Jennings' top dog Laughil reigns Supreme
It was an occasion packed with greyhound activity at Curraheen Park in Cork on Saturday where the semi-finals of the Irish Independent Irish Laurels were played out in the midst of the gala National Greyhound Awards function which was taking place in the restaurant.
Befitting the nature of this year's Laurels classic, there was a mixture of one favourite obliging while the second market leader failed to qualify. The outcome of the heats is a final next Saturday where the Consolation Laurels winner of last year, Midtown Raffa, is a strong 7-4 favourite in the early betting lists on this year's decider.
Meanwhile, the identity of the main Greyhounds of the Year were not known until approaching 11pm when it was first revealed that the Michael O'Donovan-trained Laughil Blake had been voted the Dog of the Year, while Mike Buckley's Velvet All Jam was named Top Bitch.
The Supreme Greyhound of the Year is a direct vote between the Dog and Bitch winners and Laughil Blake duly collected this title also.
It was quite a night for Mary Jennings from Kilcormac, Offaly as she walked away with three trophies as breeder and owner of the great champion. She owns him in partnership with her nephew Paul who wasn't present on the night.
The other awards were: Newcomer - Lenson Sanchez; Stayer - Sidarian Lisa; Sprinter - Crokers Champ; Stud Dog - Kinloch Brae; Brood Bitch - Laughil Lass.
Veteran trainers Gerry Melia and Noel Mullins were inducted into the Hall of Fame, while former HX General Manager Pat O'Donovan received the Special Merit Award.
In the first semi-final of the Laurels, the Moss O'Connor-trained Midtown Raffa flew from traps and looked set for a very easy victory at halfway.
But then the flying bitch Drive On Royal began to make inroads and the photo showed Midtown Raffa had held on by a head in 28.38 with Skywalker Echo another three and a half lengths adrift.
In the second heat, the Neilus O'Connell-owned Knocktoo Garry blasted out of the two box and raced to the bend in front from Trinity Forest and Coran Sky.
When the latter moved second into the back straight the cheers rose for the favourite, but he faded surprisingly and failed to qualify back in fifth.
Knocktoo Garry kept on very strongly despite being challenged on all sides and won by a length and a half from Burgess Rumble in 28.68 with Mimis Ace a length back in third.
Meanwhile, the weather conditions caused the Shelbourne programme to be abandoned after three races and the second round of the Healthcare & Transport Services Puppy Oaks will be run on Wednesday.