Laurels hero Raffa on the Champions trail
Midtown Raffa, winner of the Irish Independent Irish Laurels on his last outing, is the big name in the draw for the Boylesports Race of Champions which commences at Tralee on Friday night.
This two-run competition is a relative newcomer to the Irish calendar but in the past has produced some great racing in what is one of just two Irish meetings broadcast live by RTE TV.
Moss O'Connor's brilliant tracker had a trial last weekend in preparation for the event and covered the 525 yards in 28.33. He is the obvious favourite for the valuable event, particularly as he knows the Tralee circuit so well.
Midtown Raffa goes in the opening heat and among his rivals is Rural Hawaii which was surprisingly eliminated from the BIF National Produce Stakes semi-finals on Sunday. He was apparently recovering from being spiked in the previous round and was clearly below form. However, connections are obviously happy with how he has progressed in the meantime and he looks very well drawn in six, with Laughil Bolt on his immediate inner.
The opening heat will see the reappearance of last year's St Leger winner Paradise Silva. A dog with brilliant pace, he showed his well-being when clocking 28.01 in a trial around Tralee on August 16.
Among his rivals will be Sidarian Vega which suffered the only defeat of his career in the first round of the English Derby. Earlier he had gone unbeaten through the GMHD Juvenile Classic at Tralee and was quite awesome in the final when clocking 28.18.
Big race of the week is the final of the BIF National Breeders Produce Stakes at Clonmel on Sunday and early betting lists have the Graham Holland-trained Amazing Dude as an almost unbackable favourite.
The son of Royal Patrol and Broadacres Hazel races from the inside box and his early pace suggests that he can lead all the way to collect the €30,000 prize.
The race, though, offers Ballyragget trainer Murt Leahy the prospect of his biggest ever success. He is represented by the Pat Carroll-owned duo of Ballybough Mondo and Ballybough Mike. Both these dogs can also fly to the corner and will be on hand to avail of any mistakes made by the favourite.
The best prices on offer with the firms are 1/4 Amazing Dude, 7 Ballybough Mike, 10 Ballybough Mondo, 16 Justice Matters, Maggies Lucy, 33 Haughty Slippers.
Jimmy Buckley has an interesting prospect in Jumeirah Tom (9.15) and the son of Ace Hi Rumble can bring his career record to two wins from three outings in the A3 sixth contest at Shelbourne this evening.