Hawaii can prevail despite tough ECC draw
Already the winner of the BoyleSports Race of Champions at Tralee, the Graham Holland-trained Rural Hawaii pursues another leading prize when the likely favourite for this evening's ECC Timber Champion 550 at Shelbourne.
Owned in partnership by Hawaii-based Mike O'Dwyer and his Clonmel-based mother Helen, Rural Hawaii is one of the top young trackers in training and would be one of the leading prospects for the BoyleSports Irish Derby among the young generation of trackers.
His main problem is a difficult draw in trap five, which ordains that he will need to match last week's slick start if he is to get the required early run.
The big worry is that Skip Glory, despite being a wide seed, has shown a penchant to move inwards on the run to the bend and this could result in an early clash with Rural Hawaii.
For sheer consistency, few can match the Murt Leahy-trained Ballybough Mike, which always seems to be in the firing line and has been a Produce Stakes finalist.
He had a great battle with Skip Glory last week and outstayed that rival but on their previous meeting the roles had been reversed.
Skywalker Rory needs to get away smartly to figure but is a major prospect, while Balline Bolt and Hovex Prince will also have their supporters.
I am prepared to see this prize go anywhere but the nomination is Rural Hawaii (9.57) to win from Ballybough Mike and Skip Glory.
The quality is all at the end of the card tonight, with just four open class contests.
Bet of the night is surely Gerry Melia's Greenwell Hulk (10.27), which has been getting closer to his imperious best with each outing and looks poised for victory in the concluding 575.
Big race of the weekend is the Marshes Dundalk International tomorrow evening. The high-profile greyhound meeting will be the second stage of the popular dual-meeting and the greyhound action will start at 7.30.
The International, first run back in 1968, carries a winner's prize of €20,000 and likely favourite is the Liam Dowling-trained Ballymac Matt (9.15) which recently won the Gain 600 at Shelbourne. He is equally effective over this trip but would prefer a longer run to the bend.
The draw has given him a tough task and he will need to clear Paradise Silva at traprise.
Otherwise the Pat Buckley-trained Paradise Maverik may put his finishing power to best effect. Brendan Matthews' Cable Bay could be well drawn and will be a popular local runner, but it is difficult to fancy either of the two British runners.