National Meeting Update- 31st January

There were two withdrawals today ahead of the beginning of the Festival tomorrow.

In the Derby, Wheres Cranny was confirmed as a non-runner. As things stand the two courses in the Derby will look like this:

Central Investor v Killeagh Jingles
Mungos Rio v City Leader

The Champion Stakes has seen the withdrawal of Cuine Boy today in addition to Droopys Bestie. The Champion Stakes pairings affected as things stand will look like this:

Colossal Force v Latest Trick
Colla Eoin v Man Of War

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Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stake- Preview

It was probably the nightmare draw for Gerry Holian. His kennel’s star bitches will meet in the opening round of the Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stake, a draw that the connections of either would have wanted. Of the other draws though things look very open with each of the other six bitches with reason to be reasonably optimistic about their first round chances.

Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stake– Draw

Minorcas Flyer v Loyal Lyric
Duchess v Collect Me Now
Eggemalong v Lizs Touch
Skellig Tivoli v Smokey Symbol

The top buckle pits two bitches who enter Clonmel with differing levels of form of late. Minorcas Flyer comes to Powerstown with her form having taken a dip after winning cups in October and November, but having two disappointing runs since. Loyal Lyric began her season with a below par effort in Balbriggan before improving over the course of her next two outings to win against the dogs in Templetuohy. She did injure a toe there but having done a little snooping I’m led to believe she returned to work last week and could be ready for Monday. Had she not had that set back I would have given her every chance of reaching the final. On recent form, I’d give her an edge over Minorcas.

The second buckle pits two of the fancied bitches against each other. Duchess hasn’t been seen since her success at Galway and Oranmore in early November, her third victory of the year, but the sister of last year’s winner Bossa Nova Babe must be respected given the record she boasts. Collect Me Now secured victories at Listowel and Castletown-Geoghegan and is many people pick for victory here. An Oaks quarter finalist last year her form in Powerstown must be respected.

The bottom half probably isn’t quite as hot but each of the bitches are there on merit.  Eggemalong was one of the most consistent bitches of the season reaching four finals and winning one. She rarely produced a poor performance. She meets Lizs Touch a winner twice from her three outings. I’m not quite sure what to expect from her and this is a very open course.

The bottom buckle sees Skellig Tivoli and Smokey Symbol meet. On paper there’s not much to separate this pair although you could argue Skellig has beaten the better quality bitches on her way to Powerstown. A winner in Milltown-Malbay and South Clare she got the better of Fives Treasure in the final of the latter. Smokey was only beaten once this year by Minorcas Flyer in Knockgraffon and she might just spring a surprise here.

Collect Me Now‘s probably a deserving favourite but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her win. However, if I thought Loyal Lyric was 100 percent I might just think her value at 6-1.

 

Classics Club Champion Stakes 2014- Preview

I’d held off with the Champion Stakes and Champion Bitch Stake previews to give the field the best possible chance to be confirmed with doubts hanging over at least one competitor. It now looks like Droopys Bestie will not take his place in the line-up. The draw is listed below.

Classics Club Champion Stakes

Skellig Eoin   v   Grayacre Star
Glenlea Sonny   v   Skellig Way
Cracking Lord   v   Mr Blonde
Reserve   v   Latest Trick

Corriga Rebel   v   Limerick South
Cuine Boy   v   Man Of War
Bridewell Kieran   v   Skellig Sunrise
Offshore Town   v  Amys Lotto

Reserves: Colossal Force, Colla Eoin, Yippee Kiyay

This is now the second year of the extended Champion Stakes and there are a number of dogs making there second appearance in the Powerstown All Age showpiece. Indeed the three head the market with Skellig Way and Latest Trick priced at 3-1 with Bridewell Kieran 4s.

Of last year’s 64 Derby qualifiers only four have secured the points and stayed sound to take their place in this year’s draw. But who will prove themselves tops.

In the top quarter of the draw Skellig Way is the standout name and the John Mulcahy trained brindle has been the standout dog this season. Coming to Clonmel with a perfect record, he secured 14 points after winning the Stephen Fuller Memorial Cup in Kilflynn, the All Age Cup in Milltown Malbay and the Corn na Feile in Abbeyfeale. Should he prove successful here he could well be named dog of the year irrespective of what happens in the Derby. He’s beaten some of the top dogs this season including last season’s winner Hopes and Dreams, Kyle Leigh and Mr Blonde. If I had one concern for him however it might be that he underperformed at this stage last season. If he stays sound and fresh he’s probably the dog to beat and you’d have to fancy him against Glenlea Sonny.

Sonny has proven successful twice in Tipperary this year (three times if you count his duffer win in Cashel) having secured victory in Clonmel and Kilsheelan and Knockgraffon. He’s proven to have been a triumph for patience for his owner Darren Smith finally coming good in his third season.

The open buckle features two dogs who failed to win Trial Stakes in their opening seasons having gone close but blossomed in their second year, in Skellig Eoin and Grayacre Star. They were in my ‘ones to watch’ post before the season began and duly delivered on their potential. Skellig began the season well but seemed to go off the boil as the season drew to a close, something that might be of concern for connections. Grayacre, winner of the Laois Cup and the James Curran Memorial Cup is still fairly unexposed this year and I’m not quite sure what his limit might be.

The second quarter is a fascinating one, in that it features four dogs who went about qualifying in very different ways. Latest Trick, one of the stars of last season began this season with victory in the Desmond Cup but was surprisingly beaten in the semi-final in Ballyduff. He had 8 points secured though and was put away in anticipation of his return to Clonmel, something few could have imagined following the festival last year. We’re still not quite sure if he’s at his best but if he is, he’ll take plenty of beating.

He could well meet the track bred Colossal Force who nabbed his spot following his victory in the Corn na Feile. He got the better of the decent Fingal Raptor and Dale Pinocchio there and shouldn’t be overlooked. He’ll be up against it in Clonmel against Latest Trick, but he wasn’t given a prayer in Dundalk and showed a few people up. He couldn’t do it again, could he?

Mr Blonde has been one of the revelations of the year reaching the both Desmond Cup and Corn Na Feile finals, as well as winning the Corn Ceatharlach at the Carlow meeting. He hasn’t looked out of place amongst top class company and he isn’t one I’d be in a rush to write off. He’ll get nothing easy against the in-form Cracking Lord, a cup winner twice in 2014 already! He came from almost nowhere to claim the last Champion Stake place after a slow start to the season. He’s another who it could be worth keeping an eye on.

The bottom half certainly has a few very interesting runners. Bridewell Kieran, Man Of War, Corriga Rebel and Skellig Sunrise all holding decent claims. Bridewell will be hoping to make up for the disappointment of last year when he was beaten (very unluckily in my opinion) to Latest Trick. He appeared to be back to form in Tubbercurry where he won the Ulster Cup but has drawn Skellig Sunrise.

Sunrise, impressed me in Limerick last season en-route to a narrow defeat in the Irish Cup by Pocketrocketben. He’s certainly one to relish the longer field. He was beaten again by Beb and by Man Of War in Lifford this season but claimed the Cup in Roscommon to seal his place here. If he can get past Bridewell anything might be possible.

Man Of War would probably be my value pick for this should he be sound following an injury picked up at the second East Donegal meeting. He’s proven on the field and won a good cup in Abbeydorney to help him qualify. Having been unfortunate in the opening round of the Derby last year, he’s one who could be due a change of luck. He meets Cuine Boy, a dog I’m delighted to see in Powerstown again having just missed out last year. He’ll have a tough task here though.

Corriga Rebel‘s probably the most interesting dog in the field in that it’s difficult to know just how good he is or can be. He won in Galway and Oranmore and in Johnstown and Urlingford on his only appearances this year. He was beaten in the opening round of the Derby by beaten finalist Longmeadow Raz but had impressed in Trials in Tubbercurry prior to that. Could he produce a surprise? His opponent Limerick South was never disgraced this season on any appearance and having gathered 6 points from Christmas he’s certainly in form. I’m not sure he’s good enough to win but he could well get over a round or two.

Offshore Town and Amys Lotto are both big prices with the bookmakers and it’s hard to see either winning, although with a little luck a run on the final mightn’t be out of the question. Offshore performed well early in the season winning two cups, but this probably signals a step up in class. Amys Lotto is one I can see running well. He beat Latest Trick earlier in the season and had he gotten past Loyal Lyric in Templetuohy and won he could well be a much shorter price.

Final Prediction: Skellig Way v Man Of War

National Meeting Update- 29th January

Things have been fairly quiet over the last couple of days, the calm before the storm. What there have been are a few withdrawals, and there could well be more to come.

In terms of betting very little has changed at the top of the market  and the only noticeable change has been Berkie pushing a few dogs out to 100-1.

Withdrawals

Derby

Shanavulin Magic has been withdrawn- Killeagh Jingles will get a run.

Just a note to say that he won’t necessarily replace Shanavulin Magic, but the first dog to run who has been withdrawn (if there are any other dogs withdrawn)

Oaks

Fancy Rae Baker has been withdrawn- Castle Tornado will get a run.

As before, Castle Tornado as first reserve will get a run though not necessarily in Fancy Rae Baker’s place.

The next reserve up will be Over The Rail due to the withdrawal of An Gealbhan at the Reserve B slot.

Champion Stakes

The withdrawal of second reserve Tilford Tom means Colla Eoin is now the second reserve.

 

Greyhound and Pet World Oaks 2014- Preview

Crafty Opello and Fireheight Una will get the 2014 National Meeting underway on Saturday morning and what a stake it promises to be. The field looks like one of the strongest of recent years and has a real headline first round buckle with the clash of Bank Perspective and Ballarue New sure to get the punters talking.

Trying to predict the Oaks is no simple task and if last year’s anything to go by I might struggle to go give half the last eight a mention!

First Quarter

While the third quarter has been getting the headlines and the big names the opening quarter is also of a fairly high standard. Somelittlething, Skellig Kiwi, Paramaddan Buzz, Windgap Breeze and Skellig Rose had all but been priced at 20-1 or shorter by the bookmakers prior to the draw, while there are one or two others that could spring a surprise.

Somelittlething was cut to 12-1 by Berkie after the draw and he gave her a relatively positive mention on Radio Kerry on Saturday. She set tongues wagging on the opening day in Mooncoin with some fancy clocks before losing out to Roll Over Magic in the final of the Puppy Stake. She’s one, especially given her breeding, that you’d have to give every chance.

I’d be surprised if she didn’t meet Skellig Kiwi in the third round, should everything run smoothly (that’s much easier said). Kiwi was an impressive winner of the Trial Stake in Newcastlewest having just lost out to Careful Betty in Killimer-Kilrush. She could have plenty to say here.

The bottom half of the quarter contains a excellent looking buckle between Paramaddan Buzz and Skellig Rose. Buzz saw her price cut after a fine performance in the Corn Cuchullain, reaching the semi-finals and that experience will certainly stand to her here. She’s been busy, winning 13 from 15 this season but meets a very interesting bitch in Skellig Rose. Rose’s performance in Cork taken in isolation was one of the most impressive of the season and should she get a little more luck (and longer slips) than full brother Skellig Wish in Powerstown then she could be a ‘dark horse’.

Windgap Breeze is another who has flown under the radar having been well regarded after winning her Trial Stake. That Trial Stake in Johnstown and Urlingford was a decent one but she meets a bitch in Magical Amber who might be under rated. She was ahead on the clock through almost every round in Thurles. I wouldn’t be in any rush to write her off.

Second Quarter

The big names in the second quarter, Turbo Julie and Needham Pine will be fancied by many to come out of this quarter but it might be far from simple. Turbo Julie might be the outright favourite and well fancied by connections but she’s got a very tricky opener in Turning Pace, a battle hardened bitch who has raised 16 flags from 19 this season.

Fancy Baker Rae‘s another I’ve been banging the drum for, for a while. She won a good Trial Stake in Edenderry and could well be under-rated. [EDIT: And she’s now a non-runner] Ballynakill Lady, a litter sister of Turbo Julie, impressed in Sevenhouses and is well regarded.

In the bottom half Heart Light‘s one of interest. She has plenty of gears though I’d have some concerns about her ability to eye the hare. If she was to go well it wouldn’t be the first time a winner from Tubbercurry went to Clonmel and won through. Bower Lucy, a Reserve and a full Trial Stake winner is one who could go well. A litter sister of Kingsmill Rover, she’s one to take note of, but it might well be Needham Pine who is the one to look out for here. She caused a stir in Wexford at Christmas, is in experienced hands and as a daughter of Needham Time she’s got the pedigree for Powerstown.

Third Quarter

I’m not entirely sure where to start here given the quality of this quarter. I’ll be here all night if I start analysing each bitch individually so I’m going to have to try and be brief.

I’d expect to see Fota Castle and Floating Cove meet in the second round but to be honest I’m not quite sure what to make of the former. She’s bred in the purple and showed well in Fermoy before winning her Trial Stake in Rathdowney. Her Fermoy form could see her in with a chance here. Floating Cove won a decent Trial Stake in North Kilkenny and in any other quarter she’d have a great chance of making the last 8. I’m not so sure here.

Call Her Dresden was the early season Oaks favourite and but for defeat in Old Kilcullen she might still be. After an admirable performance in the Corn na Feile she’s right back on the radar here. You’d fancy her to win her opening buckle. She could well meet Ballyverry Snowy, the Glanworth Trial Stake winner. The stake produced a handful of winners and Snowy was  clocking consistently ahead of the rest of the field. She could be a dark horse.

Careful Betty, leads the betting in the bottom half of this quarter, one that’s packed with quality. She’s been well touted as a potential winner and one who impressed when winning her Trial Stake in Killimer-Kilrush. Horige Baby has been consistent all year and would be fancied to beat Anna Bolena but then the fun starts.

Ballarue New and Bank Perspective have put in almost foot perfect seasons to date and their buckle will be one to whet the appetite. Given Bank Perspective’s form I’d be tempted to side with her. Skellig Blues in the bottom buckle has a difficult opener but I’d fancy her to progress.

Fourth Quarter

This quarter probably lacks the depth of the others but there are a couple of ladies who will have real claims on Oaks success. The top half of this quarter is fairly open, with 25-1 the smallest price available with Berkie for any of the 8. One that might be worth following is Sotogrande, a bitch of Ian Reilly’s who was cut with both Boyles and Brownes after victory in Cavan, one can only assume as a result of some support. She’s another with a tricky opener, the Loughrea winner Nidge Weasel having been safely stored away since her victory. Another to receive some support was Shadow Hunter, the winner of a decent Trial Stake in Rathkeale. She’ll not be without a chance.

Ocean Hannalora and Smart Sadie really stand out in the bottom half of this quarter and in the draw as a while. Ocean Hannalora is another reported to be with Ian Reilly and her form is fairly strong if not perfect. Smart Sadie changed hands (and names) after her Trial Stake win and is now in the kennels of last year’s winning trainer Barney Mooney. Sadie mightn’t get things all her own way, with Split Decision one that might appreciate the heavier going. Ocean has been well supported but her first round opponent, Atlantic Diva, has not been without her fans and she could well cause Ocean problems.

My ‘tips’ for the final four:

Somelittlething
Turbo Julie
Bank Perspective
Smart Sadie

Boylesports.com Derby 2014- Preview

1,434 pups were eligible to contest the 2014 Boylesports Derby but only 64 will take to Powerstown Park for the chance to join the list of greats. Only one can get the ultimate honour but who will it be?

While the Champion Stakes might be possible to pick apart and decipher, due to the dogs taking part having plenty of form to study. In the case of the Derby and Oaks we’re working off scraps. Indeed this year without the sort of video coverage we had in recent years we’re even more in the dark than normal. (That’s my excuse anyway)

Reflecting on the draw and working through it, the second quarter in particular has some excellent dogs and to be honest I struggled to pick it apart. I’ve picked my final four but to be honest it will probably have changed about three or four times between now and Saturday morning. If last year is anything to go by I’ll just be jinxing them!

First Quarter

The top half of this quarter contains two of the favourites with the bookmakers, Corn na Feile winner Needham Danger and Ballyheigue Trial Stake winner Sturdyandstaunch. They’re in the position they are with the bookmakers on merit and I have to admit it’s difficult to pick between them. I don’t expect it to be a procession however and wouldn’t be surprised if they are given trouble. Must Name Him fits the profile of one who could be overlooked. The Fermoy Trial Stake traditionally throws up some good dogs and this fellow could well be another.

The second half of this quarter looks a very open affair. I’m not completely convinced by Droopys Newman but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wide of the mark. In saying that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he got over a run or two. One that might be over looked is Fleetwood Nova, but he won what was a very good Trial Stake in New Ross and beat Needham Danger in the quarter final. Needham’s changed hands twice since that but he can’t be written off. It wouldn’t surprise me where he standing on the final day.

Second Quarter

This is on paper and with the bookmakers the most competitive quarter and it would be possible to make a case for almost anything here. The opening buckle’s almost impossible to call with the Holian trained Glenrock Gary having shown plenty in Tubbercurry to suggest he could make an impact here, though it might be argued that this will come too soon. Crafty Boohoo was talked up after he won in Trim but by and large he’s an unknown package.

The two others who set tongues wagging where Vale View Flyer and Central Investor. Vale View is one that I’d certainly like to keep onside. A winner of both a Reserve and a full Trial Stake he’s one of the youngest dogs in the stake, being a late June whelp. I’d take convincing about some of the dogs he’s beaten this year but I’d expect him, to be a lively player here. Central is one of three brothers in the field and he won to my mind probably the best of them. His form is strong. He led Summertime Blues (who beat City Leader in Cavan before injurying himself) and Fingal Rory (impressive winner in Cavan) before taking care of Architects Castle in the final.

The bottom half looks like a potential minefield with a number of dogs with real claims. So Say You and With Grim Intent could be the buckle of the meeting, the former one that could surprise a few people. With Grim Intent was purchased by Noreen McManus after winning his Trial Stake but some of the vibes haven’t been great. Roll Over Magic is one that I like (perhaps coloured by having had the chance to see video of his win in Mooncoin) he does most of his best work late and may appreciate the expanses of Powerstown.

Kingsmill Rover, is another to have changed hands and the hype after his victory in Dungarvan suggests he could well be the one to beat. His grand dam claimed the Oaks here and he’s got the breeding for Clonmel. Reports suggest he’ll enjoy the longer field and he’s one I’d want to be keeping onside. He could well meet the only dog to beat him this year Sunfire Nova in the second round. Sunfire will be expected to beat Wood Dynamo but I’ve a sneaking feeling we could get a shock here with Dynamo producing some of his best running when fresh.

Third Quarter

If I’m struggling to pick two quarter finalists from the second quarter I’m finding things more straight forward here with Eshwary Leader looking like the standout choice. He won his Trial Stake fairly impressively and has moved kennels since, currently residing with Ian Reilly. There’s been some money for him, so connections I imagine are confident. I’m struggling to look past him. Kyle Calvin is one in the bottom half of the quarter who might cause him trouble.

The top half of this quarter looks wide open. Breezing Johnny‘s form all season was sound and should be held in high regard while his opening round opponent Garbally Sam can’t be written off. I’ve a niggling feeling in the back of my head about Shanavulin Magic and if he’s fresh enough after his win in Macroom he may have a chance. [Edit: So much for that niggling feeling. Shanavulin’s a non-runner]

Fourth Quarter

There are a number of big guns in the bottom quarter with Newinn Glory and Needham Simple finding themselves on course for a third round clash. Needham’s form from Castleisland was first class and I’d be happy to forgive him his run in Old Kilcullen. Light Duty won a traditionally strong Trial Stake in Lifford however and might cause a problem or two. Newinn’s certainly bred for Powerstown and the vibes from his win in Ardpatrick were definitely right. I’d expect him to reach the 3rd round although David Is Happy isn’t one I want to write off particularly easily.

The bottom half of the quarter sees my two ‘dark horses’ drawn to meet in the opening round. I thought Fingal Rory‘s performance in Cavan was fairly impressive and one that’s perhaps been overlooked. Rocks Of Bawn however won a competitive Trial Stake in Templetuohy. It’s hard to draw lines of form between them but I could see the winner progressing.

Litter brothers Bold and Brazen and Hi Black Jack could well meet in the second round and I’d struggle to pick them apart on form. The Glin winner usually goes well here and he’s one to respect.

My ‘tips’ for the final four:

Sturdyandstaunch
Vale View Flyer/ Central Investor/ Kingsmill Rover
Eshwary Leader
Needham Simple

PS: I know it’s a cop out but I really can’t separate the three in the second quarter