After two marathon sessions at Shelbourne Park over Friday and Saturday, the original 156 greyhounds became 96 in the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby.
Friday’s opening session was packed with sensational displays but Saturday’s racing was no less brilliant and thoroughly enthralling.
While Peter Cronin took the headlines on Friday with a hat trick, it was Pat Guilfoyle’s turn on Saturday as his star Explosive Boy, Magical Kuba and Wi Can Dream obliged but the big talking point on the card was the simply incredible run of Ballinabola Ed.
It’ clear this year’s Derby is very special with the opening round only serving to whet the appetite. Bring on the second round. Before then, we reflect on Saturday’s second session of opening round heats below.
Heat 14 – KOKORO TAKES OFF FROM HALFWAY
It been evident for a number of weeks that Corn Cuchulainn champion Crafty Kokoro is beginning to reach the peak of her powers.
This was certainly clear in the opening heat of the night as she came home a wide margin winner over warm favourite Bockos Crystal.
Ballygraigue Jim broke fastest to lead in the early yards but Cushioe Concorde, Brynoffa Jenson and Bockos Crystal displayed the best pace to challenge into the bend. Importantly, Crafty Koko was just behind the trio.
Switching wide to avoid traffic, Crafty Kokoro moved third as Bockos Crystal moved upsides Cushie Concorde off the second turn. It was here that Peter Divilly’s Crafty Kokoro switched back onto the fence to mount her challenge.
Showing massive pace down the back straight, she slipped through on the fence to lead the field by the third turn and, once doing so, was never under any threat. Pulling right away, the daughter of Droopys Sydney and Cockyorconfident emerged a facile seven length scorer in 29.71. Bockos Crystal was second with Cushie Concorde another length adrift in third.
Heat 15 – BOBSLEIGH SKATES IN
It was easy to describe Heat 15 with Bobsleigh Dream breaking fastest, making every inch and stretching clear of her rivals in mighty impressive fashion to record a fast 29.33.
Willy Joe Murphy’s recent Tipperary Cup champion was certainly in no mood for hanging around.
Gaa Gaa Carla gave chase for 545yds but was collared late by the fast finishing Hoodoo Brown. Bobsleigh Dream was in a league of her own, however. The Pat Buckley trained daughter of Droopys Sydney and Bobsleigh jet crossed the line ten lengths clear of Hoodoo Brown who, in turn, had a length to spare over Gaa Gaa Carla.
Heat 16 – SYDNEY SETS A STRONG GALLOP
Galloping Sydney came in for sustained support ahead of Heat 16 and it was inspired as he held on for a narrow success over the fast finishing Tommy Too Many.
It was actually the latter that broke fastest to challenge for the early lead alongside the favourite Maries Wedding.
Galloping Sydney, in contrast, slightly stumbled out of traps but displayed superb early dash along the fence to join and head the front two at this point. Pushing Maries Wedding out of his way, the Graham Holland trained son of Droopys Sydney and Mags Image increased his advantage into the back straight.
While Maries Wedding and Tommy Too Many attempted to recover from the bump, Droopys Gravy shot through on the fence to go second. he remained second to the third turn where Tommy Too many arrived with a rush, switching inside Maries Wedding to go third before moving past Droopys Gravy off the final turn. In a tremendous finish, Galloping Sydney dug deep to score for Una Creed, holding off the gallant Tommy Too Many by a neck in 29.66. Droopys Gravy was two lengths away in third with Maries Wedding just a further neck back.
Heat 17 – BOCKO COMPLETES HOLLAND DOUBLE
Bockos Budsit made it two heats wins on the bounce for Graham Holland when justifying favouritism in Heat 17.
A flying start from trap six aided his claims but the Race of Champions winner was pushed hard by the exciting Velasco to the third turn.
The latter gave Bockos Budsit a start but flew up the fence to join him on the corner and may have led briefly at the second turn. Bockos Budsit carried all his momentum into the back straight, however, and was soon back in front. Velasco attempted to stay with him and did so until the third turn where Bockos Budsit kicked on.
Bev Lochead’s very classy son of Laughil Blake and Matts Monica stayed on well to beat the fast-finishing Storys Peewee by three and a half lengths in 29.40. Velasco, despite fading home, held off Droopys Rocket by a short head to finish third, a length behind the runner-up.
Heat 18 – MONEYBAGS IS FLAMING
Flaminmoneybags has been a dream for his owners the Two Laois, Four Kilkenny Syndicate, and he continued his remarkable run of form to claim a tremendous trap to line success in Heat 18.
This was effectively won at traps with the son of Laughil Blake and Killaheen Queen shooting from trap two to lead from the start.
Ballymac Run was first to give chase but she had to give way to the advancing Macho Pride on the corner. The latter then had to check heels off the second turn leaving Flaminmoneybags to race clear down the back straight.
Ballymac Run came with a big charge to the third turn and looked a serious threat but Flaminmoneybags sees out the 550yds strongly and he emerged a comfortable scorer by two and a half lengths in 29.56. Ballymac Run was second with Macho Pride two lengths away in third. Hello Hammond flew home to finish just a half length fourth and progressed as one of the fastest fourth placed finishers.
Heat 19 – EXPLOSIVE DENIES WARRIOR IN A THRILLER
Explosive Boy and Born Warrior served up a brilliant finish to Heat 19 with the former just outstaying his rival, although both came out of the contest with great credit.
Cricket Score and Skywalker Cilla were actually the fastest into stride with both flying from the boxes. The Pat Guilfoyle trained Explosive Boy was a little flat-footed by his standards, while Born Warrior was probably even slower at boxes.
The long run to the corner made all the difference, however. Explosive Boy flew up the fence to show in front briefly but Born Warrior took off and ran a brilliant bend to move on. Once entering the back straight clear of their rivals, this was a two-dog contest.
Born Warrior hit halfway with two and a half lengths in hand on Explosive Boy but one suspected this contest was far from over. The gap remained unchanged to the final turn, at which point the complexion of the race began to change.
Born Warrior drifted off the final bend, leaving the door open for Explosive Boy. Sensing his chance, Cheryl Sutcliffe’s reigning Dog of the Year started to close on Born Warrior. In a dramatic finish, Explosive Boy got up in the final strides to deny Born Warrior by a head in 29.64. Skywalker Cilla stayed on well to get the better of Beepers Chris for third a further four lengths adrift.
Heat 20 – SYDNEY OBLIGES IN FINE STYLE
Nominated by many as the banker of the round from a near-perfect draw on the fence, Kilgraney Sydney certainly didn’t disappoint in Heat 20, although his many followers would have been hoping for a slightly faster start.
Instead Crafty Bonanza and Ross Dame went up in front. Kilgraney Sydney was soon on the case, however. Showing superb early dash, the Thomas Buggy trained star forced his two rivals out of the way on the corner to move into a clear advantage.
Pulling right away down the back straight, the result was a mere formality. Mary Buggy’s star tracker went on to score by nine and a half lengths in 29.64. Ross Dame actually ran an incredible race to finish runner-up. After being knocked back to fifth, he flew down the back straight to go second on the third turn. Sunshine Dream was another length adrift in third.
Heat 21 – KUBA TOO QUICK IN A BELTER
Heat 21 turned into an absolutely belting contest with four greyhounds on top of each other going into the third turn.
Iso Fantastic was fastest into stride and held a narrow lead into the turn but he was pressed on both sides by Twoinarow in four and Magical Kuba in six. Ballymac Leon was just behind the trio in fourth.
By the second turn Twoinarow and Iso Fantastic were disputing the lead with the Westwell Racing Club Syndicate owned Magical Kuba in third after steering a wide path around the opening two bends. He wasn’t third for long, however. Showing massive back straight pace, the Pat Guilfoyle trained son of Magical Bale and Impact Miami hit the front before halfway.
Twoinarow, Iso Fantastic and Ballymac Leon were all still pitching into the third turn but Magical Kuba is very strong and, despite running wide off the final turn, he contained the best efforts of Twoinarow to win by three parts of a length in 29.53. Iso Fantastic ran a great race in third, just two lengths further back, while fourth spot went to Ballymac Leon who progressed as one of the fastest fourths.
Heat 22 – ZETTE CLAIMS A HEART-WARMING SUCCESS
Athlacca Zette was contesting his third Irish Derby when lining out in Heat 22 and, despite turning four years of age last month, he’s clearly as good as ever for owner Noel Neenan.
The son of Pat C Sabbath and Athlacca Charm was just 4-1 to come out on top and his followers were rewarded.
In what looked one of the most competitive contests of the round, Athlacca Zette was sharpest in the opening yards, getting the better of Ballymac Bronze and Scooby Prince into the turn.
Once squeezing around in front, he was always going to be very hard to stop. Ballymac Bronze emerged a close second and pressed hard down the far side but there was denying Athlacca Zette.
The sprightly veteran emerged a tremendous winner, holding the strong finish of Callaway Masters by a length in 29.80. Ballymac Bronze was two lengths away in third with Droopys Gloss fourth.
Heat 23 – LAD LOWERS VINCENZOS COLOURS
Heat 23 was on paper amongst the hottest opening round heats and it produced a great contest with 575yd record holder Sentimental Lad once again showing his immense pace and power to get the better of Vincenzo, who lost nothing in defeat.
The duo were almost side by side into the corner with Sentimental lad holding a narrow advantage. The pair bumped on the bend, forcing Vincenzo momentarily missing a stride. It saw Sentimental Lad drive around in front and effectively ensure success.
Ballymac Fairone was third with Droopy Nextone fourth but both were always going to struggle to get to the leaders. Vincenzo flew down the back straight to challenge on the heels of Sentimental Lad into the third turn but, given his power, the leader was always going to kick again.
Owned by Michael and Eimear Heeney, Sentimental Lad (Droopys Jet/ Vigorous Hilary) duly powered home to emerge a two and a half length winner over Vincenzo in 29.48. Droopys Nextone absolutely flew home to finish just two lengths away in third with Ballymac Fairone fourth. It was a big run by the winner and the runner-up and both could go deep into the classic on this evidence.
Heat 24 – WI COMPLETES A DREAM FOR LARS AND ANITA
Juvenile Classic champion Wi Can Dream returned to winning ways with a professional display of front running in Heat 24, handing Pat Guilfoyle a third winner on the night following the successes of Explosive Boy and Magical Kuba.
This was never really a contest once Wi Can Dream took up the running into the corner. Annagh Bailey turned second and Kilgraney Clang third but neither could land a telling blow. Wi Can Dream maintained a strong gallop throughout to run out a tremendous winner by three lengths in 29.62. Annagh Bailey ran well in second with Kilgraney Clang a further three lengths adrift in third.
Whether Wi Can Dream had won or not, he was fulfilling a dream for Swedish owners, long time greyhound racing enthusiasts, Lars and Anita Wicander. By even having a runner in the Derby, their dreams came true so one can only imagine how it felt for the couple to record a winner. They can now look forward to their charge stepping up on that form.
Heat 25 – STUNNING ED LAYS DOWN A MARKER
Ballinabola Ed dwelt in traps, was well off the pace after five strides but somehow sent out the clearest possible warning to his Derby rivals in Heat 25 that he remains the greyhound to beat in the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby.
There were literal gasps from across the greyhound racing world as Ballinabola Ed gave his kennel companion Singalong Sally a large head-start before hunting her down to emerge a brilliant winner. It wasn’t the first time during his career that the brilliant son of Confident Rankin and Dolls Lady had left commentators grasping for superlatives but even by his own high standards, this was truly incredible.
2021 Derby runner-up Singalong Sally shot from the inside box to dictate from the opening strides. Her any followers would have been feeling good as she remained clear into the turn. In contrast, Ballinabola Ed missed the start completely and was a bad fifth in the early yards.
Even his most loyal supporters would have been feeling the heat but the Pat Buckley trained star had plenty up his sleeve. Showing exceptional early dash and running the most incredible turn, Ballinabola Ed hit the second bend two lengths behind his kennel companion.
Suddenly, it was a two-dog contest but such was the pace and momentum of Ballinabola Ed that he closed the gap with considerable ease. Shooting up the inside of Singalong Sally just after halfway, he finally bettered his rival on the third turn.
Maintaining his fluent gallop to the line, the sensationally fast Ballinabola Ed emerged a length winner over the rallying Singalong Sally in 29.62. It may not have been the fastest time of the Derby but it was clearly one of the standout performances. If he does find his trapping bots in the coming weeks, his rivals better watch out.
Droopys Edison may have been a further three lengths adrift at the line but ran a very encouraging race in third. He will come on considerably for the run.
Heat 26 – PRO AM PLEASES
Denis Murphy’s Callaway Pro Am is a very promising young greyhound and his many qualities were on show in the final heat of the round as he led early to comfortably see off Clona Blu and Bockos Leah.
Bockos Leah may have just show in front for the opening fifty yards but Callaway Pro Am edged up her inner to lead the field into the turn. Bockos Leah did turn second but Clona Blu started to shift through the gears to emerge the greatest threat to the leader into the third turn. Callaway Pro Am was always going to be a tough nut to crack, however.
A strong running won of Skywalker Farloe and Bottle Of Banter, the Owen McKenna trained puppy kicked again of the final turn to eventually hit the line two lengths clear of Clona Blu in 29.64. Bockos Leah stayed on well to finish just a head adrift in third.