Stars aligned for sizzling start to new year
It's not all that long since Irish greyhound tracks shut up shop for the month of January – and some for February too – but how times have changed.
As we enter a new year we also find ourselves at the start of two major Open competitions which will light up the track scene for the first month of the year.
Shelbourne Park has enjoyed a record-breaking 12 months and will kick off 2013 with the first round of the Tyrur McGuigan Open 575 on Saturday. Due to the festivities, most of the entries will not be received until tomorrow morning and entries will close at noon.
However, we can assume that the line-up will include the majority of the greyhounds that contested the two Open 575-yard competitions which were run over the past two Saturdays. So, we can look forward to the likes of Slip The Genie, Gizmo Classic, Abbeyville Tipp, and Tibetan Skies being back in action over the distance.
There will be no Monday or Wednesday racing at Harold's Cross and Shelbourne for the months of January and February. All tracks countrywide will run one meeting less per week for the course of the two months.
In Clonmel, the annual Red Mills Open Unraced Stake commences on Thursday with six heats. The remaining eight heats will be run on Sunday.
The entry this year looks like one of the strongest in the illustrious history of this stake, which was won last year by Camas, a dog that went on to reach the Irish Derby final. In the Red Mills final, Camas had the subsequent Irish Derby winner Skywalker Puma back in third.
Could we have dogs of similar calibre in this year's event? Well, Fraser Black has entered a team of four classically-bred youngsters and all four have sparkling qualifying form.
Remember the names of Plus Five, Droopys Margo, Ashford Castle and Senior Cup.
But there are plenty of other hot-looking prospects, such as Pat Dalton's trio of Bouncy Castle, Graduation Day and Signal Tower, Alex Callachan's Screen Critic, as well as Owen McKenna's Seventh Heaven and Roxholme Bully. Yes, it's going to be a mighty Open competition.