Greyhound Racing: Ardfert Thunder and Priceless Sky head Gold quest
Unraced and puppy competitions are very much in the news these days with the €15,000 GMHD Classic due to get under way at Tralee next Friday, with the hugely lucrative €80,000 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake set to kick off at Limerick on March 1.
There were fears that the inaugural Kirby event would impact greatly on the well-established and proven juvenile classic, but this has not been the case and both track managements have reported very healthy entries for their respective events.
The Tralee unraced kicks off next Friday, with reports suggesting that there are a host of flying machines set to commence their careers.
Meanwhile, the already established young stars, whelped in 2011, are heading to Limerick for what promises to be a real puppy championship.
A smaller scale unraced stake commenced at Kilkenny on Wednesday with six heats and it featured a fine double for Portlaw breeders Sean and Michael Dunphy with their famed 'Droopys' prefix.
Fastest of the six winners was Droopys Keisha which led all the way when winning easily in 29.27, while Droopys Valerie overcame early trouble to win comfortably in 29.41. Both are daughters of in-form sire Blackstone Gene and look the big names of this competition.
Of course, the older brigade has been far from neglected and tomorrow night at Shelbourne a star-studded line-up will go to traps for the first round heats of the SIS Live Gold Cup.
This event has been run for the past few years over 550 yards, but reverts to the 525 trip this time, so it affords the big names an easier return to racing following their winter rest.
The two names that stick out from the excellent entry of 36 are those of Frances O'Donnell's brilliant Night of Stars 550 winner Ardfert Thunder and Paul Hennessy's St Leger runner-up Priceless Sky.
Both will be making their seasonal debuts after very impressive end of season campaigns, so it may take both a race or two to recapture their best form.
However, it is going to be very interesting to follow their progress in this competition and their later vastly different campaigns, with Ardfert targeting the Irish Derby and Priceless heading the Hennessy team for Wimbledon.
Harold's Cross has the Dublin scene to itself tonight and there are a couple of appealing bets with SWIFT MARATHON (9.25) standing out as the nap. Seamus Graham's dog has some top form around the Cross, having reached the final of the Puppy Derby in 2011. Half an hour later CRYPTIC JESTER (9.55) can get back to winning ways over 550 yards. He seems eased in grade and can assert in the opening half of the contest.
There will be no racing at Galway tonight due to the Connacht v Ospreys Pro12 league clash, but there will be a 12-race card at the track tomorrow.