Raffa’s In Pole Position For The Laurels

Mossie O’Connor holds the aces for next week’s Irish Independent Laurels final as he seems to have his kennel star Midtown Raffa (6/4) peaking just at the right time.

He put in his best performance to date in last week’s semi-final when hitting the front on the run to the opening turn. However, as we said in last week’s blog, there seemed to be a lack of early pace in that semi so he always looked a guaranteed leader.

His sectional of 3.47 last week wasn’t exactly lightening but he flew down the back straight and stopped the clock in his best time of the competition; 28.38.

Mossie is no stranger to winning this particular classic; he last took the event in 2003 with Nikita Billy. Owner/trainer Thomas O’Donovan had two reasons to be happy as he left Curraheen Park last Saturday night. The first and biggest reason was because his bitch Drive On Royal (11/4) had secured her position in the final itself. The second reason was a not too little matter of having the last surviving bitch in the competition and thereby claiming a nice prize of €3000 for his troubles!

I have no doubt that this lady is one of the fastest females in the country; the pace she showed on the run home last week was breathtaking. To run down a dog with the class of Midtown Raffa and for him to do 28.38 up front was unreal. This daughter of Westmead Hawk has some serious runs on her card around the Curraheen circuit including a 30.88 run for the 575 distance.

Occupying the third position in this semi-final was Skywalker Echo (10/1) for the husband and wife team of Matt and Frances O’Donnell. Echo has yet to taste victory in Cork but his trainer Frances O’Donnell is well known for getting a tune out of her charges when they reach the big stage and he could make good use of his trap one draw in the final.

Knocktoo Garry (4/1) is the only unbeaten finalist lining up this weekend. He is a bullet to the corner and has yet to be headed at any stage of this stake. This son of Kinloch Brae is closely related to Irish Derby winner Razldazl George and has been a model of consistency for his trainer Neilus O’Connell thus far. He has a nice draw in trap three in the final and the way he is going, he is almost guaranteed to be the pace setter.

If you look back through the roll of honour for the Irish Laurels, most of the winners over the last 15 years have won the race around the opening two corners. I can see his price of 4/1 tumbling down before the weekend. Burgess Rumble (12/1) is the outsider of the party but he will have plenty of support on the night. He has been a credit to his connections throughout his career to date and has won two of his four heats of the Laurels.

If you look back to his form in this competition last year, he met and beat some big name performers so is well capable of causing an upset. There is certainly no doubt that this lad can produce a big run on the night. Mimis Ace (5/1) has yet to get a clear run in the Classic but is one of the strongest finishers in the field.

If he is within touching distance off the last corner he will give it a fair rattle. His trainer John Kiely is as good as any man/woman in Ireland to prepare a dog for a final and would love to add the Laurels trophy to the Irish Oaks he won with Tracy Budd in 1988.

Looking at the draw for the final, Midtown Raffa is perfectly housed in two but will need to find a smash break if he is to lead up Knocktoo Garry in three. Garry likes to take a step to the rails so if Raffa misses the start he could be in trouble. Drive On Royal is a bitch in form and if she can get a clear run around bends one and two, nothing in the race could hold her. But putting my head on the chopping block I’ll go with the favourite as I think he can clear trap one and get on the rails early. If he doesn’t lead I hope he turns within a length or so of Knocktoo Garry and powers home to lands the spoils!

Limerick Oaks
The Limerick Oaks kicked off last weekend and the two joint ante post favourites finished first and second in the very first heat. Slippery Hanna (9/4) held on by a neck to beat Priceless Lassie (9/4) in the fastest of the session 28.35. Hanna is on the go for the last few months so is race fit and had previous runs around the track, which made the run of Lassie stand out.

Lassie has serious clocks done in Shelbourne Park and Youghal and is lightly raced for a bitch of her age. I remember her winning her unraced stake in Youghal in July of last year during which she showed unbelievable gears. She then translated that form to Shelbourne afterwards. She has been off the track for a while after being in season so should come back a stronger bitch this year and is my idea of the winner of this stake.

Hanna will make life far from easy for her though.

Other bitches worth noting are the ever consistent Sunrise Ice (8/1), Madams Babe (14/1), Crafty Sara (25/1) and Hidden Louise (33/1).

In Tralee we are down to the final twelve of the Lee Strand 550, this stake usually produces a few decent prospects for the future. It is as open a competition as we have seen in years and we are still betting 3/1 the field with Musical Dawn and Dromscarra Ruby topping the market. I have a slight fancy for Droopys Hip Hop (7/2) as I don’t think we have seen the best of this lad yet.

There have been a lot of market movers in the upcoming English Derby betting over the last few days. Most of the Irish handlers have put their charges through their paces around Plough Lane with two of note recently being Farloe Blitz and Clares Wonder. We have seen quite a bit of support for these two and they are five figure losers already. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these is challenging for favoritism before the event starts!

Keep an eye on the markets on for all these stakes and for a number of others which are taking place at the moment on both sides of the Irish Sea. It is certainly an exciting time for greyhound racing.

*Prices correct at the time of publication