Winning connections of Ardnasool Jet at the presentation of the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk Stadium last year. (Pic: Dundalk Stadium)
Derby-winning County Kerry owner-trainer Liam Dowling’s quest for major honours takes him the length and breadth of the country. He’s based in Ballymacelligott, and whenever he has a runner at Dundalk, he or his representatives have an all-round nine-hour journey to take.
Runners carrying the famous Ballymac prefix have featured on Dundalk cards over the last number of weeks, and on Friday night last one of them, Ballymac Reece, got among the winners, while his very inexperienced kennelmate, Ballymac Maxwell, was noted making late progress to take a runner-up spot behind the impressive Grangeview Ten.
Expect to see this pair and many others from the Dowling kennel in the line-up for the 2020 Bar One Irish Sprint Cup, which gets off to a start this weekend with heats on both Friday and Saturday nights. This is a Classic the Kerryman has yet to put his name on, while the track’s International has also eluded him.
Dowling will have another year to wait before he can end his International drought – it doesn’t feature on this season’s coronavirus-hit programme – but he should make a bold bid for Sprint honours, the aforementioned ‘Maxwell’ the one who could head the team’s challenge.
This lad was having only his second outing having won on his debut at Cork when he went to traps on Friday night. A poor break put the son of Ballymac Best on the back foot, but he showed good pace to the opening corner, and after avoiding a minor collision stayed on really well to get to within two- and-three-quarter lengths of the Patrick Guilfoyle-trained 21.09 winner Grangeview Ten.
Guilfoyle, who has a fine Dundalk record, numbering dual International scorer, Definate Opinion, among his big-race winners, has a worthy representative in the experienced Grangeview.
Another of Friday night’s winners to put himself in the Sprint Cup shop window was Swanley Bale. John ‘Ginger’ McGee, who sent out the 2009 winner, Inny Blue, trains this lad for London owner, John Edwards. Baulked on his June 26 outing, Swanley enjoyed the clearest of runs to win handsomely in 21.05, just one spot slower than the season’s best returned by Buttsy’s Bengal a week earlier.
In a most difficult year for greyhound racing – and, indeed, all sports – the Sprint Cup could provide a much-needed boost. While not finalised at the time of writing, the line-up should be one of the classiest ever. Denied so many opportunities for their charges because of the lockdown, owners and trainers will be only too anxious to try their luck.
The good news is spectators will be there to see the action, and, presumably, there’ll be bookmakers there to facilitate anyone who wants to have a bet. However, access will be confined to outdoors and only a limited number will be admitted. Admission must be pre-booked – at dundalkstadium.com/booktickets.