IT certainly wasn't a case of beginner's luck, because John O'Donoghue, of Bandon, has been in the doggy game for quite a while now, but he had never brought a greyhound to Tralee Track before the start of the €7,000-to-the-winner Tullymurry Act / Slip The Lark Kingdom Derby and, as luck would have it, he has wound up winning it.
The greyhound that landed the major coup for him last Friday night was Brogan Stranger, a pretty special August '11 son of Crash and Brogan Beetle. In the first round, Brogan Stranger flew around in a quite brilliant 28.17 and, while he was well beaten in the second round by record-breaker Mind The Net, the important thing was that he was back in trap 1 in the final, from which box he performed his heroics in the first round.
Sure enough, he took a flier from trap 1 and he led off the first bend from that marvellous early pacer, Riptide Movement, and Mind The Net. In that situation, it was unlikely that he was going to be caught and, although Riptide Movement ran a blinder behind him and earned €2,500 for his Limerick connections, the gap between the pair at the line was three and a half lengths 28.46, with two and a half lengths back to Ardfert Thunder.
Mind The Net was held up rounding the second bend and wound up in fourth place, but, having decisively lost the early initiative to Brogan Stranger, he was never going to beat him.
Afterwards, John O'Donoghue said that it was a marvellous feeling to win such a major event at Tralee and, of course, the victory was beautifully sweetened for him by the fact that he was also the breeder of Brogan Stranger.
"Once he timed the break the way he did, I was very confident going into the first bend that he would win," he said. "Beforehand, I have to admit that I was afraid of Mind The Net, but I knew that if my fellow came out the way he did in the first round he was going to take huge beating. So it proved.
"He's the fastest I ever owned and we have refused serious money for him. We are very fond of him as well and, if I was to be tempted to sell him, the money would have to be very right.
"If I had the room, I would keep a hundred greyhounds instead of the eight I have at the moment. I love the sport that much."
John's wife, Marguerite, plays a key role in the training of Brogan Stranger. "You could say that it's a combined effort between us and it's just wonderful to pull off something as important as this in Tralee," she said.
"Yes, he's something of a flying machine, but he's also a right old pet as well, with a wonderful temperament."
Interestingly, Brogan Stranger was the only dog in the litter. There were three bitches and one of them broke her hip, while another contracted cancer. The remaining bitch, Brogan Chico, has won five races at A2 class level.
In relation to the future of the Kingdom Derby, one of the two men who saved it this year, trainer Pat Buckley, said that he would definitely come in as joint sponsor again next year. "No bother at all about that," said Buckley - and this after the disappointment of seeing his record-breaker, Mind The Net, wind up in fourth place!
The other joint sponsor, English-based Keith Allsopp, was unable to be present.
The Kingdom Derby final was backed up by a programme of eleven races and one of them, an open 525 worth €700 to the winner, commanded particular attention because of the quality of the field. Victory in 28.52 belonged to the Frances O'Donnell-trained Skywalker Jet, which took an absolute flier from trap 4 and held off the challenge of the Pat Buckley-trained Farloe Trent by three-quarters of a length in 28.52.
Unfavourable weather conditions resulted in the track going being rated standard instead of the usual .20 fast.
Other winners: Black Maria, 29.65; Steeple Rd Chris, 18.21; Knockeen Crash, 43.54; Westwind Lady, 43.77; Big Fair, 17.92; Senans Rascal, 30.30; Gneeves Megan, 29.20; Rays Gold, 29.14; Knockane Ella, 32.00; Keen Conor, 29.35.