None of the dozen still standing in the Bar-One Racing Irish Sprint Cup has an unbeaten record in the €20,000-to-the-winner competition, but that’s not to say the two semi-finals coming up this weekend are devoid of class, or are unlikely to be anything but keenly contested. Two exciting contests in prospect with the probability that the favourite in each of them will wear the four sheet.
One of these, Crown Champ, showed a return to top form in last Friday night’s quarter-finals, coming in with a 21.05 win, while the other, another champ - English Derby finalist, Crokers – blasted from traps before easily opening his Dundalk Stadium account, clocking 21.12.
Those two runs were the highlights of a session that also witnessed a fine winning run by the Tullyallen representative, Monleek Dawn, and Corduff Flame, representing the Jones kennel in Carrickmacross, defying the odds once again to keep his interest in the competition alive.
But along with those daring deeds there was controversy. Unimpressive in the two opening rounds, Con Te Partiro at last got it right at the traps, blasting out of trap three to build a sizable lead. The Owen McKenna-trained runner was then joined on the inside by the favourite, Must Be Electric, who had lit up the second round with a scintillating 20.97 run.
Had there been betting in running, Must Be Electric would have been very short odds. However, with Con Te Partiro turning inwards, the Peter Cronin-trained runner was denied a clear run, and at the line was a half-length down.
A stewards’ inquiry was inevitable, as was their decision - a suspension for fighting for Con Te Partiro, and as a consequence, promotion for the fourth-placed Neds Opinion.
John and Rita Downey are getting a terrific run with Monleek Dawn, who, in seeing off all challengers in the second quarter-final was winning her third race on only her sixth outing. The daughter of Leeview Jet runs from two in the first semi-final, and if she again leaves the traps with speed, the youngster of the party is not without a big chance of advancing to the final.
The Jones kennel has an excellent record in this competition, having had a runner in three finals, Wayovertheodds, Gilford Lad and Black Arizona. Corduff Flame will be big odds to repeat the feat, but who knows?...the home-bred could have another surprise card to play.
Going strictly on quarter-final form, Crokers Champ looks the one to come out on top in the first of Friday night’s qualifiers. Walshes Hill and Monleek Dawn can accompany the Wexford-based runner into the decider, which is due for Sunday week, August 17.
Crown Champ will be all the rage in the second semi-final, but don’t discount Must be Electric, who would almost certainly have won had he not been interfered with in the quarter-finals. Vans Viking, chasing a third successive win last Friday night, was disappointing, but with a clear run can pick up one of the qualifying spots.
The six taken to make the final are: Crokers Champ, Walshes Hill, Monleek Dawen, Crown Champ, Must Be Electric and Van Viking.