Something to chew over!

I’m out for most of the afternoon today so you’ll have to lean on Greyhound Nuts, Facebook or @McnamaraMicheal for updates! In the mean time I’ll leave you with a tally of the Charity Fantasy Coursing picks in the Sporting Press this year.

In case you missed it, the great and good of the coursing world picked their top 8 dogs in Fantasy Coursing for the season with the overall winner receiving €1,000 donated to a charity of their choice.

Not surprisingly the Irish Cup runner-up Eshwary Leader led the way closely followed by Corn na Feile winner Needham Danger. Derby finalists With Grim Intent and Kyle Calvin were tied on six selections, while there were a host of dogs on five including Irish Cup winner Newinn Wonder. Those selected more than once included:

Dog Selected
Eshwary Leader 13
Needham Danger 11
Kyle Calvin 6
With Grim Intent 6
Central Investor 5
Needham Simple 5
Newinn Wonder 5
Skellig Blues 5
Skellig Sunlight 5
Kingsmill Rover 4
Vale View Flyer 4
Crafty Who 3
Needham Pine 3
Black And White 2
Breezing Johnny 2
Careful Betty 2
Fingal Master 2
Fleetwood Nova 2
Fota Castle 2
Hi Black Jack 2
Kyle Roger 2
Rocks Of Bawn 2
Sturdyandstaunch 2

Among the others receiving a mention were:

Maker Of Rules, Shadow Hunter, Call Him Bale, Somelittlething, Ballarue New, Central Curator, Newinn Glory, Sand Sea Model, Crafty Boohoo, Fingal Tiger, Wood Dynamo, Crafty Yahoo, Crushers Johnny, Garbally Sam, Gifted Rebel, Light Duty, Lineroad Amigo, Ballynakill Mary, Careful Betty, Skellig Rose, Needham Marie, Kyle Roger, Dynamic Billy, Gift Razor, Mr Blonde, Power Of Peace, Highland Heather.

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Skellig ladies worth taking a chance on?

Over the past couple of seasons the ‘Skellig’ dogs owned by Tim and Rose O’Driscoll have really been powerhouses in the All Age stakes. The likes of Skellig Way, Skellig Sunrise, Skellig Tivoli, Skellig Wish and Skellig Eoin have all claimed silverware for the Cork husband and wife in the All Age ranks. Could they repeat the trick this season? 

It should be noted that the Skellig dogs are usually trained by a number of trainers, including Denis O’Driscoll, Gerry Holian, Johnny Mulcahy and Charlie Faul, as well as by Tim himself, so it will be interesting to see who has each of the following contenders this season

 

Skellig Blues
(Adios Alonso x Skellig Babe)

An Oaks quarter-finalist last season and an impressive one at that. Oaks favourite on the final morning she led almost the entire length of the Clonmel field in her last 8 course, before being denied by Oaks runner-up Tynwald Jane, at the escape in a just up. If this daughter of Adios Alonso and Skellig Babe can repeat her form then Clonmel then she’ll be a real contender for the Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stake. A Trial Stake winner in Milltown Malbay, she ran a little below power in Abbeyfeale at the Corn na Feale losing to Call Her Dresden. She beat Sullane Jess, Ballarue New and Careful Betty to reach the last 8 underlining her class against some top ladies.

 

Skellig Rose
(Matt Hyland x Beyond Tivoli)

 Having been fairly sweet on this lady going into last February’s National Meeting her quarter-final defeat to eventual winner Somelittlething was a bit disappointing. Having taken a while to get going last season she finally showed her real pace and class winning the Trial Stake at the County Cork meeting at Christmas time, clocking favourably with the older dogs. She had taken care of Paramadden Buzz, Lochbo Diva and Magical Amber prior to her semi-final course.

 

Skellig Kiwi
(Adios Alonso x Skellig Babe)

The last of the triumvirate of ‘Skellig’ runner in last years Oaks, Kiwi had been many people’s fancy prior to coursing after an impressive Trial Stake victory in Newcastlewest. She was never really at top form at the National Meeting though struggling through the opening couple of courses past Beautys Lara and Stonepark Dynamo before losing out to Somelittlething in the last 16. I expect there may well be more in the tank and it’ll be interesting to see how she’s campaigned this season.

 

Skellig Sunlight
(Adios Alonso x Skellig Babe)

A litter brother of both Blues and Kiwi, Sunlight is one of the more interesting second season dogs around. He’s staying with Denis O’Driscoll this season and if he can capitalise on his potential from last season, he’ll be one to side with. He was ahead on the clocks in Knockgraffon through the opening three rounds of his debut before being beaten by Go Conquer. His only other appearance saw him withdrawn after the opening round at the Co. Cork meeting after a grueller in his opening course. Given the success of Skellig Way, Sunrise and Eoin in recent years having not won Trial Stakes as pups it’d be silly to overlook him.

 

Skellig Lola
(Bexhill Eoin x Qualityandgold)

While the other four might well have been on people’s radars given their performances as pups, this third season lady might well be the surprise package. For a long time she looked like she wasn’t quite up to cup winning standard, as both a pup and an all age dog coming up short on multiple occasions. Things began to go right for her towards the tail-end of last season however when she won cups in Rathcormac and North Kilkenny and just missed out on the Champion Bitch Stake. She could well figure this season

Third season dogs who can make a big difference to your fantasy team

Almost every season there are a handful of third season dogs who upset their younger colleagues and claim cups and fantasy points. You only need to look at Skellig Way, Bridewell Kieran and Latest Trick in the season just gone as an example. This season who should we be on the look out for?

 

Mr Blonde
(Murtys Blaze x Chubbys Excel)

Declared Champion Stakes winner and Irish Cup semi-finalist, Mr Blonde had the sort of year last year that few would have expected. Highly touted as a pup he never really got things together but with a bit more maturity he made an almost instant impact reaching the final of the Desmond Cup in Glin where he was beaten in the final by Mr Blonde.

Having shown he could mix it with the best dogs in the country he won next time out taking the Corn Ceatharlach at the Co. Carlow meeting. His next appearance saw him attempt to win the Corn na Feile but a heavy hunt earlier in the competition meant that he was no match for Skellig Way in the final. He would meet Skellig Way again in the semi-final of the Champion Stakes in Clonmel and having trailed for a large part of the course just drove in on his quarry at the right time to shade the verdict. He would later be declared winner following Corriga Rebel’s final disqualification.

As if to show that his Champion Stakes exploits were no fluke he made a long run to the semi-final of the Irish Cup before eventually losing out to Eshwary Leader. There’s every chance he could pick up a cup or two this season.

 

Amys Lotto
(Kyle James x Shades of Oak)

Another of the surprise packages of 2013-2014, Amys Lotto was extremely reliable last season despite coming into the season with no outstanding form as a pup. A semi-finalist in his first outing at Castleisland, he lost out to Hopes and Dreams. Next time out at Ballyduff, the son of Kyle James and Shades of Oaks sprang yet more surprises beating Kingdom Call, Latest Trick and Ashwood James to claim the Kit Browne North Kerry Cup.

He got the better of Newinn Wonder and Last Emperor in the Munster Cup at Newcastlewest before losing out to Kyle Leigh in the semi-final and again reached the semi-final of the 32 dog cup in Templetuohy before losing to Loyal Lyric to qualify for the Champion Stakes. He beat Offshore Town and Bridewell Kieran to reach the semi-final before losing narrowly to the later disqualified Corriga Rebel. He would later lose in Limerick to top pups Fleetwood Nova and Needham Danger.

 

Man Of War
(Adios Alonso x Moonlit Harbour)

Having impressed as a pup winning the TA Morris Derby Purse at Clonmel, Man Of War was one of my leading dogs to follow last season. He didn’t disappoint in what we saw of him, winning the 32 dog Horgan Cup in Abbeydorney on his first appearance. Having impressed here he got the better of Skellig Sunrise and Broadwell James in Lifford before suffering a season hampering hoch injury in the final.

While he competed in the opening round of the Champion Stakes, the injury saw his withdrawn after the first round. He would go onto Limerick and run into Eshwary Leader in the opening round of the Irish Cup before not taking his place in the consolation events. If he is over his injury from last season and with the summer to rest it there’s every reason to believe he is then he could well take plenty of beating this year.

 

Kyle Leigh
(Kyle James x Leigh Smokey)

Having been extremely unlucky in the semi-final of the 2013 Derby, Kyle Leigh’s luck didn’t get a great deal better last season. He’s still only made four appearances in his career, winning the Trial Stake in Regional on debut before running brilliantly to reach the semi-final of the 2013 Derby.

On his first appearance last season he reached the final in the Stephen Fuller Memorial Cup in Kilflynn, just finding Skellig Way, who was probably at the peak of his powers, too good in the final. After sustaining an injury he had a couple of months of but emerged refreshed in Newcastlewest proving an excellent winner of the Munster Cup.

That was the last we seen of him last season but he could well re-appear early this season and he’d certainly be one to keep on the right side of. Still fairly fresh he could make a real run at end of season silverware.

 

Pocketrocketben
(Kyle James x Ashwood Dee)

One appearance last season. One Cup. Pocketrocketben was one of the most unfortunate dogs of the 2013-2014 season losing the year to injury. Only just beaten by Thomas The Tank in the second round of the 2013 Derby, he showed class and exceptional early pace reaching the semi-final of the Irish Cup. Only the one outing last term, winning the Cup in Killimer- Kilrush beating Skellig Sunrise in the final. 

If back to his best he’d certainly be fancied to add to his haul of silverware!

 

I never was any good with the ladies…

The hardest part of fantasy coursing for me every year is selecting second and third season bitches who will gather enough points to warrant inclusion in my team. Apart from finding ladies who will be good enough to be standing at the business end of All Age Bitch Stakes, you also need to find ladies who will can avoid their ‘season’ for three or four months and who showed enough form in their puppy season to be good enough to win cups without being so good as to be retired to the breeding paddocks! And that’s were I usually fall down.

In the last couple of years there seems to be a couple of trends in the All Age Bitch ranks. Gerry Holian seems to have the magic touch when it comes to All Age Bitches with Bossa Nova Babe and Collect Me Now doing the business for him over the last couple of years. What will Gerry have this year?

Anyway onto the first few selections.

Turning Pace
(March Is On x Big Maggie)

I was mightily impressed with the performance of Turning Pace in winning the Kitty Butler and looking through her record over the course of last season she certainly deserves to be considered among the top ladies of her generation. If any one’s in any doubt then her record of 21 wins from 25 courses should speak for itself.

The daughter of March Is On and Big Maggie was knocking on the door for a while last season before finally claiming her ticket to Clonmel, reaching the semi-final in Ballyheigue, before going on to contest finals in Lixnaw (where she lost out to Oaks winner Somelittlething) and Glanworth (where she lost out to Ballyverry Snowy in the final beating Skellig Rose enroute). 

She went on to beat Co Limerick Bitch Puppy Stake winner Needham Marie in Abbeyfeale before her exploits in Clonmel. In the Kitty Butler she bought the highly thought of Ocean Hannalora and Bank Perspective. If she hasn’t taken too much work in her first year she’s a definite contender.

Heart Light
(Musical Time x Skellig Wave)

The Oaks semi-finalist is in the right hands anyway! I began to hear positive reports about this lady before the season even began last season and invested a few pounds in her before she ran in her first Trial Stake in Loughrea. Things were going well until the final where Nidge Weasel just got the better of her and my investment was lost! 

Her next three outings certainly didn’t set the world on fire, a couple of unsighted runs to blame if memory serves me right before she claimed her ticket to Clonmel in the last chance saloon in Tubbercurry. Even here she was somewhat fortunate to get a flag in an early round after appearing to run unsighted when leading well.

The Gerry Holian owned and trained runner certainly put those problems behind her in Clonmel as she became one of the stars of the meeting, threatening for a long time to win the Oaks. She got the better of the well thought of Needham Pine and clocked well throughout before losing to eventual winner Somelittlething in the semi-final.

She’ll certainly take plenty of beating this year if she returns, the main concern whether she can keep her quarry in sight!

Needham Pine
(Derby Pines x Needham Time)

After reaching the last 16 of the Oaks and the final of the Select Champion Bitch Stake Needham Pine is another who simply cannot be ignored by anyone considering their fantasy options for the season ahead. This April daughter of Derby Pines and Needham Time didn’t appear until December and when she did it was in an All Age Bitch Stake. Unsurprisingly she lost out to a very useful bitch in Garrys Secret but when she reappeared at the Wexford Christmas meeting she stripped much better for the run, claiming her Clonmel ticket in fine style.

Pine was impressive at the National Meeting clocking up with the fastest bitches in the field before losing out on the Sunday evening to Heart Light. Her re-apperance in Limerick was every bit as impressive beating Loyal Lyric, Careful Betty and her Lifford conqueror Garrys Secret before losing out to the excellent Central Heroine in the final. She’ll certainly take plenty of beating.

Fota Castle
(Bexhill Eoin x Qualityandgold)

A lady as well bred and with the class of Fota Castle is very difficult to ignore. She made her debut in the Fermoy Trial Stake early in the season, clocking well ahead of the field in the early rounds before losing out in the final. After a false start in Rathcormac, she reappeared Rathdowney and duly collected her ticket to Clonmel  here, showing up well in the process. 

Rather overlooked for Clonmel she showed up well in the opening rounds, running an impressive time in the process before losing out in the last 16 to beaten finalist Tynwald Jane. She made another appearance in Limerick in the Select Bitch Stake but that was probably asking a little much. If she returns this season the better for her rest then she could well be one worth considering.

Can the Derby semi-finalists make their mark this season?

The third installment of the fantasy preview takes a look at some off the stronger performers in Clonmel this season.

Fingal Master
(Mafi Magic x Fingal Swagger)

The Derby semi-finalist, was unheralded heading to Clonmel but proved his worth losing out in the semi-final to With Grim Intent. He started his season at the Galway and Oranmore meeting but it wasn’t until the Reserve Trial Stake in Balbriggan that he really started to make an impact reaching the final.

Master captured his Trial Stake in Lifford at the second East Donegal meeting but was a big price prior to the National Meeting. He defied those odds reaching the semi-final beating some good dogs along the way, losing to With Grim Intent. He raised 13 flags in 16 courses last season and one worth considering this season.

 

Light Duty
(Tynwald Smokey x Beautys Outlaw)

The other semi-finalist in last season’s Derby, Light Duty, showed his potential for this season’s All Age stakes in the Ulster Cup even prior to running in Clonmel. A winner first time out at the first Lifford meeting he made his second appearance in the Ulster Cup run at Tubbercurry. He performed well here, catching the eye as he reached the semi-final, losing out to Make Peace in the semi-final.

At Clonmel he was one of the more consistent contenders, surprising Needham Simple in the opening round, before clocking well beating Crafty Yahoo, Figaro and Rocks of Bawn on his way to defeat by Kyle Calvin in a controversial Derby semi-final.

There’s a chance with both semi-finalists that their exertions in Clonmel will have taken it’s toll but on last year’s form they’re certainly worth considering.

 

Breezing Johnny
(Johnny Casanova x Knockrour Breeze)

There was probably no more consistent dog last season than Breezing Johnny. He reached the semi-final of his first Trial Stake in Fermoy, before reaching the final of the reserve Trial Stake in Cappoquin and the final in Dungarvan, getting the better of Kyle Roger along the way. He eventually claimed his Trial Stake near the end of the season at Clonakilty in what was a very competitive Trial Stake. He then reached the third round of the Derby clocking fastest in both the first and second rounds before falling to Timmey’s Bin in the third round. Definitely worth considering.

 

Journey Of Life
(Kingsmill Dynamo x Polar Lights)

Journey of Life proved himself to be one of the better pups in training last season with solid performances across the season. Having won his Trial Stake at the first time of asking in Listowel in early November, Journey of Life appeared again in Abbeyfeale, beaten there by Call Him Bale.

It was Journey of Life’s performances in Clonmel and Limerick that made him stand out as a solid all age prospect reaching the last 16 in Powerstown and the last 8 in Limerick, beating Intacta Banba, Game Miller and Sturdyandstaunch in the Irish Cup.

 

Kingsmill Rover
(Kingsmill Dynamo x Bower Sign)

Kingsmill Rover was the real ‘talking dog’ of the 2013-2014 season. Beaten by the winner Sunfire Nova in Enniscorthy, Rover made his next appearance in Dungarvan where he swept all before him beating Breezing Johnny in the final to claim his Clonmel ticket. His performance in Clonmel was solid, reaching the last 16, clocking joint fastest in the second round before losing out to With Grim Intent. He didn’t perform up to his best in Limerick at the Irish Cup but if he can return to his Dungarvan form he could have a real say this year.

Starting off- how will you pick your fantasy coursing selections?

With the Premier League about to start tomorrow, I’ve been inundated with requests to take part in Fantasy Football leagues. There’s only one fantasy sport I’m interested in this year though and that’s the Fantasy Coursing competition run by the Sporting Press. But how do you go about making your selection?

In truth, I’m probably the wrong man to ask. There are people at it much longer than I am who have enjoyed a great deal more success! That won’t stop me sharing my ideas or trying however.

One problem I’ve found over the past couple of seasons, is that I tend to over value form from Clonmel. While the hill in Powerstown Park may well be the acid test of a dog, it doesn’t necessarily play that form in Powerstown in February will work out the following autumn.

To elaborate, I feel somehow inclined to include dogs that have been standing on the final morning in Clonmel, ignoring dogs that failed to make it that far. Indeed, according to the record I’ve kept over the last couple of years, dogs who have failed to win Trial Stakes as Cup are more inclined to win All Age Cups than those who won Trial Stakes!

To try and counter this problem I did a little homework if only to prove to myself that I shouldn’t over-emphasize Clonmel form. The results were quite revealing.  Analysing the cups worn by the last 16 of the Derby between 2009 and 2013, revealed the following:

2013

Last 8 won– 4 Cups
Last 16 won– 11 Cups, Irish Cup

2012

Last 8 won– 4 Cups
Last 16 won– 6 Cups

2011

Last 8 won– 4 Cup, Champion Stakes
Last 16 won– 10 Cups, Irish Cup, Champion Stakes

2010

Last 8 won– 12 Cups
Last 16 won– 14 Cups

2009

Last 8 won– 1 Cup
Last 16 won– 1 Cup

Conclusions?

Without going back any further, or drawing any definitive conclusions, it’s clear that over the last couple of years we can expect the last 8 of the Derby in Clonmel to win, around 4 Cups between them. Central City was the only Derby winner to win a Cup of any description in his second season. Kyle Ranger the only dog making the last 8 to win either the Irish Cup or the Champion Stakes.

Taking this year’s last 8 in the Derby, there’s the seriously big question mark over the four dogs suspended through the opening weeks of the season. Should a risk be taken in including these dogs in selections?

For the first few Fantasy Coursing previews though, I’m going to take a look at the runners who performed well at the Irish Cup meeting and what they could offer to potential players.