The Ladbrokes 600 never fails to produce the goods and the first round on Saturday was full of top-class performances and talking points in front of a very large attendance at Shelbourne Park.
Star of the show for the second week on the trot was the Niall Dunne-trained North Bound as he set the fastest time of the round exactly a week after winning the Easter Cup final on the same circuit.
He was led early by Lanesdown Pen but had hit the front halfway to the bend and quickly surged into a six-length lead. Cesarewitch dead-heater Ringtown Snowy took up the chase in the back straight and closed significantly but was still three lengths down at the line in 32.51.
The ante-post favourite Sparta Maestro produced a really gutsy performance as he maintained his unbeaten record over 600 yards. Reckoned to be short on work by his trainer Phil Gough, he raced into a clear lead but was challenged off the final bend by Headway Mossey and a flying Priceless Pilot. But, like the true champion he is, Sparta then knuckled down to the task and held Priceless Pilot by three parts of a length in 32.62.
Two bitches posted their intention with Tyrur Amelia and Highview Beauty both winning in the identical time of 32.59. First up was Tyrur Amelia as she led all the way for a three-and-a-half-length victory over Icandomagic, while Highview Beauty had two-and-a-half lengths to spare over the strong-finishing Tyrur Sugar Ray in the next heat. The other heat winners were Gizmo Classic in 32.73 and Abbeyville Tipp in 32.69.
Down at Limerick there was a terrific run from the Paddy Collins and Patsy Byrne-owned Melodys Diamond in the first round of the Roche's Feeds Oaks. It is scarcely believable that she was only fourth at halfway and took the lead before the third bend and yet won by 13 lengths from Caretaker Jo in 28.29.
Understandably, it was the run of the night with the next best time being the 28.55 from the Paul Hennessy-trained Locnamon Bridie as she won by seven lengths from Coolbeg Gemma. Neilus O'Connell's Razldazl Amy clocked 28.59, while the other winners were Tom Fitzgerald's Ocean Maeve in 28.86, Ann Bourke's Mustang Merkel in 28.72 and Tom Skillen's Landscape in 28.80.
A real terror
The Lee Strand 550 got off to a terrific start at Tralee with the Donna Cronin and Rosa Kelly-owned Shes A Terror clocking 29.63 on Friday night. She was easily the fastest winner but only had two lengths in hand of Airforce Duke at the line.
Only one of the other heat winners managed to break the 30-second mark with Jerry Griffin's Tullig Tree beating Ring A Chris by a length in 29.96.