Greyhounds - Skywalker Puma back for tilt at Derby
With the first round less than two weeks away, the Boylesports.com Irish Derby build-up is beginning to heat up.
The classic received a real fillip with the news that the 2012 Derby winner Skywalker Puma is back in training and being aimed at the race. He did a satisfactory 28.84 morning trial around Limerick and it must be taken into account that this was his first appearance on a track since he sustained a serious injury in last year's Derby.
Whether he can be competitive in the Derby two years on from his triumph is a major question, but there are few shrewder judges than Matt O'Donnell. His presence would add that extra dimension to the whole event.
While the Puma is an addition to the Derby picture, a leading fancy is almost certainly out of contention. Owen McKenna yesterday reported that Vanrooney sustained a hairline fracture in a cannon bone last Saturday.
The number of UK challengers has now risen to eight following the addition of Ian Aylward's Baliff Turbo and Baliff Hawk to those of Paul Young (Droopys Ward and Underground Paul), Dean Childs (Droopys Norris and Sidaz Pedro), Carol Weatherall's Holdem Spy and June McCombe's Kingsmill Sky.
Top action will be the second round of the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk where the two long-odds favourites are Crown Champ and Vans Viking and both can win their heats.
Aidan McVeigh's Crown Champ (8.50) is currently the favourite and he can win again in Heat 4 at the likely expense of last year's finalist Steely Passion and Ely Rambler.
Graham Holland's Vans Viking (9.50) was one spot faster than Crown Champ last week and this lightly raced tracker can improve as the event proceeds.
He is the long range fancy for honours and is nominated to lead Darfin Dancer and Drumsna Messi in Heat 7.
Peter Cronin's English Derby third Crokers Champ (7.50) is fancied to win the opening heat, while Owen McKenna's Con Te Partiro (8.05) looks the pick of the second. Following an impressive first round effort, Ian Reilly's Skidroe Again (8.20) looks hot in Heat 3.
The final of the Red Mills Unraced Bitch will be run at Youghal and all eyes will be on the Paul Hennessy-trained Priceless Lassie (9.10), which has been hugely impressive in her two outings to date.
We have a group of useful young bitches in the first round of the Head For Fame Puppy Oaks at Harold's Cross, and one that caught my eye last week was Brendan Maunsell's Fire Height Amy (9.10) and she can step up at the main expense of Baytown Engel.
Tonight's Early Pick 4 Jackpot at Harold's Cross will be guaranteed to €4,000. The pool operates on races 2, 3, 4 and 5.
There will be a €7,500 guaranteed Pick 7 pool at Shelbourne Park tomorrow. This will operate on races three to nine inclusive.