Holland's Hero primed to emulate Rocket
Having won the classic last year with Clares Rocket, Graham Holland provided the fastest first round winner in the opening round of the 2017 BIF Produce Stakes at Clonmel when Clonbrien Hero flashed to a very impressive victory.
Holland has held this fellow in the highest regard since his first trials and he has improved with each outing. He will face a stiff test in next Sunday's second round when he goes from trap four and his main rival is likely to be Ian Reilly's Burnt Beans.
Other star performers in the opening round included the English-trained Vahsel Bay as she raced home clear of Burnt Beans in 28.61. Vahsel Bay is handled by Martin White who began his greyhound career in Ireland and loves coming back to have a crack at some of our top prizes.
The consensus of opinion following the opening session is that it is a most open competition. Incidentally, Francie Murray has changed the seeding of Kirby Memorial finalist Rathnasare Champ and he is now a middle.
Confidence in the Irish team for the English Derby at Towcester is growing all the time and Clares Rocket sent out a very clear message when he smashed the track record in a solo spin over the Derby distance on Saturday. His time of 28.94 took 14 spots off the former record and it saw the Rocket cut to 12/1 with many of the firms. One suspects he will get shorter before the classic commences.
Peter Cronin's Sab Miller also went inside the record with a 29.07 run and he is a name to have on your side. But one which really impressed was Paul Hennessy's Priceless Brandy which had been on the easy list and should improve considerably on his excellent 29.10 effort. Keep him on your side!
There will be another big team of Irish dogs at Towcester on Saturday both for trials and for the Trial Stakes to be run that night. Holland will have a number of runners while Paul Hennessy and Fraser Black will be among those trialling some runners.
Fraser Black is bringing over five dogs for trials, Vancouver Shea, Kranky Mark, Droopys Awesome, Maireads Spring and Caddy Shack. He said: "We will see how they handle the track and then make a decision on which we will run in the classic."
Meanwhile, Shelbourne Park remains closed due to the Harold's Cross closure but racing manager Declan Carey yesterday announced that he has received a number of entries for the Sporting Press Micro Dog Irish Oaks which is due to commence on Saturday, May 13. Trials are available each Thursday between 11am and 1pm.