Ian Fortune

Michael Heeney has reported that his star performer Sentimental Lad has run his last race after picking up an injury in his latest trial.

The powerful; tracker was being readied for a crack at the Winter Racing Festival but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.

Track records are as rare as hen’s teeth but Shelbourne Park track records are even rarer. Sentimental Lad is one of a very select group of greyhounds to break a track record at Shelbourne Park and there is every chance his clock will stand the test of time.

Sentimental Lad began his career in July 2021, winning on debut in 28.89 around Waterford. It took him another four starts to get back to winning ways but thing started to happen pretty quickly for the powerful galloper.

After winning a stake at Waterford in 28.49, he was switched to Shelbourne Park and it was soon clear he was really suited by the contours of HQ. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the son of Droopys Jet and Vigorous Hilary was a steady improver.

With each and every start he seemed to get better and better. To highlight the fact, the star posted his career best effort to that point in his final race of 2021, lading home a good field in 29.56 for the 550yd trip on the opening night of the Winter Racing Festival.  

2022 was a very different story. Kicking off his year in the Easter Cup, he was unluckily eliminated in the semi-finals after finding crowding on the turn. It was clear he had grown up and matured over the winter break and was now ready to take on and beat the best in training.

After his Easter Cup exit, he was stepped up in trip to 575yds and he flourished. Going up fast, he dominated to score in a blistering 30.82. Next it was onto the Shelbourne Open 600 where he reached the final of the classic after a series of impressive performances, including a brilliant 32.14 return in the semis.

Sadly, luck was again against him in the decider. After a long delay ahead of the race, he failed to show his spark after using up plenty of nervous energy. His next six starts were all over the 575yd trip.

There were a couple of defeats in there but, after a 30.98 victory in late June, he ran an exceptional race behind Explosive Boy on the first weekend in July. In defeat, he looked better than ever, going down by just a length after giving his brilliant rival a start.

He returned a week later and produced one of the greatest runs ever seen at Shelbourne Park. Scorching to the turn, posting a sensational 4.65 sectional, he was relentless out front, pulling further and further clear to eventually win in 30.59.

Not only did he break the six-year-old track record of Milldean Puma, but almost took a full length off the previous best, going some six spots faster.

A few weeks later, in his next start, he captured his semi final of the Champion Stakes only to find traffic in the decider before fnishing third. To highlight his standing in the sport at the time, he actually started the 9-4 favourite ahead of the likes of Laurels champion and subsequent winner One Time Only, Twoinarow, Droopys Nice One, Beach Avenue and Bockos Budsit.

He had just five more starts, including a hugely impressive 29.48 success in the opening round of the Derby. Unfortunately, he completely fluffed the start in the second round to lose out by the narrowest of margins to qualify.

As stated, he was being prepared for a return at the Winter Racing Festival but it wasn’t to be. Michael Heeney, who owned him jointly with his daughter Eimear, and guided him expertly through his career reported the news earlier this week. Speaking on behalf of himself and Eimear he said: “It’s with heavy heart we report that the Shelbourne Park 575 Track Record holder, Sentimental lad, has suffered a career ending injury.

“Matt, as we called him at home, was an absolute pleasure to have anything to do with. Apart from all his outstanding performances at Shelbourne, he was also a joy to train. His demeanour was outstanding while his Modus Operandi was to eat, sleep and run.

“It is anticipated following his recovery from injury that a career at stud beckons and that discerning breeders might give him an opportunity to pass on his genes and produce another champion. We are both devastated but also so proud to have been lucky enough to own and train such a sensational speedster.”

Certainly, greyhounds like Sentimental Lad are a joy to watch in full flight. A galloping machine with the pace and class to beat the best in training, he will forever be known as a track record holder at Shelbourne Park. Now that is a fair legacy. We look forward to seeing his progeny hit the tracks in the coming years and wish him a long and healthy retirement.