TRAPRISE - All set for Explosive Kirby final showdown
At this time last year, greyhound racing across Ireland had come to a halt amidst a nationwide lockdown and though scarcely needed, the cancellation of the 2020 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial made our sport acutely aware of the immense battle faced by all society in the months that lay ahead.
Twelve months on, we and our dogs have been lucky to restore racing activity behind closed doors and luckier still that the richest juvenile race on the planet has returned to Limerick Greyhound Stadium.
Named in honour of Noreen McManus’s late parents, the event enjoys her most generous sponsorship with husband JP and just as it has since a first staging in 2013, the 2021 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial has featured astounding young stars of racing, headed by our local hope Explosive Boy!
Following a brace of early round victories which had delivered a best of 28.08 for the 525-yard Kirby trip, the Pat Guilfoyle trained Explosive Boy (Good News-Delightful Girl) entered the opening semi-final on Saturday last as the fastest runner of the event and housed in a suitable Trap 1, racing’s newest superstar again scorched a path across the Dock Road sands.
A swift start saw the April 2019 youngster immediately dictate on the inside before reaching the opening turn with a half-length in hand over fellow early pacer Agent Stanley. Smoothly galloping the turns, the Guilfoyle favourite readily increased his lead to the back-straight and come halfway, Explosive Boy was only racing against the clock with victory all but assured. Seeing out the trip stoutly having posted the fastest ever sectional of 15.85 at Limerick, the Kirby favourite repeated his first-round time when stopping the clock in 28.08 while five lengths in advance of Agent Stanley, with Ballymac Merlin third.
The opposing semi-final went to Stonepark Leo for young trainer Mark O’Donovan of Tipperary and while a shock to many who had underestimated the rapid progression of this inexperienced youngster, his 28.25 display in advance of Singalong Sally and De Machine, makes him a serious final contender.
Final Draw: 1) Agent Stanley 2) De Machine 3) Explosive Boy 4) Singalong Sally 5) Ballymac Merlin 6) Stonepark Leo (m). Live on RPGTV (Sky 437) this Saturday night.
Added to Stonepark Leo’s exceptional early pace, his middle seeding assured him of a Trap 6 berth ahead of the final and that pitch has proven hugely advantageous as every other runner since quarter final stage has carried an inside seeding. He is now the most likely finalist to secure clear passage and as such, holds massive final claims.
Stonepark Leo and Agent Stanley can shape the early part of the race from the flanks as both possess exceptional early speed. The big question is, how far advanced will Explosive Boy be in his bid to lead that duo for crucial command of the race at the crown of the opening bends. The answer is complicated!
On the right of our local hope, the brilliant Singalong Sally will almost certainly seek to move inward immediately upon exiting trap 4. If she and Explosive Boy break together, likely bumping could end the hopes of both! However, Singalong Sally faced an identical scenario in the final of the Juvenile Classic at Tralee before flashing from traps for a dominant success. In search of a fourth Kirby title for the Cappawhite kennels of Pat Buckley, Singalong Sally remains a huge threat to all.
Expectations of victory for Explosive Boy must be tempered with a degree of trepidation for clearly, and despite his astounding performances thus far, his pitch in Trap 3 is treacherous! However, the Moneygall superstar is blessed with astounding pace, could be in no better hands, and remains the fastest finalist. It seems a touch unfair that for him, and indeed Singalong Sally, final aspirations following remarkable campaigns have essentially been reduced to the first five yards of Saturday’s €80,000 showdown.Should Explosive Boy repeat his good start and again exit traps on a fluent stride, he can be clear of possible bumping and despite the myriad of threats, he can deliver a first Kirby title to Moneygall. Come on Bertie!
There were many smart performances from local runners around the country again this week but staying at Limerick on Saturday, the Kirby undercard delivered a most game first career win for John Ryan’s Call Me Sky (Silverhill Shay-Newlawn Minnie) as the Ballina pup got off the mark at the sixth attempt, following a half-hour delay to the A4 525!
With the traps failing to open at first attempt, the July 2019 whelp coped admirably with the subsequent wait before commencing racing once again and having displayed strong staying abilities in previous outings, the Ryan charge held every claim when reaching to opening bend in second position this time. Checked off the second turn, Call Me Sky duly produced her best beyond halfway and striking the front before the third bend, readily asserted to a comfortable five length verdict while improving to her best time of 29.14.
From a homebred litter of John Byrne’s in Knockalton, Call Me Sky was one of two comrades to score on Saturday and with his trainer’s cap on at Thurles, John guided a third son of Silverhill Shay to victory when Knockalton Conor (Silverhill Shay-Kitmins Denise) secured his fourth career win at Thurles in a brave performance for owner Stephanie Ryan.
A bumpy affair, Knockalton Conor displayed admirable battling qualities to strike the front at the closing bends before fending off all challengers in a half length verdict while posting 30.12 (-50).
The trio of winners for the Knockalton sire was completed at Galway when young Charlie Bourke’s Ballygraigue Jim (Silverhill Shay-Newlawn Minnie) extended his impressive career start in S2 company over 350 yards.
Just showing in front from trap 2, the July pup was forced to cede first bend advantage to a pacey rival but rallying on the run to the home-straight when again contesting the lead, Ballygraigue Jim left a pleasing impression while bounding clear to a near three-length verdict in 19.15, his fourth win from seven starts.