Having been right at the top of the long-odds since the commencement of the classic, Midtown Raffa is still the clear favourite as we approach Saturday's final of the Irish Independent Irish Laurels at Curraheen Park.
He is generally a 7/4 market leader to capture the €30,000 prize with his nearest rivals in the betting being Drive On Royal at 3/1, Knocktoo Garry at 4/1 and Mimis Ace at 5/1. Both Skywalker Echo and Burgess Rumble are quoted at double-figure odds.
Midtown Raffa is trained in Scartaglin by Moss O'Connor, who will be bidding for his third Laurels success, having been previously successful with Adraville Bridge back in 1990 and Nikita Billie in 2003. The dog is owned by the Skevana Syndicate which is organised by John O'Sullivan from Castleisland but two of the members are the Colbert brothers who hail from Abbeyfeale but are the owners of bars in New York, including Tir Na nOg in Manhattan.
Moss admits he has never met the boys but the word is that they are travelling over on Saturday for what could be a memorable occasion.
But the wily O'Connor will have them well warned about the task on hand. "We have to be worried about Neilus O'Connell's dog Knocktoo Garry on the run to the bend as he has great early pace and I wouldn't want our fellow getting tangled up with him on the run to the bend," he said. "My hope that is that Raffa could take him to the bend but he will need one of his better breaks".
If he does clear, Knocktoo Garry early he will have the big-finishing bitch Drive On Royal to worry about and she was catching him hand over fist on the run-in on Saturday. Of course she has already won the €3,000 prize for the top bitch and is now bidding to become the first female winner of the classic in some 20 years.
But, essentially, this is a very open contest and all six must enter the equation. The Burgess dogs must always be feared around the southern circuit and Sheila Spillane and son-in-law JJ Fennelly are entitled to have big hopes for Burgess Rumble, though he would be better off with an inside draw.
John Kiely's Mimis Ace is another one of the big finishers that would clearly prefer a longer trip. He will be flying late and Frances O'Donnell's Skywalker Echo is another strong runner.
The first round of the Red Mills Champion Unraced was run in very wet conditions on Sunday evening at Kilkenny when the fastest time returned was the 28.97 from Geoff Parnaby's Tarsna Rory in clocking 28.97. This fellow showed a nice touch of early pace and won by five lengths from Ballybough Lee.
A few other eye-catching runs in the stake were the 29.11 from Laura Kennedy's Flawless Spirit and the 29.19 from John Martin's Shutthebackdoor.