It’s with a heavy heart we must report that one of the finest greyhounds of the twenty first century, Ballymac Wild, has run his last race.
Shane Dowling confirmed the news yesterday afternoon, stating that the son of Vulturi picked up a minor gracilis tear in the Easter Cup on Saturday night and they have decided to hang up his racing jacket.
Said Shane of the incredible brindle, “He was the dog of a lifetime. He just gave you everything every night. He had twenty two wins in the very best company but picked up a small gracilis tear the other evening. It’s nothing too bad and we could have brought him back but he has nothing to prove and we’ll give him a crack at stud.
“He can start straight away. He actually had a litter at the weekend of seven dogs and three bitches so it’s been a good start. We don’t have any pups by him yet but we will, have no doubt. He was such a special dog, we’d be hopeful he will throw a few like himself.”
AN EARLY CLASSIC SUCCESS
It is no exaggeration to suggest that Liam Dowling’s star was one of the most consistent greyhounds to ever grace the tracks of Ireland or the UK.
During an incredible career, he twice tasted classic glory but also reached many major finals, including two Derby deciders.
His career commenced in February 2020 in the Juvenile Classic at Tralee and, while he suffered defeat on debut, he soon displayed his many qualities. Improving through the classic, he produced a foot-perfect display in the decider, leading home a talented field that included future English Derby winner and another all-time great Deerjet Sydney, in 28.23.
NOW AT THE TOP TABLE
He had earned his place at the top table and he was to remain there for the rest of his career.
He soon stepped up to all-aged company and equipped himself like an old veteran despite his youth and inexperience.
In just his ninth career start, he ran up the 2020 Champion Stakes to Pestana, finishing in front of the likes of his legendary kennel companions Ballymac Cooper and Ballymac Anton, and the 2019 Derby winner Lenson Bocko.
A BRILLIANT DERBY CHALLENGE
He was then aimed at the Derby and proceeded to be one of the stars in what was a vintage renewal of the blue riband.
He went unbeaten through the first four rounds of the Derby, winning in 29.56, 29.15, 29.31 and a stunning 29.07. His 29.07 quarter-final return remains the joint second fastest time ever recorded for 550yds at Shelbourne Park.
His first defeat in the Derby came at the paws of Pestana in the semis but he was seen as one of the major fancies in the final, starting the 9-2 third choice in the betting behind Pestana and subsequent winner Newinn Taylor.
While he was to finish fifth, it doesn’t tell the full story. On a night when he had to produce his very best, he was bang in contention on the corner only to suffer bad crowding. It was a case of what might have been.
His next assignment came in the Leger and he took the competition by the scruff of the neck, posting the two fastest times of the competition in the prelims before starting a hot favourite for the final. Sadly, he missed the kick and finished down the field.
A MEMORABLE FIRST YEAR
Soon after he reached the final of the Kingdom Derby but, in terrible conditions, found plenty of traffic on the bend before finishing fourth.
He ended his first year with ten races wins, a Juvenile Classic crown and a finalist in every competition he had been entered for.
A SECOND CLASSIC
In fact, the first competition in which he failed to make the final came in early 2021 as he crashed out of the Easter Cup at the semi-final stages.
He soon put that defeat behind him, however, and duly claimed a second classic.
It came in the 2021 Shelbourne Open 600 and who could ever forget the final. In one of the most memorable races of the past ten years, Ballymac Wild displayed all his pace, power and determination to reel in Pierno and contain the withering finish of Beach Avenue.
NOW TO TAKE ON THE UK
He was now a dual classic winner and was understandably installed as one of the favourites for his next assignment, the 2021 English Derby at Towcester.
It was business as usual at Towcester with Ballymac Wild handling every obstacle thrown at him to reach the final. Unfortunately, he was handed a terrible draw in the final and found traffic before finishing down the field.
He returned to his native shores and managed to reach the Champion Stakes decider for the second year running but again found trouble. Sadly, it would be the last final of his career, although he remained a potent force through the rest of 2021, reaching the semi-finals of the Irish Derby, the Laurels, the Leger and the Kingdom Derby.
THE END OF THE ROAD
He had just two starts in 2022, showing plenty of spark in his seasonal reappearance in the opening round of the Easter Cup but he would go no further.
It will be strange to look ahead to this year’s classics without the name of Ballymac Wild amongst the entry but he deserves a long and healthy retirement. The son of Vulturi and Ballymac Breeze wasn’t just blessed with incredible pace and power, he was also warrior on the track.
He simply didn’t know how to run a bad race and if he passes on even a small percentage of his many qualities to his progeny, they will be worth following in the years ahead. Happy retirement to one of the greats.