Ian Fortune

Derby champion Susie Sapphire returned to racing action after a near five-month absence at Shelbourne Park on Saturday night but it wasn’t the winning return that so many expected.

Instead, the hugely talented Romeo Magico produced a career best display to take the headlines as he sent out a clear warning that he could be a big player in the classics in 2022.


Susie Sapphire can be forgiven or being a little rusty and connections will be happy with her third placed finish after a slightly tardy start and some early bumping.

Likewise, David Firmager and Graham Holland will be ecstatic with the display of Romeo Magico as he seemed to take a giant step-forward in his progression. 

Graham had spoken of Romeo Magico as an excitable type last year but this latest display was an indication that the son of Magical Bale and Fabulous Artist has grown up. This was a contest decided at boxes.

Romeo Magico raced from the inside box and he made one of the fastest starts of his career to challenge from the outset. One Time Only also came away racing, while Susie Sapphire was just behind the duo.

Romeo Magico flew into the bend to assert, while One Time Only was second with Susie Sapphire third. She took a couple of bumps before the second turn and that left her with a mountain to climb. Meanwhile, Romeo Magico was moving with his trademark fluency.

Posting a stunning 15.80 to the third turn, he never took his foot of the pedal and eventually ran out a four and a half length winner over One Time Only in a brilliant fastest of the year 28.11. Susie Sapphire was a further three lengths adrift.  

It was a massive run by the winner, an encouraging run by the runner-up and a perfectly satisfactory return for Susie Sapphire. The Derby champion will no doubt have blown away some cobwebs. Incidentally, it was her first defeat since the week before the Derby at the start of August. And the dog that beat her that night was… Romeo Magico. Who says history never repeats itself? The Bresbet Easter Cup seems the likely or the first three home. 


Rahale Podge had earlier initiated a double for Graham Holland when coming out on top in a competitive ninth race.

The son of Ballymac Best and Springwell Eva didn’t fly from traps but he did show fine acceleration to go between Meenagh Melody and Ninja Kerry into the bend.

Once assuming the lead, he was never headed. Ninja Kerry id push the leader down the back but found traffic on the third turn as Monraud Thunder made a forward move. The latter then set off after the leader but Rahale Podge was never going to be picked up and the Friday Gathering Syndicate owned black went on to score by a length and a half in 28.56.


Racing ended with a high-class 550yd contest and, fittingly, there was a high-class winner with Jacob Tashadelek confirming his standing as one of the best in the land.

Con Guiney’s son of Droopys Sydney and Nina Tashadelek made full use of an inside draw to take up the running in the early yards.

2021 Derby finalist Jackslittlething took up the chase but he ran out of steam in the second half of the contest. Instead, Sentimental Lad, who had turned third, came through in the closing yards. Jacob Tashadelek was never under any pressure, however. A strong runner with a fluent action, the June ’19 whelp went on to claim a comfortable and most impressive two and a half length victory in 29.67.    


Auxerre looked the one to beta in the eighth race and Olly Shields’ wonderful servant certainly didn’t disappoint his legion of admirers.

Although he prefers a slightly longer run-up, he was always in charge in this 550yd contest.

The son of Droopys Sydney and Toms Delight broke fastest from the outside box and always had the chasing Ballybough Champ at arm’s length. Running right to the line, Auxerre emerged a comfortable three and a half length winner in 29.69.


On a night when a number of incredible servants added to their impressive tally, Skylight Blake confirmed his standing as one of the most consistent greyhounds in training.

Trained by Nicholas Walsh for the Skylight Syndicate, the talented son of Laughil Blake and Starcash Annie broke fastest but was soon challenged on both sides by Rising Castle and Not A Bot.  

But there are few that drive the opening bend as well as Skylight Blake and he began to get the better of the argument before again shooting the corner to assume complete control. The October ’18 whelp took the race by the scruff of the neck and raced clear to record a twenty third career victory by three lengths from Rising Castle in 18.66. 


Illnotbeback was electric in the A1 fifth race on the card, flashing from boxes to leave her rivals standing.

Storys Archie recovered after a slow start top go second down the back straight but Sean Adams’ Illnotbeback was in a league of her own.  

The Paul Hennessy trained daughter of Droopys Sydney and Shirocco Star was a mile clear into the third turn and she eventually cruised home six and a half lengths to the good over Storys Archie in a rapid 28.37.


Jonathan Rolle has been getting serious sport out of Show Business for quite some time and the son of Laughil Blake and Show Bizzy added to his already impressive tally in the seventh race.

Show Business was always in command after hitting the ground running from trap five.

To aid his cause, Irelands Own stumbled from trap four leaving Show Business with plenty of room. He scarcely needed it as he maintained a strong gallop throughout to see off the fast finishing Sweep The Yard by three lengths in a quick 28.57.


The Beer Buddies Syndicate had reason to toast their charge Youcantcatchme in the A1 fourth race over 550yds as he dictated throughout to live up to his name.

The son of Droopys Sydney and Droopys Scion was too sharp for his rivals in the early yards and held a comfortable lead on the turn.

Danger Close turned second and seemed likely to lay down a big challenge but Youcantcatchme always seemed to have his measure. Staying on well, the long-time leader went on to cross the line two and half lengths clear of Danger Close in a useful 29.80.


Jamie McGee and Jerry Connor’s teamed up for their second winner in as many Saturdays at Shelbourne with Hawkfield Ozark emerging an impressive winner of the A1 sixth race.

Black Matador displayed the best early dash to lead the field around the bend but Hawkfield Ozark emerged a serious threat.

Only a length and a half adrift at the second bend, Hawkfield Ozark displayed the superior back straight dash to get inside his rival into the third turn. It was a decisive move as he eased on to eventually strike the line three lengths clear of the early leader in 28.69.


Droopys Battery may not have been the fastest into stride in the opener, but the well bred son of Romeo Recruit and Droopys Harbour flew up the outside to challenge and head Beechview Pippa on the bend.

Once going to the front, the Michael Corr trained black proceeded to pull right away to emerge a facile winner. Owned by Roy Ball and Trevor Pearson, Droopys Battery hit the line seven lengths to the good over Superior Racking in 28.72.


Ringthemoon, owned by Barry Cooney and Michael Dowd, got back to winning ways in the second race when collaring long-time leader Chubbys Best on the line.

The pair drove up the fence to emerge first and second and they were always clear of their rivals.

Chubbys Best hit the third turn with a clear advantage but he isn’t the strongest stayer and the Liam O’Rourke trained Ringthemoon began to get closer as they turned for home. In a desperate finish, Ringthemoon got up on the line to win by a head in 28.77.