over, the draw will be made for final, going on the following week.
It could be that a locally-based runner will be in the mix. Brian and Laurence Jones’ Our Surprise ran another solid race in last weekend’s quarter-finals to make it through to the penultimate round, and is not without a huge chance of advancing to the €140,000-to-the-winner decider.
No joy for John Durrrigan’s Dromrich Altair. The mid-Louth tracker was slowly away, and then as he tried to make up lost ground met with trouble. But Altair’s litter-comrade, Dromrich Antares, advanced in the Michael Fortune Memorial Derby Plate semi-finals, and will be in action on Saturday night.
Our Surprise didn’t have the clearest of runs, taking a bump at the second bend. But the Carrickmacross-based dog didn’t lose momentum, and given that he’s a fine stayer, a place in the semi-finals was always on the cards. The home-bred son of Tullymurry Act and Corduff Flame – the latter a beaten finalist in the 2014 Bar-One Irish Sprint Cup final won by Crokers Champ – was closing on Murts Boher approaching the line.
The outstanding Killmacdonagh, seeking to become the first to complete the Irish Derby/Oaks double, was another who had to overcome a rough passage to go through. The Cork bitch wasn’t well away and was no closer than fifth going into the first corner.
Last year’s runner-up, Magical Bale, was comfortable in front, leading from Ballydoyle Valor going down the back; but Dundalk International title-holder, Killmacdonagh, had all of six lengths to make up on third-placed Droopys Pension. She set about her task in splendid fashion, and it was just short of the line when she got the better of Droopys. It was her first defeat in her last nine runs, but her Cork connections will be more than pleased to have her through to the semis.
On the home front, the semi-finals of the Dundalk Stadium Unraced 525 were the feature of Saturday night’s Dowdallshill card. There are few, if any, punters willing to trade at odds-on any more, and just as well - each semi had a beaten 2/7 favourite. But both Monleek Ohio and Watford Junction have made it through to the €950 final, the former running for John Downey’s Tullyallen kennel.
While Our Surprise was doing the business in Dublin, his half-brother, Gut Feeling, turned in a really eye-catching performance at the ‘Hill, winning a graded sprint in 21.12. That’s some run, especially for a dog that’s been out of action since March and having only his fifth race.
But there was an ever faster sprint run than that on Friday night. The gambled on Super Don, having his first at the track, clocked 21.10, not surprisingly winning with none of the others close by.
Since the closure of Lifford and Longford, Dundalk has been facilitating owners and trainers who raced at these two tracks, and on Friday night alone, six of the 12 winners were having their first run at Dowdallshill. It may take time for punters to sum up the relative strength of the tracks’ form.