ONE had to be encouraged by the high quality of performances right through the opening round of the SIS Live Gold Cup, and some fantastic racing lies in store over the next three Saturdays.
As detailed yesterday, Owen McKenna's CAMAS was the star turn of the round with that brilliant 28.09 performance and what really shone through was the outstanding early pace which saw him leave top-rated rivals struggling in his wake to the opening bend.
Not far behind was 28.16 heat winner KEREIGHT KING and, as luck would have it, the pair will clash in the third heat of the second round.
It is a mouthwatering prospect, and remember, that stunning female CABRA MILLIE is drawn between the pair.
However, experience over the years has shown us that form from the opening round of this competition can lose some of its significance as the competition progresses.
As the first major open event of the season, it features many top trackers returning from their break and being ring-rusty. As a result, we anticipate the likes of ARDFERT THUNDER, PRICELESS SKY and others to show huge improvement as the event proceeds.
Interestingly, Ardfert Thunder and Priceless Sky will meet in the final heat, where the presence of COOLYKEREEN IMP and CAMBUSHMORE could prove major stumbling blocks.
The young stars will also be claiming some headlines on Friday night, with the GMHD Juvenile Classic set to commence at Tralee.
There had been a worry that the introduction of the new Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake at Limerick would badly affect the quality of entry for Tralee, but Declan Dowling is delighted with the quality they have attracted.
The full first round will be run on Friday night and we can anticipate the 29-second barrier to take a severe hammering.
Entries for the Kirby Memorial will close on Friday evening at 6.0 and the competition will commence on March 1.
Carrying a winner's prize of €80,000, it will be the second most valuable event in the Irish calendar and virtually all the top 2011 whelps will be in the line-up. It will run right through to March 30.
Number of the day
18 The number of runners in this year's Scottish Derby, which has been rescued by the intervention of Ladbrokes as sponsors of the two-run classic. It will now carry a winner's prize of £10,000 and will be run at Shawfield on April 27 and May 4.