Ian Fortune

It seems strange to say these words but Beach Avenue has run his last race.

For the past two and a half years, the brilliant son of Laughil Blake and Cats Belle has been amongst the fastest and most talented performers in Ireland but, more importantly, he has held the title of the most popular greyhound in training for much of that time.

Paul Hennessy, who trained Beach Avenue through his racing career, confirmed on Wednesday that Beach Avenue was in perfect order but that the time had come to hang up his gloves. Said Hennessy of the decision, “There’s going to be no ‘final race’. He’s been the most wonderful dog for us and he’s in great order but it’s time to call it a day. He looks great in his coat, he’s as sound as ever and he’s been some fun. It’s just the perfect time to retire him.

“When you look back at his career, he challenged for all the major honours. Be it the Laurels, Leger, Derby and English Derby, he always gave his all. Only for bad luck he would have won the Shelbourne 600 but he owes us nothing. He’s a gent of a dog, a quiet dog and will make the perfect pet. He’s off to Austin’s [Healy – his joint owner] and will have a great time on their couch.”

Niall Healy, another of the Healy family lucky enough to own Beach Avenue, also confirmed what we already knew. “He delivered memories for our family that will last forever. He gave us something to focus on during some tough times and we’ll be forever grateful.”

Indeed, greyhounds like Beach Avenue come around only once in a generation. I could list off all his achievements but that would take all day. Instead, he should be remembered for the swashbuckling superstar he was.

Like a movie star from old Hollywood, he exuded charisma, class and had an innate ability to lift the spirits. In so many of his career starts, be it over 525, 550, 575, 600 or 750yds, he came with a late rush to capture the verdict on the line.

No matter the company, those in opposition always had to keep an eye out for the flying brindle. Capable of coming from many lengths off the pace, he was involved in more tight and exciting finishes than any greyhound in the past ten years.

And he was certainly not a one-trick pony. During his career, he took on and beat the very best in training on the regular. While big race successes largely eluded him, he did manage to win the valuable Curraheen Park Open 575 in late 2021.

On top of that he finished runner-up to Susie Sapphire in the 2022 Easter Cup, ran up the O’Learys Driving School Open 575 at Curraheen, reached the final of two Champion Stakes at Shelbourne Park, the semi-finals of the Laurels in 2020, was third in the RCETS Open 600 at Shelbourne in 2021 and was a semi-finalist in the 2021 English Derby.

But the closest he came to classic glory came in the aforementioned 2021 Shelbourne Open 600. Only fourth into the opening turn and forced to run wide, losing his place, his chance of victory seemed to be gone only for the June ’18 whelp to produce one of the most incredible finishes ever seen at Shelbourne Park.

Still lengths adrift between the last two bends, he powered up the straight to force a photo finish with Pierno and eventual winner Ballymac Wild. He may have been beaten two shortheads into third but his display will live long in the memory.

Beach Avenue retires with 18 career wins over six different distances. On top of that he boasts 22 second place finishes, while he also finished third on 19 different occasions, meaning in his 86 career starts, he made the frame a remarkable 59 times.

It’s no exaggeration to suggest the open race scene won’t be the same without him. For owners Pat, Austin and Niall Healy and trainer Paul Hennessy, he was the greyhound of a lifetime. On behalf of those lucky enough to see him in the flesh and enjoy his career up close, we wish Beach Avenue a long and healthy retirement. It’s been a blast.