Let The Games Begin – Clonmel 2015
After months of preparation the scene is now set, every position is filled, the field of dreams is ready and the stock is in tip top order.
Connections are counting down the hours, let alone the days, until Saturday, January 31st. There is little more to do, only wait to be called into slips by Sean Doherty on Saturday morning. These are nervous times for everyone involved and I would give my right arm to be one of them. As a coursing man it’s the only place I or any of my counterparts would want to be.
A glance through our Derby ante-post book will highlight our three biggest losers as Timber House, Crushers Oak and Skellig Harbour. Two of the aforementioned dogs are drawn in the last quarter so only one can get to the last day.
Timber House has been in great demand over the last week, especially after the draw. We have cut him into 7/1, making him a clear second favourite behind Crushers Oak 6/1.
Crushers has also been well supported over the last few days meaning the shrewdies that took the bigger prices after he won his trial stake are sitting pretty. Skellig Harbour and Timmie Trickibow are both strong each/way losers at fancy prices.
In the Oaks ante-post market Tobar Na Molt is the biggest loser after strong support saw her cut from 14’s into 8/1 joint favouritism alongside Breska Lantern. Another bitch to come in for substantial support is Linden Village (16/1). She is now under the care of Pat Norris. Laytown Girl (20/1) is the big each way mover after attracting support from prices as big as 33/1.
The first quarter of the Derby, in my opinion, is all about Blades Of Hope (12/1). This is an exceptionally fast animal and he should relish the stretch in Powerstown Park.
Trained by Gerry Holian, who has a habit of not allowing his dogs peak before they enter the gates to Powerstown, he has an outstanding chance of coming out of this quarter.
In terms of finding the biggest threat to Blades Of Hope, the winner of the course between Tullamoy Master (14/1) and Stephens Owen (25/1) could assume the mantle.
This could turn out to be best buckle of Saturday morning’s opening round. Stephens Owen really stood out in Cashel before a forced withdrawal. He has since won a trail stake in Gorey with relative ease.
There has also been much talk about Tullamoy Master since he won in Dungannon, which was held with the Caven meeting. He hasn’t been seen since, leaving us guessing aas to how he has progressed, but there is no doubting he is in the right hands and won’t be found wanting for fitness. After much internal debate, I’m going to side with Tullamoy to get over this opening round test.
The second quarter looks the weakest on paper (if there is such a thing). Portane All In (10/1) was flawless in his win at Newcastlewest, while he also ran very well in Castleisland before being pulled out.
He has come in for strong support recently and is a member of Micheal O’Donovan’s talented squad. Castleisland winner Kyle Bruce (12/1) is nominated as his main rival in the quarter. Kyle was put in at bigger prices after his trial-stake win, but those prices were mopped up very quickly and he was top of the market in the early part of season.
He hasn’t appeared since, but the Field family tend to keep their cards close to their chests and don’t give much away. It would be a mouth-watering tussle if this pair were to clash. My fiver would be on Portane to come through. Timmie Trickibow (28/1) is seen as a lively dark horse in this quarter. I don’t think it would be too much of a surprise if he was to upset one or two along the way.
The third quarter revolves around the Derby favourite Crushers Oak (6/1). He also goes to Clonmel as the leading local hope. Crushers has been backed at all prices between 16’s and 6/1, making him our biggest potential loser.
In the opening round he meets Feel My Pulse (25/1). This pair met already in Nenagh where Crushers came out on top. It may not be all one-way traffic this time, but I fancy Crushers to make the score two-nil.
Chubbys Charmer (16/1) is another in this quarter to attract cash after his trial stake. He has only been seen once, which was a late introduction so maybe there is more to come from this lad. He is certainly bred to run up the hill in Powerstown Park.
That’s The Man (20/1) carries the hopes of the legendary Jimmy Barry Murphy. JBM is a strong coursing follower and no one in the game would begrudge him a victory here. All in Boylesports will be cheering him up the hill.
The last and final quarter, is on paper, the most competitive. Serene Angel (16/1) is the form dog of the Derby after his win in Abbeyfeale. Of those representing the kennels of curly Michael, he is the one we want to see go all the way.
Skellig Harbour (20/1) represents the Coome Hill kennels of Dennis O’Driscoll. Dennis knows what it takes to win in Clonmel and is never too far away come the final morning. Timber House (7/1) is the last of the big guns out of the draw. He is the most wanted dog over the last few days. Is it a sign that he is the kennels number one contender? If so he is a force to be reckoned with.
My idea of the last four would be Blades Of Hope, Portane Allin, Crushers Oak and Timber House. And if my arm was twisted I’d go for Blades Of Hope.
Greyhound And Pet World Oaks
The first quarter of the Oaks is red hot so don’t be surprised to see a few upsets on Saturday morning. The second buckle of the day between Somelittlelady (16/1) and Daythemusicdied (25/1) could make or break the few nights in Clonmel for those connected.
The big four in this part of the draw will be Leigh Smokey (25/1), Churchill Queen (20/1), Bathed Breath (14/1) and Breska Lantern (8/1). Leigh Smokey showed real determination in her outing in North Kilkenny. Churchill Queen won her trial stake in Castleisland where there were no less than another six subsequent qualifiers. That form reads particularly well.
She also showed up well in the bitch stake in Lixnaw. Reports from Tradaree say that there is not a bitch in the country that can live with Breska Lantern early doors. If this is the case and she stays motoring then she is a deserving Oaks favourite
The second quarter of the Oaks looks a wide open affair. My each/way value selection Laytown Girl (20/1) should give me a run for my money. This Francie Murray trained lady will love Clonmel and her form looks rock solid.
The main dangers are Dale Asgard (12/1) and Sequin (28/1). Dale hasn’t been seen since her win in Dungannon, but going by breeding alone puts her right up there with a massive chance.
There is only one bitch that the public want to know about in the third quarter and that’s Tobar Na Molt (8/1). She showed us in Lixnaw she is the real deal and what a story it would be if she were to win. She takes on the Pat Curtain trained Windfarm Ivy in the opening round and it’s safe to assume the latter won’t make life too easy for the favourite. I have no doubt Coffey In Spirit (25/1) will give connections a good run and the further she goes, the better she will get. She will stay running all day.
The last quarter looks the toughest on paper. It’s also a nightmare for Mick O’Donovan with his three Oaks hopes being drawn one course after another. Boshski (12/1) and Skellig Starwars (20/1) meet for the second time this season with the former coming out on top in their previous encounter.
I took a real liking to Two Steps Closer (16/1) in Castleisland and even though she didn’t win there, she could be a dark horse worth following in the Oaks. Ballymac Adelpha (33/1) is right down the bottom of the draw and was punted at big prices earlier in the season.
There are no flies on the Ballymac team of Shane and Liam Dowling and they are never too far away come the business end of things, so Ballymac is one to keep a close eye on. My idea of the last four in the Oaks is Breska Lantern, Laytown Girl, Tober Na Molt and Two Steps Closer. I’ll side with Two Steps Closer.
Kevin Smith Champion Stakes
No prizes to guess what dog we are all supporting here. It’s all about the Danger (9/4). He has been the most impressive dog thus far this season in the all-aged bracket. But if you asked me before the draw which dog would you least like to meet I would have said Fingal Master (5/1).
He has form over course and distance and has hardly put a foot wrong all season. I still reckon Danger will come through it, although he definitely has the hardest path to get to the final, as he will have the likes of Floating Patriot (9/1), Skellig Sunlight (14/1), Vale View Flyer (11/2) and Kyle Roger (6/1) all in his way.
The top half of the Champion Stakes looks between Tynwald Ash (13/2) and Danger’s kennel companion Needham Work (3/1). Tynwald took a few outings to get going this year but once he did there was no stopping him.
Needham work has been a revelation this year. At the start of the season he had never been seen on a coursing field and now he is second favourite for the Champion Stakes. Could we see two Needham’s in the final? Needham Danger is the one we want to see on the podium on Monday evening!
Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stakes
Since we priced up this event after the draw the money has poured on Fire Height Una (9/4). She is normally lightening in the early rounds, so the format of this three-run competition should really suit.
Looking at her in Templetouhy the further she went the better. I can see her getting to the final where she could end up meeting the other joint favourite Carefull Betty (9/4). My vote goes to Carefull Betty after her performances in the early rounds of last season’s Oaks.