Calendar needs a serious rethink
The format of the Irish greyhound calendar needs a serious rethink. The problem has been highlighted by the massive Irish challenge for the English Derby, which begins next week.
Some of our top trackers would have gone to Wimbledon in any circumstances, but many others would have remained in Ireland if there were a suitable competition for them during the summer months.
From the completion of the Easter Cup on April 13 until the start of the Champion Stakes on July 20 there is no totally open competition at Shelbourne Park for 525 or 550-yard trackers.
Hence, the rush to Wimbledon when these dogs should be boosting our attendance figures with their presence at our top tracks.
In the past, the Irish Laurels has successfully filled the summer gap, but it is now staged as the middle leg of an end-of-season scramble, with the Irish Derby, the Laurels and the St Leger all taking place between August 7 and November 23.
The bitches will be the main attraction at Shelbourne for the next four weeks and more, with the Sporting Press Irish Oaks due to close this morning at 10.30 and the first-round heats being divided between Thursday and Saturday.
As of yesterday, there were 60 names in the book of the advertised 96, and it is hoped that the Classic can be run off with at least 72 runners.
Among the leading names in the book are Borna Gem, Rockburst Beryl and Rockburst Pearl, Airforce Diva, Droopys Hilda and Droopys Adelaide, Rios Girl, Ilikeyou, Royal Diva, Locnamon Bridie, Melodys Diamond, Tyrur Amelia, Highview Beauty, Badminton Girl, Skywalker Mandy and Lolos Spanner.
The sprinters and the stayers also swing into action this week. The Peggy Kelly's Islandbridge Sprint kicks off at Harold's Cross on Friday, while the Barry's Tea Open 750 will start at Curraheen the following night.
Other events which begin this week include the Cox Cup at Newbridge and the Munster Derby at Clonmel, and all the above events close to entries today.
Last year's winner Bulmers Baby again heads the entry for the Peggy Kelly's Islandbridge Sprint. Despite the absence of English Derby duo Cambushmore and Knockglass Billy, there will be a high-class entry, with Big Casino, Glenardan, Ballymac Matthew and Ballymac Best among the entries received.
Roscommon's Tom and Marcella Clyne have a nice prospect in Highview Thady (9.46), which will be a strong favourite for a heat of the Bogside Jake A4 at Harold's Cross this evening. The other heat can go to Lar Kinsella's Brewers Way (10.0).