Last night saw the remaining twelve greyhounds do battle for a spot in the final of the 2023 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial at Limerick Greyhound Stadium and although there were a few shock exits from the Classic, it was no surprise to see Graham Holland dominate as he accounted for both of the semi final winners on the night.
Indeed, after safely navigating four greyhounds through to the final of the BresBet Easter Cup last weekend at Shelbourne Park, Graham Holland will now make up 50% of the Con & Annie Kirby final next Friday night at Limerick. However, the decider remains a wide-open contest despite that statistic and representatives of all six finalists will fancy their chances at landing the €80,000 feature.
HUGE EFFORT FROM HUGO
In the opening semi final, much of the focus was on which of the Pat Buckley-trained duo of Bens Teddy and Terezas Mendoza could gain the early supremacy as they occupied the inside traps of one and two. In contrast however, it was 10/1 chance Gaytime Hugo, who would have been arguably favourite to trail the field early on, that took a flier from trap four and set his stall out early. Ryhope Beach was next to show from the striped jacket in six and Scaglietti was making fine progress from trap five, despite his efforts to get to the rail. At this point, the 5/4 favourite Bens Teddy was outpaced in the opening exchanges as Terezas Mendoza breezed past her kennel companion and with Scaglietti darting to the inner, traffic ensued with Blastoff Salah forced to check, in turn hampering Bens Teddy and effectively ending the chances of progression for both greyhounds.
As a result of the early traffic, the strong running Gaytime Hugo manufactured a healthy advantage entering the back straight as he had some three lengths in hand over Ryhope Beach, with Scaglietti a further couple of lengths back in third place. The leading trio were strung out like ducks midway down the back and, even at this point in the race, it was clear who would make up 50% of the Kirby final next Friday night. Gaytime Hugo continued to set a relentless gallop into the third turn and he stopped the third bend sectional clock at a brisk 16.00, with Ryhope Beach continuing to give chase in second place. Rounding the bottom two bends and Ryhope Beach was beginning to make slight inroads into the leader, however, Gaytime Hugo has bags of stamina and he was never under serious threat as he galloped out brilliantly for his owner Stephanie O’Connell. Crossing the line with two and a half lengths in hand over Ryhope Beach, who again ran an exceptional race in defeat, the time for the home-bred son of Gaytime Hawk and Gaytime Derval was a scorching 28.09. Scaglietti claimed the final qualifying position in third and he remains a leading hope in five days’ time, while the remaining trio of Terezas Mendoza, Bens Teddy and Blastoff Salah didn’t enjoy the clearest of paths but no doubt we will be hearing more from these greyhounds in the months the follow. (Sec :16.00)
TREATY HEADS A ONE-TWO FOR HOLLAND
The second semi final was a wide-open contest in the betting market as both Clonbrien Treaty and Bogger Lucky were sent off the 5/2 joint favourites.
After threatening a huge run for the majority of this Kirby renewal, Clonbrien Treaty produced that effort in the quarter finals as he romped to a 28.31 success. It was suggested on that occasion that the penny may have finally dropped for James and Muireann Murphy’s charge and this certainly looked the case as he once again pinged out from trap one last night. Bogger Lucky was next to appear from his striped berth in six but any progress he was to make in the opening yards was halted as Clonbrien Treaty drifted notably wide on the run to the turn. As a result, Bogger Lucky was forced to seek an inside passage rounding the opener with Hovex Tommy following Liam Peacock’s tracker through in third place. In behind saw Singalong Eimear miss the kick to sit fourth, while the same could be said of both Whyaye Man and Ballymac Seanie and the trio looked in big trouble rounding the opener.
Up front and Clonbrien Treaty held a lead of one and a half lengths entering the back straight from Bogger Lucky in second and in truth, both greyhounds outpaced their rivals at this point as the duo showcased their phenomenal back straight gears to go clear. Hovex Tommy continued to give chase in third and was some three lengths adrift of Bogger Lucky entering the penultimate bend but he was to step up his challenge around the bottom two turns. There was no doubt about the winner of this contest however, as Clonbrien Treaty continued to set an explosive gallop around the bottom two bends and the son of Pestana and Clonbrien Millie stopped the sectional clock at a rapid 15.88. Despite drifting wide once more on the run for home, Clonbrien Treaty was powerful in the closing stages and he crossed the line with four and a half lengths to spare over Hovex Tommy, who ran a spectacular race in behind to come through and seal a 1-2 for Graham Holland. The final qualifying position went to Liam Peacock as Bogger Lucky, who matched Clonbrien Treaty to the third turn, finished just a head further back in third place. The time was a sparkling 28.15. (Sec: 15.88)
The draw for the final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial :
T1 - CLONBRIEN TREATY (I)
T2 - HOVEX TOMMY (I)
T3 - SCAGLIETTI (I)
T4 - GAYTIME HUGO (I)
T5 - RYHOPE BEACH (M)
T6 - BOGGER LUCKY (M)
DYNAMO EXCELS IN SEAN O’CONNOR SEMIS
The supporting act on the card was the semi finals of the €5,000 to the winner Sean O’Connor Memorial A1 525 and Kells Dynamo bounced back from defeat last time out to go quickest.
Trained by Thomas Leahy for Seamus Martin, Kells Dynamo was reeled in late by As I Say last time out but the fawn was to exact revenge on said rival last night. Running from trap four, the 2/1 chance took an absolute flier from the middle berth and he easily led his rivals into the opening corner. Some traffic in behind saw As I Say recover well from a bump to go second but he had some five lengths to bridge entering the back straight. Kells Dynamo was really motoring at this point and the son of Crash and Physical Power wasn’t to be denied on this occasion as despite the best efforts of As I Say, he emerged a two length winner over his foe. The time was 28.50 with Ballymac Samuel also booking his spot in the final back in third.
The opening semi final saw Old Bill, a full brother to last year’s Kirby winner and recent Easter Cup champion, Swords Rex, make it back-to-back wins.
Old Bill is renowned for his big finishes so it was perhaps a little surprising to see the 4/1 shot lead early from trap four. Bernadette Hogan’s tracker was tapped for a bit of early speed on the run-up however, and as a result it was Una Maachina who took advantage of a plumb draw on the fence to go clear into the back. However, Old Bill was far from finished in this contest and the son of Droopys Sydney and Starry Display produced his customary bug finish to storm up the home straight and win comfortably. The time was a fast 28.67 with Kilcolgan Zeus claiming second, and Una Maachina landing the third and final qualifying position.
LIMERICK & CLARE GOBA SEMIS
In the semi finals of the Limerick & Clare GOBA A3 525, it was Glorious Best who built on his second place finish last time out with a fine performance for Pat O’Connell.
Jointly owned by John Lyons and Donal O’Carroll, Glorious Best followed home the impressive Velvet Berlin last weekend and as a result he was installed as the 5/4 favourite to come out on top of this contest. Running from trap one, he didn’t come away at all well from his inside berth and he occupied the rear positions early doors. However, after nipping through to go third entering the back straight, the son of Ballymac Best and Ballydoyle Peach motored down the far side to breeze past his rivals and take command. In full flow at this point, Glorious Best was simply that as he flew up the home straight to win by five and a half lengths from Curraghmorestar in second. The time was 28.79 as Ballymartin Rory claimed the final qualifying spot in third.
In the second semi final, Not today sprung a 10/1 shock as he too finished with a bang to land the spoils.
Owned by Michael Ryan, Not Today fell from traps to sit last entering the opening corner and he looked to have an insurmountable task ahead of him to even secure qualification. Not even in camera shot down the far side, this didn’t discourage the son of Magical Bale and Ruling Jasmine as he upped the ante around the bottom two bends before producing an incredible finish. Crossing the line with a head in hand over Portdrine Magic, it was just a neck further back to the third qualifier Ballygibba Same. The time was 28.99.
ED RETURNS IN STYLE
Prior to racing, the reigning St. Leger champion and recent Cesarewitch winner, Bobsleigh Dream, recorded a brilliant 28.11 and her kennel companion Ballinabola Ed was equally impressive in his first race of 2023.
Installed as the hot 4/6 favourite, Ballinabola Ed had recorded an exceptional 28.10 in a trial, which had outlined his well-being ahead of his first race of the year, and he was on-song right from the off with a swift exit from trap four. The son of Confident Rankin and Dolls Lady quickly showed his incredible early gears to march into a six length lead over Raining Glory entering the back and he was to run to a virtual solo thereafter in coming home seven lengths clear of Romeo Hanzo in second. The time for the 550-yard trip was a rapid 29.61.