Trainer Mark O’Donovan with 2021 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial champion Stonepark Leo

TRAPRISE - Leo’s Kirby legacy is set in Stone

A base venue for so many local kennels, Limerick Greyhound Stadium suffered the biggest loss on the 2020 racing calendar with the cancellation of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial amidst covid restrictions.

Returning this year however, the past month has seen exhilarating action at the Dock Road venue and the richest juvenile race in the world concluded with a wonderful final showdown on Saturday!

Of course, we had hoped that this week’s column would detail victory for the Pat Guilfoyle trained Explosive Boy but from his tricky trap 3 berth, suspected early crowding amongst the middle runners at trap rise did materialise and the Moneygall hopeful would be made to settle for fourth following significant bumping on the run to the backstraight.

Instead, it was the best drawn finalists on the flanks who shaped the classic final as Agent Stanley led while commanding the rails on the run to the opening bend. Widest from trap 6, the Mark O’Donovan trained Stonepark Leo was slow to stride but blessed with exceptional early dash, this champion elect rounded those middle runners approaching the corner and winning his Kirby with a daring dash for the rails as Agent Stanley moved off, secured the inside line on the run to the backstraight. Overhauling Agent Stanley before reaching the home straight thereafter, Stonepark Leo (Ballymac Best-Adamant Gem) ran out a one and a half-length winner over the strong staying De Machine in 28.38.

A hugely popular winner, the €80,000 prize goes to Ballyneety’s teenage owner Michael O’Dwyer for a racing family who have been knocking on the door of major success for many years. Stalwart supporters of prolific Tipperary Town trainer Michael O’Donovan, the family collusion has finally secured a breakthrough classic success with the younger generation as Stonepark Leo’s teenage owner, and University attending trainer Mark O’Donovan, gave insight as to what greyhound racing’s future is likely to hold.

There was better fortune for local challengers around the country over the weekend and enjoying smart early season form, the Borrisokane kennels of Timmy Heenan were back in the winner’s circle at Galway on Saturday as Ringroe Rally (Storm Control-Creevy Charm) registered the sixth win of his career.

Leaving a run of indifferent form behind, the September 2017 whelp took advantage of an ease in grade and finding a more adept break than in recent outings, took command of his S6 350 when narrowly leading from trap 2 in the initial stages. Defending a tight lead on the long run to the opening bend, the Heenan charge forcefully swept the turn and extending readily clear, settled the race on the run to the home straight. Bounding to the line for a comfortable four and a half length success, he will take a step back up to S5 next time having posted 19.32.

Returning to Limerick, the Thursday fixture proved something of a local benefit with three kennels topping the podium as Pat Moore’s Glaise Blue (Droopys Jet-Invinciblejackie) led the way with victory in the opening A4 525.

Without a win this season, the Pairic Campion trained July 2017 whelp has been maintaining a smart level of form and was not scoring out of turn following a host of smart placed efforts in recent outings. A slick early pacer, the removal of his middle seed this time saw him closer to the rail in trap 3 and finding a level break, command of the inside on the approach to the first bend saw him turn with a one length advantage. Extending to four lengths at halfway, the Moore charge was not for catching this time and displaying ample resolve on the run to the line, he claimed his eleventh career win while posting 29.30 (+10) and will hold every claim for a repeat without a rise in grade next time.

Later, on the Thursday programme, the S6 350 contest would deliver a most impressive first career win for Christy Morgan’s Sopwell Lassie (Jaytee Jet-Priceless Lassie) when building on the promise shown in her short career start.

The lightly raced November 2018 whelp went very close in a similar event on debut in February before bumped in her latest outing and the Morgan charge appeared set for more traffic problems when only moderately to stride from trap 2 this time. Recovering a one length deficit on the run to the opening bend when displaying hugely pleasing early pace however, Sopwell Lassie secured the rails pitch before tackling the turn and bravely holding strong against a brush to her hind quarters, bounded clear to the home straight. Running out a comfortable three and a half length winner, she shed her maiden tag in 19.28 (+5) and will take just a small rise to S5 next time.

Closing out the action in the concluding A6 525, the local Limerick treble was completed by Eileen Kennedy’s Dixies Live (Laughil Blake-Live Queen) when also securing a first career win in most game fashion.

A strong runner at the trip, the Ballinaclough charge appeared to have given herself every chance of victory when swift to stride from trap 4 but flanked by early paced rivals at the first bend, she would suffer significant bumping while shuffled back to an unpromising fourth place. Gathering stride along the backstraight, Dixies Live still lay fourth at the third turn but steadily reducing her arrears, a sustained effort on the outside of the field saw her remarkably strike the front entering the home straight. Bounding clear thereafter, the October 2018 whelp registered a cosy three length verdict in 29.87 (+10).

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