Gem and College the star Oaks attractions
With reigning champion Locnamon Bridie and recent Puppy Oaks winner Skywalker Alice not among the entries, two of last season's star bitches, Borna Gem and College Maybe, are likely to be market leaders for the Sporting Press Irish Oaks, which kicks off at Shelbourne on Saturday.
With a disappointing entry of just 54 bitches for the Classic, the draw for the nine heats was made early yesterday afternoon and Borna Gem and College Maybe have been kept apart.
Borna Gem has had a litter of pups since last year but showed her wellbeing when winning a sprint at Thurles a few weeks back. She was favourite for last year's Oaks final, where she finished fourth behind Locnamon Bridie.
College Maybe also displayed her class when winning the Hennerty Sales Cork Oaks and on top form she has few peers among her sex.
Paul Hennessy, last year's winning trainer with Locnamon Bridie, has a strong team with no fewer than five bitches carrying the Jaytee prefix of owner John Turner.
He will make a bold bid to repeat his success of last year, while other top names involved include Droopys Muriel and Droopys Sylvia, Coolavanny Pandy, Satin Jessie and Shes A Terror.
36 in Barry's
While the Oaks failed to fill, it was the opposite case with the Barry's Tea 750 at Curraheen Park, which was advertised for 24 dogs and is being run as a 36-strong event.
The efforts of the Limerick and Curraheen tracks in staging regular six-bend races have obviously played a significant role in the increased entry for this event and the quality of the entry is also most impressive.
Graham Holland's Sidarian Lisa looks a bitch that could be well suited by the circuit; she'll be one of the leading fancies.
Fresh from his sensational victory in the Gain 600 at Shelbourne a couple of weeks ago, Jerry Melia's Greenwell Hulk steps back to 550 yards in the Cox Cup, which commences at Newbridge tomorrow.
He goes from the inside box in the first heat. Two notified non-runners from the heats are Future Prospect in Heat 2 and Brick Lane in Heat 3. Billis Adare will take Future Prospect's place.
There should be a bigger than average turnout at Shelbourne tonight where the first-round heats of the €6,000-to-the-winner ECC Timber Champion Puppy 525 will bring out some of the top young stars.
Sponsor PJ Fahy has two flying youngsters in action and both Tyrur Nathan (9.30) and Tyrur Supermac (10.00) can show their class.
The clash of Graham Holland's Quick Blaze (9.45) and Whisht A Mhic in the second heat could be a real highlight.
Both are exciting prospects. The same can be said of Holland's Elevenerife (10.15), which chased home Whisht A Mhic last time.