Coursing: Holian seals place among the greats
Former Galway hurler Gerry Holian yesterday sealed his place among the legends of the greyhound world when he not alone won the Boylesports.com Derby, with Adios Alonso at Powerstown Park, but also supplied the first two in the final of the Champion Bitch Stake.
Holian had previously won the Derby with Murtys Gang back in 2002 and has now built up a tremendous portfolio of Clonmel successes. There had been a huge gamble on Adios Alonso in advance of the meeting and he never put a foot wrong in the six times he traversed the Clonmel hill.
Adios Alonso won in the style of a true champion for the Holian/ Maher/ O'Sullivan Syndicate. Despite persistent rumours of a troublesome shoulder, he showed pace and determination in winning his quarter and semi-final outings against Prevelence and Mucky Eamonn.
It was pretty close over the early yards of the final where he was opposed by the Shamrock Bar, Kilworth Syndicate-owned Mafi Magic, but the massively built brindle opened up a gap on the hill and took the turn by a length from a very gallant runner-up. The winner, a January pup, had qualified at Castletowngeoghegan.
The huge crowd enjoyed a tremendous finish to the meeting which featured top-class coursing in ideal weather. There was a bit of an anti-climax in the Hotel Minella Oaks, though, where the favourite Needham Time was announced as a non-runner just as the final was about to go upfield. She sustained an injury in the semi and trainer Ian Reilly and owner Brendan Keogh were forced to withdraw her.
This cleared the way for the Liam Lynch and Seamus Begley-owned Lisloose Accord to be declared the winner of the bitch classic. It was a first classic success for trainer Johnny Carroll and it was thoroughly deserved -- though one would have liked to see the final run.
Holian got both Cleanaway Smurf and Blades Of Glory through to the final of the Champion Bitch and the latter was well on her way to victory until halfway where she suddenly pulled up with a serious injury. Cleanaway Smurf then shot past to win on her own.
Clonmel maestro Brendan Matthews didn't enjoy his greatest ever festival, but he did win yet another Champion Stakes as Bexhill Eoin justified hot favouritism with a final victory over a gallant Donard King.