Given the quality on show, it was inevitable there would plenty of drama in the semi-finals of the Bresbet Easter Cup at Shelbourne Park on Saturday night.
With the rain falling persistently through the day, but thankfully easing for the racing, the track was running on the slow side but it failed to stop Swords Rex and Bockos Crystal from proving Graham Holland with an incredible double in the two heats.
REX BACK TO WINNING WAYS IN STYLE
Swords Rex was first into action and he clearly meant business.
After two defeats, the brilliant Kirby Memorial champion was prominent into the turn alongside his big market rivals Romeo Magico and Ballymac Finn.
English Derby hero Romeo Magico seemed to have the inside line and was odds-on to turn in front but this wasn’t the case. Swords Rex really drove the bend and worried his kennel companion out of it.
This was the decisive moment in the contest. Romeo Magico slipped around second with Ballymac Finn third but neither could get back on terms. Barbara Lowndes’ Swords Rex quickly moved on by three lengths and, despite checking slightly on the third turn, maintained his advantage around the last two bends.
By this point, only Romeo Magico was close enough to challenge. Swords Rex was never going to surrender his lead, however, and the brilliant son of Droopys Sydney and Starry Display stayed on to contain the gallant Romeo Magico by a length in 30.39 (.60 slow).
There was also drama in behind with Ballymac Finn tiring from the third turn, allowing both Toolmaker Wilde and Allforthebest to come through. The pair flashed past the post locked in battle with the judge forced to declare the third qualifier. Toolmaker Wilde just got the nod by a short head, some two lengths behind Romeo Magico.
CRYSTAL GETS LOOSE AND DOMINATES
Sadly, the second heat was a messy affair although Bockos Crystal emerged a superb winner, once again confirming her standing as one of the best in training as she posted a fastest of the round 30.22 (.60 slow).
Stream Of Sydney actually broke fastest but couldn’t contain Bockos Crystal into the turn. Disco Pants also went up fast in the stripes, while Galloping Sydney missed the kick before charging into the turn.
It was clear something had to give. With the inside line in her favour, Bockos Crystal skipped around in front. Unfortunately, the remainder of the field encountered traffic. Stream Of Sydney and Capitan Garfio came out of it worst with Galloping Sydney turning closest to his kennel companion in second.
He was never close enough to land a glove on the leader, however, and actually faded quite notably on the run in to surrender second. Meanwhile, the powerful Bockos Crystal was bounding further and further clear.
Trinity Junior came through for second, passing the tiring Galloping Sydney on the run in but Bockos Crystal was in a different post code. The daughter of Droopys Sydney and Vigorous Hillary hit the line thirteen lengths to the good in 30.22. The battle for third again went to the wire. Galloping Sydney really was running low on petrol and Disco Pants, after early traffic, was now in full stride. The line came in time for Galloping Sydney as he held off Disco pants by a head, a length and a half behind Trinity Junior.
MAGIC MARINO REALLY IMPRESSES
The undoubted star of the undercard was Juvenile Classic winner Ballymac Marino as he made a successful Shelbourne debut in the finale.
This wasn’t just an impressive performance but one that sent out a clear message that he is a superstar in waiting.
Ballymac Marino broke smartly and disputed the lead into the turn alongside Cryptopunk, who won both the consolation Laurels and consolation Derby, and Tommy Too Many. Cryptopunk had the inside line allowing him turn in front but Ballymac Marino was immediately in chase.
The son of Vulturi and Jamaica Joy had shown in the Juvenile Classic that he was blessed with both pace and real strength and these traits were on show on this occasion. Moving through the gears down the back straight, he moved upsides Cryptopunk into the third turn before asserting.
Staying on strongly over the 550yd Derby trip, the hugely talented youngster eased clear to win by three lengths in 30.32 (.60 slow). Cryptopunk was second.
HUKUM GOING THE RIGHT WAY
Adam Dunford is becoming very adept at bringing dogs to Shelbourne Park and leaving with the winner’s purse.
That was again the case in the the A1 third race as the rapidly progressive and exiting Hukum came home clear despite only striking the front in the second half of the contest.
The aptly named Mr Big John set the pace in the early stages but he was always under pressure once Hukum turned close to the pace. Despite being forced to check at the third turn, Hukum got going again to lead off the final turn.
Once moving to the front, the powerful son of Good News and Early Rise, who is owned by the Fantasy Syndicate, flew home to eventually see off another big finisher, Chelms Frankie by four and a half lengths in 29.27 (.60 slow).
UNMATCED LIVES UP TO HER NAME
The well-bred Unmatched made light work of her task in the opening heat of the GRI A1 525, making every inch after a fast start to come home clear.
Trained by Johnny Linehan for the Swipe Right Syndicate, the daughter of Droopys Sydney and former star Droopys Alice was always in complete control.
Paradise Biko did stay on strongly for second but was no match for Unmated who emerged a facile five and a half length winner in 29.29 (rated .60 slow).
TREMENS TOO SHARP
The second heat saw the Tiny Pharma Syndicate owned Delirium Tremens return to winning ways after suffered defeat when favourite to land the McCalmont Cup at Kilkenny in his latest outing.
Although far from the fastest into stride, the Murt Leahy trained son of Ballymac Eske and Knockdrinna Miss flew into the corner to assert before the bend. By halfway, he was in control and went on to claim a twelfth career victory by a length from the staying on Lough Mistoki in 29.44 (.60 slow).
FUDGE ALWAYS IN CHARGE
There was a rare 600yd contest on the card and Swords Fudge confirmed his position at the head of the betting with a trap to line success, completing a double for his owner Barbara Lowndes and completing a wonderful hat trick for Graham Holland.
This was all very straight forward for the son of Lenson Bocko and Riverside Honey. Making a fast start from two, he was soon in control, leading by three lengths into the back straight. Kilgraney Clang gave chase throughout and did close to the third turn and home but was never getting to the leader. Swords Fudge went on to score by a half-length in 33.55 (.60 slow).
NOTHING LUCKY ABOUT GIFT’S SUCCESS
A Lucky Gift set the standard when coming home fastest to win the final heat in 29.22 (.60 slow).
Jerry Melia’s son of Ballymac Eske and Julies Paradise is exceptionally strong and, when turning a close second to Sophies Amber, was always going to be hard to contain.
Moving closer as they hit the third turn, he was too strong on the run in and took charge before easing clear to score by an ever-widening five and a half lengths.
After being picked up late in two of his three previous outings, Killinure King recaptured his winning habit in the A2 ninth race.
Leading early, the Thomas Buggy trained son of Ballymac Best and Ballydoyle Grace got loose into the turn and was never headed thereafter.
Montana Fantasy came with a rush into the third turn to threaten briefly but her challenge petered out on the run in. Instead, Killinure King stayed on to score for his owners, the Murphy-Murray Syndicate, by three and a half lengths in 29.49 (rated .60 slow).
CUTEY HOLDS ON AFTER SLIPPING CLEAR
Burgess Cutey broke fastest and found himself clear of his rivals after an opening bend scrimmage in the second race.
He needed every inch of his lead, however, as Ringthemoon ran on strongly to push him in the closing yards.
Burgess Cutey was upwards of five lengths clear for Sheila Spillane and JJ Fennelly into the back straight but Ringthemoon closed the gap quickly on the run in. the line came in time for the son of Burgess Bucks and Droopys Cutey as he held on to score by a half length in 29.46 (.60 slow).
BELL ON THE MARK FOR THIRD TIME
Sean Leahy and Thomas Norton have a nice type on their hands in the form of Black Bell and she brought her career tally to three wins from four starts in the A2 opener, making virtually all to come home clear.
The daughter of Droopys Sydney and An Cailin Alainn led up the inside of the track and despite taking a bump on the turn, continued to dictate into the back straight. Despite the best efforts of those in behind, including Comets Allegro who ran on strongly for second, Black Bell went on to score by two lengths in 29.86 (.60 slow).
BRESBET EASTER CUP - FINAL DRAW
And so, the stage is set for the final of the Bresbet Easter Cup.
For over a decade, Graham Holland has been breaking records and so it shouldn’t be a shock that he will account for four of the six finalists, but it makes the achievement no less extraordinary.
Incredibly, he did achieve it once before in the final of the 2019 Irish St Leger but was denied victory by Liam Dowling’s star, Ballymac Anton. The latter was actually the second choice in the betting on that occasion.
This time around, the Riverside Kennel team will dominate the betting with the top four likely to represent their Golden outfit. Rom an ideal draw on the fence, 2022 Kirby Memorial winner Swords Rex is the likely favourite. The draw can be found below:
Bresbet Easter Cup
1 SWORDS REX
2 TRINITY JUNIOR
3 BOCKOS CRYSTAL
4 GALLOPING SYDNEY
5 ROMEO MAGICO
6 TOOLMAKER WILDE