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Dog chat: Bubbly Phoenix lone raiding threat as Irish look to dominate derby

ENGLISH Derby glory has eluded Ireland for another year but the action of the past month or more at Wimbledon has also suggested that the Ladbrokes.com Irish Derby will stay at home this year.

Really, the only likely challenger for the Irish Derby to emerge from the British team was Bubbly Phoenix, a dog that has already won in sparkling time at the Dublin venue and whose welcome presence would attract plenty of visitors from the ranks of Champagne Club members who own this tracker.

Meanwhile, at home, the Sporting Press Irish Oaks got under way and we had a few upsets, notably the elimination of Priceless Spark and Barrack Patsy. The draw for next Saturday's second round has thrown up a few interesting races.

Two of the fastest winners were John O'Flynn Jnr's Milldean Tally and Graham Holland's Cabra Millie, and they are set to meet in Heat 6, where they will be tested by Rosiemac and Beaming Olive.

Borna Gem, owned by Ruairi Dwan and Anthony Rhodes, has a big role to play in the Classic and she meets fellow heat winners Crossfield Tina and Solo Star in Heat 8. Owen McKenna's Airforce Diva looked back to her best form and will meet kennel companion Celebrity Juice as well as College Maybe in Heat 3.

The Red Mills Champion Unraced final will be run on Sunday at Kilkenny and it looks mighty open, with Castlelyons Zack holding a slight advantage on the clock but having to overcome a trap-five draw. Preference here goes to the Graham Holland-trained Jimmy Boy, which can benefit from the red jacket.

The Barry's Tea Open 750 semi-finals will be run at Curraheen Park on Saturday and fastest heat winner Dogwithacollar can go in again, while Incitatus can lead them home in the second heat.

Top event on Friday will be the Cox Cup semi-finals at Newbridge, with Eabhas Fantasy and Quail Hollow put forward as likely winners.

There should be a big crowd at Harold's Cross this evening for a card that includes the final of the 2012 DGOBA Dublin Cup, with the winner to receive €2,750. The favourite is likely to be the Tony Byrne-trained Droopys Crumlin in the red jacket, but there are major dangers in the shape of Droopys Dupre and Ballymac Brian.

Entries for the Bettor.com Northern Irish Derby at Drumbo Park close tomorrow at 12.0 and the first-round heats will be run on Saturday. A nice bonus is that entry to the event is free.

Irish Independent