TRAPRISE - Dream start to Kingdom Derby
The first major event on the Open race scene in this new 2023 season, the Eric Browne Memorial Kingdom Derby commenced at Tralee on Friday and bouncing back from his bumpy outing in the Irish St Leger Final last time out, Wi Can Dream (Cabra Firmino-Cabra Angel) made a blistering start to his campaign for the bang in-form kennels of Pat Guilfoyle.
Facing a tricky draw on the outside of Puppy Oaks winner Ballymac Run while housed in trap 2 for Heat 4 of the 36-runner event, the Lars & Anita Wicander owned speedster was returning to the scene of his Juvenile Classic victory last season and clearly comfortable in his Kingdom surroundings, scorched a path to victory following a sharp break.
Immediately in command on the run to the opening bend, Wi Can Dream took a two-length lead to the first bend and had stretched to six lengths in advance of Stream Of Sydney at halfway. To the latter’s credit, the winning margin was kept to just four lengths at the line and emphasising just how hot the heat was within the event, Wi Can Dream posted a stunning 28.16.
Visually back to his very best form, that time was well in advance of the next best effort which was posted by Disco Pants in 29.50 for the 525-yards while claiming heat 3 and clearly Wi Can Dream sits atop the shortlist for outright victory ahead of this week’s quarterfinals.
Fresh from her victory on the Winter Racing Festival, the Cheryl Sutcliffe owned Cornetto (Laughil Blake-Love Honey) was a second challenger for the Moneygall kennels in the Kerry feature and though made to settle for second place in heat 2, she nonetheless impressed with strength beyond halfway in a battling passage.
Ponderously to stride from trap 2, the August 2020 whelp trailed all in the very early exchanges and rushing up on the inside approaching the corner, found significant bumping before emerging in fourth place on the run to the backstraight. Over ten lengths adrift on the approach to halfway despite advancing to third, Cornetto displayed powerful pace in the latter half of the race while overhauling Soild Serene to fill second at just a five-length deficit to winner Burgess Darcy in 28.66.
There’s no doubting that she will need to be sharper at trap rise going forward but Friday’s effort gave further notice that Cornetto will always retain the capability for massive runs.
PRIVATE TRAINER TITLE FOR BYRNE
Increasing their number steadily over recent seasons while retaining a private training license, the Knockalton kennels of John Byrne have stealthily increased their impact on racing over recent seasons and rewarded for a wonderfully consistent presence throughout the 2022 campaign, the young trainer claimed his first National Private Trainer of the Year title.
Contesting at many venues nationwide, John Meelam’s Courty Girl added greatly to a total of 52 winners in 2022 with her victory in the Kieran Purcell Snr. Memorial Guys & Dolls Stake at Clonmel the outstanding highlight of her stellar season.
However, John made his greatest impact at his brace of regular venues as he topped the Private Trainer list at both Limerick and Thurles!
Providing 28 wins, the highlight of the kennels season at Limerick will surely be the wonderful return to racing of Sean Ryan & John Meelam’s Meduza who registered three victories having made a racing comeback following the birth of her first litter.
That Limerick achievement is a first for the kennels but matching that at Thurles, the kennel’s top winner in a fourth title on the spin was Knockalton Conor, who himself claims the Dog of the Year crown for the second season in succession having finished the campaign on eight victories, the same as Bernie Hogan’s local rival Old Bill.
Approaching a 25% strike-rate for the season is impressive enough in itself but when viewed in an overall context, this title attests to a laudable consistency within the Knockalton kennels over several seasons while maintaining a steady upward trajectory. Garnering new admirers and fresh praise at every turn, this national recognition may well be recalled as the first of many milestones as John Byrne extends his impactful presence within the sport over coming seasons.
If there were any doubts as to the 2023 intents of the Byrne kennels, a first meeting of the year at Thurles returned a brace of winners as Stephanie Ryan’s remarkable Knockalton Conor made an ideal start in his bid for a third dog of the year title in the Premier. Fully seizing the lead at the third bend having been front rank throughout a bumpy A5 525, the Byrne stalwart posted 30.03 (-20) in a three-length defeat of local rival Montore Brian.
Sparking the kennel double on the night, Terence Delaney’s Dazzes Beauts (Grangeview Ten-Ballybrack Lexi) stepped up on her three previous efforts as the August 2021 pup shed her maiden tag at the fourth time of asking.
Well housed in trap 1 for the Irish Retired Greyhound Trust A5 525, the Byrne charge was again slow to reach full stride before tracking the pacesetters to the opening bend. However, sneaking a path to a three length second at the top of the backstraight, Dazzes Beauts impressed while striking the front on the inside of Cabra Kobe at the third bend and defending a one-length lead to the line, posted 29.63 (-20) with the promise of further improvement to come.
Returning to the Friday action and Clonmel’s first meeting of the year also saw the Ballinderry kennels of PJ Tynan quick off the mark for the season when the Pat O’Connor owned Hillcrest Puma (Pat C Sabbath-Holiday Madge) bounced back to winning ways in a third career victory.
Taking advantage of an ease in grade for the IRGT.ie A3 525, the September 2020 whelp broke on level terms before displaying the best early pace to lead on the approach to the opening bend. Turning with over a length in hand, the Tynan winner streaked clear to the backstraight when over five lengths to the good at halfway. Pursued by the strong staying Errill Daithi from that point, Hillcrest Puma would have his resolve tested in the home stretch but ably retained a half-length winning margin in 29.56 (-10).