THE pre-Christmas period is always an exciting time at Tralee Track, especially since Greyhound and Petworld, of Abbeyfeale, came in behind the Kingdom Derby, and the programme at the Oakview venue this Friday night is one not to be missed.
It will be headed up by the final of the Kingdom Derby and the stakes here are pretty high, with €7,000 going to the winner (for just three runs) and €2,400 going to the runner up. It says a huge amount for the generosity of Greyhound and Petworld, and for its commitment to Tralee (and other tracks), that such valuable prizemoney is available for a sweepstake that had an entry of just 24.
It is not easy to come to a conclusion about the outcome of the final, with just ten spots covering the two semi-final winners last Friday night. The fastest run, 28.55, was produced in the second semi-final by Razldazl Bugatti (Brett Lee - Razldazl Pearl) and a similar start in Friday night's final could well see the €7,000 prize resting with a Rathangan, Co Kildare, syndicate headed up by famous trainer, Dolores Ruth.
It should be pointed out straight away that Dolores Ruth is not training Razldazl Bugatti at present, as he is based in the Limerick kennels of Neilus O'Connell. The excellence of the job being done by O'Connell was reflected in a flawless performance by the June '09 whelping from a trap 4 draw last Friday night.
He fairly blew the lid and, after clearing the first bend ahead of Kokoro and Shaneboy Alley, he totally dominated to the line where he had four and a half lengths to spare from Shaneboy Alley, which had actually beaten him into third place in the first round. The connections of Shaneboy Alley will, needless to say, be hoping that the placings can be reversed on Friday night and, of course, that kind of thing keeps happening in greyhound racing all the time.
The third greyhound home was the Liam Dowling-trained Kokoro, which finished a length behind Shaneboy Alley.
Now to the first semi-final and the victory of the fastest first-round heat winner, Stonepark Crash (Crash - Adored), which Michael J O'Donovan trains in Tipperary for Michael Dwyer, of Ballyneety, Co Limerick. Just like Razldazl Bugatti, he, too, was wearing the black sheet and another turbo-charged start, as in the first round, set him on his way. He cleared the first bend ahead of Slipalong Gold and Killbarry Rover and those who made him 6/4 favourite in what was a particularly hot semi-final had good reason to be pleased with themselves.
Stonepark Crash duly stayed on for victory, but it was a diminishing lead coming to the line where he had just half a length to spare from Slipalong Gold in 28.65, with two lengths back to Killbarry Rover. The fact that Slipalong Gold got so close to him, plus the fact that his time was ten spots behind that of Razldazl Bugatti, clearly makes Stonepark Crash vulnerable in Friday night's final, but he is still the preferred choice of this writer, especially because of his brilliant starting ability.
Two Kerry trainers are still in the mix, namely Liam Dowling (Kokoro) and Patrick O'Connor (Slipalong Gold) and, of course, Slipalong Gold is the property of high profile joint owners, Noreen McManus and her son, Kieran, who enjoyed a double on the night in the semi-finals of an open 550yds sweepstake with litter brothers, Heady Days and Hedge Fund, both of which are trained by Patrick O'Connor.
The draw for Friday night's final is (trap order): Razldazl Bugatti, Kokoro, Slipalong Gold, Kilbarry Rover, Stonepark Crash, Shaneboy Alley (M).
There was plenty of other good action at the Oakview venue last Friday night, including the final of an A4 500yds sweepstake, which acted as a fund-raiser for Home From Home Help, a most admirable family support service offering afterschool activities to children with special needs.
This was won by the Liam Dowling-trained Ballymac Dana (Burnpark Champ - Ballymac Closs), which is owned by Liam's son, Billy. She was actually last of the field at the first bend and still well off the pace in fifth place at the third bend. The front-running Westwind Beauty was badly baulked rounding that third bend and it looked as if local trainer, Pat McMahon, might have a 1-2 with Killarney Pole and Send It Hacking, the 6/4 favourite. However, Ballymac Dana wound up her challenge well behind them and she drove to the front on the run home for victory by a length and a half over Killarney Pole, with two lengths back to Send It Hacking. The time was 28.21.
Other winners: Mary Kate Pats, 29.53; Millridge Laura, 29.68; Jeffs Mercury, 18.31; Pennylane Lace, 31.81; Fastaway Frankie, 31.63; Gurteen Dubh, 31.85; Heady Days, 30.26; Hedge Fund, 30.27; Head Piper, 28.93.