Ian Fortune

Tonight’s action at Shelbourne Park certainly promises to be very special with many stars on show as the 2023 Boylesports Champion Stakes and Boylesports Champion Plate get underway, while the best stayers in the land will again flex their muscles in the second round of the RPGTV Corn Cuchulainn.

Ballymac Marino has been installed the sponsor’s favourite for Champion Stakes glory and he is a likely favourite to win the last of the three heats but, it goes without saying, he must to be at his sharpest with five top class rivals to face.

Chief amongst them is last year’s beaten Derby favourite Callaway Pro Am. Ideally housed on the stripes, he would be a huge danger if making a slick exit. This is only Pro Am’s seventh race of the year but has shown glimpses of his very best form.

Sober Glory is the rapid improver in the field. A powerful galloper for Karol Ramsbottom, he needs to negotiate a safe passage around the turn from trap three but is certainly fast enough to get involved if doing so.  

Kirby Memorial finalist Scaglietti needs to come away racing from two but certainly has the engine to play a part if turning close. Boylesports Vic hasn’t been lucky with the draw in recent times and is due a big run but needs a fast start from four, while Derby finalist Droopys Nice One seems to be slowly returning to her very best. She ran better than the bare form suggests in the Consolation Oaks and can’t be ignored.

The big question surrounding Ballymac Marino is how will he handle the outside draw now that he is a wide seed? If he does trap on terms, his class should carry him through and he is selected to lead home Callaway Pro Am.


The opening heat is packed with quality also. Romeo Magico has the best of the draw on the fence with the caveat that he starts on terms.

The 2022 English Derby champion was paw-perfect last time at Clonmel but that came from a trap four draw.

The presence of the hugely impressive Consolation Oaks champion Undisputed on his right shoulder is a concern. She is clearly at the peak of her powers at present and will be popular in the ring. Hukum is drawn in three and will have support also after some eye-catching displays in the Produce Stakes.

He was a little unlucky in the final but flew home to grab second before going clear to the pick-up. His problem will be turning close enough to the pace. Hawkfield Blue is taking giant steps forward and is clearly a bright prospect but this is his toughest test by some margin. He must shoot from trap four to threaten. Trinity Junior could play a big part but he too needs to be at his sharpest at the boxes, while the strong running Annagh Bailey is drawn to perfection in the stripes but will find it hard to turn on the speed.

Undisputed is given the vote just ahead of Romeo Magico, although this is the sort of contest where all six must be shown respect.


The middle heat is perhaps the most intriguing of the three. Magical Kuba is favourite on the outside of the track but can be a little inconsistent at boxes.

A tardy start would certainly throw the race wide open with The Other Kobe certain to go up fast and edge inwards from trap three, while the powerful Ryhope Beach is sure to attract plenty of support.

Throw in the in-form Radical Hero, Boylesports Gift and Cryptopunk and it’s quite the contest. Slight preference is for Magical Kuba on the outside of the track, He was an impressive fastest of the round winner in the semi-finals of the Race of Champions at Tralee only to fluff his lines in the final. But there is no doubt he will make a bold bid if starting on terms.  

The Other Kobe is the potential pace-setter but the final twenty-five yards really do stretch his stamina. The same can’t be said for Ryhope Beach, who would be a major player if the early pacers failed to get loose.

RPGTV Corn Cuchulainn


The best stayers in training are set to shine in the second round of the RPGTV Corn Cuchulainn. The big three in the betting are Ballymac Johnjo, Threesixfive and Garfiney Blaze and fate has kept them apart this evening.

Of the trio, Ballymac Johnjo was the only one to suffer defeat last week, missing the kick and forced wide throughout. With a better start this evening, he should race prominently from the outset and that could be enough to see him see off his two talented kennelmates Kinturk Road and Ballymac Katie.

Kinturk Road remains unbeaten over six bends after capturing the Deadly Kennels Open 750 and scoring last week in a rapid 41.46. She has very obvious claims and must be respected. Ballymac Katie flew home in defeat last week and may need further in time but she certainly has a big engine.

Ballymac Johnjo has stunning four bend pace, however, and stays 750yds strongly. That can be enough to see him dominate.


Threesixfive set the pace in the opening round, producing a thoroughly professional display of front running to clock 41.30.

A repeat of that performance would almost certainly be good enough for Scott Phelan’s charge.

She is a fast trapper and that can allow her turn in front. Prince Lucius can turn closest but he struggles to get home, while Sober Bullet leaves himself with too much to do. Ranchers Master can step up on last week’s six bend debut but all evidence points to Threesixfive. She can make every inch to see off Prince Lucius and Sober Bullet.  


Everything points to Garfiney Blaze in the final heat. He too was most impressive last week, leading at the turn to come home clear in 41.44.

The Graham Holland trained star is perfectly housed in red and won’t move off the fence. Without traffic, he is capable of going faster than any of his rivals.

Mcneill has massive pace and is capable of playing a part but he has already finished behind Garfiney Blaze over six bends. If he is to reverse that form, he needs to step up on his two previous efforts over the trip. Of the remainder, Peter Sydney is open to most improvement over six bends and can come through for third.

Boylesports Champion Plate


In the two years of the Boylesports Champion Plate, the stake has been won by Jackslittlething and Born Warrior.

Of course, Born Warrior went on to win the Derby, while Jackslittlething was the top placed dog in the 2021 Derby when finishing third to Susie Sapphire and Singalong Sally.


With that in mind, there will be extra attention on the valuable stake this year. Both heats are very open although a couple have the right profile.

Romeo Hanzo has been a steady improver and performed with distinction in the early rounds of the English Derby.

He seemed likely to start favourite in the opening heat but Optic Chico was heavily backed to win the Champion Plate in recent days and is clear at the head of the outright market. If that sort of confidence is transferred to tonight’s contest, he will be favourite.

Romeo Hanzo remains the choice but keep an eye on Optic Chico, who has shown exceptional pace in his short career to date.


The second heat is very tough to call.

Realistic claims can be made for each of the six runners but slight preference is for Ballyhimikin Leo. Ballymac Walt can go up fast and is respected, as is the rapidly improving Music Glideaway, while Twoinarow would be a big player if return to his best 2022 form.