Hulk faces a strong challenge in Gain 600
A field of 24 dogs will set off in pursuit of the Gain 600 at Shelbourne Park on Saturday and they are headed by Gerry Melia's reigning champion Greenwell Hulk - a real powerhouse over this testing 600-yard trip.
There had been fears that the massively-built Hulk would have to miss the event following a very heavy fall in a 550 yard contest last Saturday. But Melia has had him fully checked out and is happy to press ahead with the 88lb heavyweight which has had only a handful of races due to injury since winning last year's final by ten lengths.
He has drawn the inside trap in Heat 3 where among his main rivals will be Ballymac Matt and Fit Right. But if Greenwell is anyway close to his best he would be a confident choice to win easily.
There is an intriguing clash in prospect in the opening heat where Liam Dowling's Derby finalist Vulturi will be taken on by Brendan Matthews' Kirby Memorial winner Cable Bay.
Leading names in the third heat would be Pat Curtin's Deanridge Pennys, PJ Fahy's Tyrur Hagler and Keith Hand's much-improved Base Camp. The final heat sees another Matthews runner, Leave At Dawn, in action against the likes of Fraser Black's Droopys Bomber, Gerry Merriman's Highview Apollo and Pat Gordon's Skywalker Farloe.
Friday is going to be a very busy night as, apart from the BoyleSports Race of Champions heats at Tralee, two other valuable competitions get under way.
At Kilkenny, the first round heats of the Red Mills Champion Juvenile will be run. The Brendan Matthews-trained Shutthe Backdoor is bidding to complete the big Kilkenny double as he has already won the Red Mills Champion Juvenile. Since then he won impressively at Dundalk on Saturday last and is clearly in top form for this next assignment. Incidentally, the Perry Aylward-trained Skilful Legend, which followed home Shutthe Backdoor in the Unraced final, is also in the draw and they could be set for another thrilling clash.
Meanwhile, Longford will stage all eight heats of the Longford Derby tomorrow night and there are a few very interesting contenders for this €5,000 prize. Among the more fancied runners will be Razldazl Al, Headman Chris, Dalcash Esk, Revilo Blue, Across The Way, Half A Cent, Whaoo Wheoo and Dark Intentions.
Last week there was a great battle between Cuil Tom and Trewmount Blue with Cuil Tom just getting to the front late. They clash in the final of that A3/4 event (8.58) at Shelbourne tonight and the Liam Hughes-owned Cuil Tom seems to have the draw to swing the verdict.