Ocees Gooners turned in a fine frontrunning performance to win the Stadium A2 final at the Dowdallshill track last Friday night for Dundalk Quayside cousins, Pascal Sage and Mark Kerr.
The P1,000-to-the-winner competition was run over three rounds, and Ocees Gooners maintained an unbeaten record throughout. He wasn’t among the leading fancies in the early stages of the competition, but put himself into the reckoning with a 29.25 semi-final run.
Drawn on the rails, the lightly-raced son of Droopys Scolari and Sparta Maggie got a 9/4 quote for the decider, while another with an unbeaten record, Canary Man, was odds-on.
The favourite gave himself no chance by being last away from traps; but Ocees Gooners was bang in contention at the opening corner, right on the tail of Princess Lottie, who was listed for duty in the opening race but got promoted to the night’s feature in the absence of Ballymac Blossom.
Occees Gooners forged to the front before turning into the back, and at one stage was three lengths clear, Lady Solerina moving into second to mount a challenge.
Lady Solerina ran a fine second half of the race, but the lead the local dog had built in the early stage was good enough to see him home by just under a length in 29.25, his best return in the competition. Drumcove Mazymac took third.
A 28.85 winner just over 12 months ago, Ocees Gooners has had his career interrupted by injury, this being only his 17th race and his sixth victory. He was out for upwards on 12 months, and his owners have not only shown patience but expertise in getting him back to competition-winning form.
The Stadium A1 525 semi-finals also featured on the card, and though there was a big difference in their winning times, Hillcroft Champ and Subway Alan were both very impressive.
They won in contrasting fashion. Hillcroft Champ had a trouble-free passage, and was being called home a winner from a long way out. But it was right on the line when Subway Alan hit the front for the first time after meeting with serious traffic problems at the third bend.
Bred in the purple, Hillcroft Champ (Royal Impact-Hillcroft Josie) was handily placed behind the fast-starting Come Back King going down the back. He dashed into the lead near the end of the straight and was a couple of lengths clear turning in. However, before claiming victory, Patrick Corrigan’s runner had to withstand a late charge from Mandys Blossom, whose comrade from the highly-promising Hondo Black-Keiles Blossom litter, Ask Tom, owned by Peter and Antoinette Norton and trained by Seamus O’Hanlon, sustained an injury early on and trailed in a long-distance last.
Just as he had done in the opening round, Subway Alan made a slow break and was well down as Tomdabarker led Pats Kingdom down the back. He made significant progress to challenge at the second-last bend, but just as he was about to hit the front, he got cut off, and turning in was all of four lengths behind Tomdabarker.
When it seemed the issue rested between Rohan Monerawela’s Tomdabarker and Pats Kingdom, Subway Alan got into overdrive once again, and in the dash for the line got up to short-head Tomdabarker, his time of 29.11 in no way reflecting the merit of his performance.
The semi-final winners will come in for serious consideration in the €1,000 final, but Mandys Blossom should not be discounted. Local owner, Colm Farrelly, has two through
The line-up (not in trap order) is: Hillcroft Champ (Patrick Corrigan, Dungannon), Mandys Blossom (Thomas and Amanda McGuirk, Balbriggan), Come Back King (Colm Farrelly, Dundalk), Subway Alan (Alan Dunne, Malahide), Tomdabarker (Rohan Monerawel, Navan), Pats Kingdom (Colm Farrelly, Dundalk).