Houlihan reigns Supreme as Misty sneaks KUH feature
John Barry with all the news from the Kingdom greyhound stadium
The massive goodwill that exists for University Hospital Kerry was well and truly demonstrated again at Tralee Track on Friday night when a huge crowd turned up for the annual fund-raiser for the hospital. The Oakview venue simply throbbed with life and an 11-race programme provided lots of thrilling fare, with high drama unfolding in the featured Kerry Group A2 525 Hospital Sweepstake (winner, €4,000) which saw victory claimed in a photo-finish by Misty Supreme (Droopys Cain - Misty Survivor), owned by John Houlihan, of Ballyduff.
To date, this benefit meeting has raised €2 million, or thereabouts, since it was first run in 1990 and the target set for Friday night was €80,000 to €100,000. Quite remarkable figures, those, and they certainly testify to a monumental organisational effort.
Two auctions took place. The first of them was for a pair of football boots worn in his last game by Kerry footballer, Colm Cooper, and the highest bidder, on €350, was none other than former GAA President from Kilcummin, Sean Kelly, MEP. A pair of All-Ireland final tickets (football or hurling) realised €300.
The main focus was, of course, on the racing and particularly on the final of the Kerry Group sweepstake. The even-money favourite was the Owen McKenna-trained Dumas, which had been the fastest winner in every qualifying round, but he didn't enjoy the clearest of runs around the opening bend and he actually took a spectacular fall on the back straight when well behind the front-running Misty Supreme.
Behind him, the Pat McMahon-trained Send It Ducula also took a very nasty fall.
Things like that don't happen very often in finals and, come the third bend, the advantage lay most definitely with Misty Supreme, the only wide seed and a 4/1 shot in the betting. He flew into the lead off the second bend ahead of Breton Charlie and he was four to five lengths ahead of the Maurice O'Connor-trained College Bell rounding the third bend.
It was a lead which was to stand well to him. College Bell produced a powerful challenge from the third bend home and it failed by just a short head in 28.42 (.10 fast), with seven lengths back to Breton Charlie.
The winning margin might have been the bare minimum, but the excellent time of 28.42 said it all for Misty Supreme and, indeed, for College Bell. Misty Supreme had been beaten by two and a half lengths by Dumas at the semi-final stage, but form can be frequently reversed in finals, as was well proven by the victory of 28/1 shot. Astute Missile, in the final of the English Derby.
For the connections of Dumas, his back straight fall revived memories of the bad luck he experienced at the first bend at the semi-final stage of this year's GMHD juvenile classic, but, as far as local owner, Des Grace, was concerned, the important thing that Dumas came off uninjured, though his confidence may suffer for a while.
In all, there were eight sweepstake finals and the soccer people were there in strength for the final of the Denny KDL Champions League A4 525 Sweepstake (winner, €1,300). The Brendan Maunsell-trained Floury Spuds was sent off the even-money favourite from a trap 2 draw and he produced a powerful finish to score by three-quarters of a length from Shronedraugh Act in 29.17.
It didn't look that great for him as the race progressed and, indeed, he was five lengths behind Shronedraugh Act rounding the third bend, but he had impressed throughout the sweepstake and has to be acclaimed as a very worthy winner.
The final of the Nolans Garage A5 525 Sweepstake was worth €1,100 to the winner and victory went to the Patrick O'Connor-trained Saleen Story, which was 7/4 second favourite. He bombed out of trap 3 and always had the race in pretty safe keeping, finishing a length and a half ahead of Ramona Sara in 29.00, with half a length back to 6/4 favourite, Kingdom Point.
Patrick O'Connor also won the first race, the final of the McElligotts Funeral Home A8 525 Sweepstake, with Saleen Isabella (28.85) and there were also doubles for trainer, Neilus O'Connell, and Valentia Island's Stevie O'Connor. O'Connell won the Barry Packaging S3 325 and the final of the Fealesbridge Co-Op S4 325 Sweepstake with Nina Tashadelek (17.73) and Mohane Denzel (17.80), respectively, while O'Connor won the Bridie O'Shea A2 525 and the Costello Construction 525 with Spirit Eclipse (28.85) and Spirit Elvis (29.04), respectively.
Other winners: Institute Of Technology A7 525 final - Plenty Of Appeal, 28.58; Garveys Super-Valu A1 525 Sweepstake - Forceful Oz, 28.58; Coolavanny Kennels A6 525 Sweepstake - Kielduff Micro (28.95).