Grand National kicks off at Harold's Cross
The Irish Grand National is the forgotten element of the Irish greyhound calendar and this year's classic will be a two-run affair with just 12 entries. The semi-finals will be run at Harold's Cross this evening with the final to be run next Tuesday.
Nowadays the only track that stages reasonably regular hurdle racing in this country is Curraheen Park with Mullingar putting on the odd race. Seven of the 12 runners in the heats have run at Curraheen while three are raw novices.
One of the newcomers to jumping, Paradise Alberto, is actually trained across the water by jumps' specialist Jason Foster. He has only raced in Ireland but has had qualifying hurdle trials at Wimbledon and he must be well regarded.
Paradise goes in the opening heat but the fancy here must be Pat Kiely's Comeout Russell (9.02) which holds the track record at Curraheen, while Neilus O'Connell's Native Custom ran up the event last year. In the other heat Pat Barrett's Fair Price (8.47) is the choice on his Cork running.
The big event for the next few weeks will be the Comerford Cakes Stake at Shelbourne with the first round heats on Saturday.
By lunchtime yesterday, 35 names were in the book and they included some very interesting young prospects like Greenhill Pearl, Farloe Jody, Farloe Cody, Lone Scolari, Droopys Latina, Toolmaker Scot, Creamery Bale, Newtown Luke, etc.
The favourites were turned over in both puppy finals at Clonmel on Sunday. Most valuable of the two was the Larry O'Rourke Munster Juvenile Cup and this produced a terrific finish. Razldazl Rince went clear but faded on the run-in with the Jacqueline McCann-trained Eightythreelarch coming from third to grab a neck victory over the favourite Newlawn Luke in 29.01 with Razldazl Rince half a length third.
London owner Robert Brinkley only purchased Droopys Etoile last week but, bearing her new name of Brinkleys Katie, she gained a narrow victory in the Roseanne McIlhone Memorial Unraced Bitch Stake from the favourite Ballymac Scala in 28.77.
The bitches were inseparable for much of the race and the decisive moment came when Ballymac was cut off at the third bend and was forced to check. The Pat Buckley-trained Brinkleys Katie drifted wide off the final bend but held Ballymac Scala by a neck with Nanny Brien a staying four lengths third.