Champion Blake faces spell on sidelines
Greyhound of the Year and defending Derby champion Laughil Blake booked his place in the BoyleSports Irish Derby with a stunning performance in the Trial Stake, but also faces a spell on the sidelines due to an injury sustained in victory.
We saw the very best of Blake as he shot out of trap five and raced to the bend some two-and-a-half lengths clear of Irish Independent Laurels champion Midtown Raffa, but then he drifted wide on the bend and suddenly Midtown was almost on terms as they entered the back straight.
Undaunted, Laughil Blake moved on again and his awesome pace carried him two lengths clear by the third bend.
Once again he drifted wide off the final corner but Mary and Paul Jennings' dog raced on to collect his Derby ticket with a margin of over two lengths over Midtown Raffa in 29.54, with Greenwell Hulk a strong finishing third.
The really impressive statistic was that Laughil Blake posted a career best 3.29 first split, and we can just speculate what time he would have clocked for the 550 yards, but for giving away so much ground on the opening bend in particular.
Initially trainer Michael O'Donovan was a little mystified, though delighted with the dog's performance
But later in the day the reason for the wide running became obvious as a veterinary examination revealed that he has a slight injury that will rule him out of the Champion Stakes.
"The vet said he should be okay for the Derby but it upsets our plans," said the trainer's.
The start of the Derby is less than six weeks away but O'Donovan has proved himself an expert in such circumstances.
Rural Hawaii shines
The other highlight at Shelbourne were the semi-finals of the ECC Timber Champion 550, where the budding young champions were in action and top of the class on the night was the Graham Holland-trained Rural Hawaii as he led all the way to take the second heat by three lengths from Skywalker Rory in 29.79.
In the opening heat, the early pace of Murt Leahy-trained Ballybough Mike was crucial as he forged a first-bend lead and then comfortably beat Skip Glory by two-and-a-half lengths in 29.85.
Clareman Noel Hehir, who shared in the Derby and Champion Stakes double success for Shelbourne Aston back in 2008, was again in the news when he turned out Ivy Hill Bart to win the Greyhound & Petworld Golden Muzzle 550 at Limerick.
He flew from traps and came home two lengths in front of Jackal Frampton in 29.71.