Ahead of Saturday’s opening round, this year’s Ladbrokes Easter Cup looked as strong as any in the long history of the classic.
There was no reason to change that view at Shelbourne Park on Saturday as, heat after heat, Ireland’s best produced some exceptional performances.
There is no doubt many of those that qualified will come on for their latest run but all signs would suggest the next three weeks will be an absolute joy for those that love greyhound racing.
Heat 1 – MAESTRO PITCH PERFECT
Native Maestro really came to prominence in the early rounds of the Kingdom Derby at Tralee prior to Christmas and recent trials suggested he was ready to play a big part in the Easter Cup.
The Graham Holland trained star didn’t disappoint as he displayed superb early speed to win the opening heat at the expense of Ballymac Wild.
The latter actually came away well from the inside trap but Native Maestro was also fluent at boxes and quickly moved to the front. Cutting the turn, Native Maestro forced Ballymac Wild to check his stride ever so slightly.
It was to prove decisive, however. Entering the back straight with a length and a half to spare over Boylesportsbingo, Native Maestro proceeded to open a near four length lead into the third turn. By this point Ballymac Wild had recovered from his early bother to go second and, while he did stay on strongly, he was never getting to the leader.
John Kelleher’s Native Maestro (Sparta Maestro/ Bubbly Madeva) raced on to beat Ballymac Wild by two lengths in 29.85, in turn bringing his career tally to an impressive eight wins from nine starts. Boylesportsbingo was a further three and a half lengths adrift in third.
Heat 2 – SESSION BLOWS AWAY COBWEBS
Graham Holland completed a quick double fifteen minutes later with Newinn Session coming home in front despite giving the impression he needed the run.
Simon Taylor’s exceptionally talented son of Laughil Duke and Coolavanny Pearl faced a potentially tricky draw in five but he quickly got racing to clear those on his inner.
Going clear before the second turn, Newinn Session seemed certain to race to a comfortable victory but Amazing Champ and Sweep The Yard did show fine pace and power to close in the latter stages. Newinn Session did come back to his rivals a little in the latter stages but he held on for a comfortable length and a half verdict over Amazing Champ in 29.99. Sweep The Yard ran a big race to finish just a head behind Amazing Champ.
Heat 3 – DIVE PLAYS THE RIGHT TUNE
Billys Diva ended 2020 as one of the most exciting young trackers in the land and she made a winning return in Heat 3 when over-powering long-time leader Hello Mikey on the run in.
The latter set a strong pace and certainly ran a big race in defeat but Billys Diva was always too close once turning second.
John and Maria Kennedy’s daughter of Good News and Jaytee Sahara was always within striking distance and you could sense she was going to unleash a decisive challenge turning for home as she stalked the leader around the third and fourth turns.
Hello Mikey drifted to the middle of the track and that was all Billys Diva needed to spring into action. Powering home, she gradually got the better of her rival and went on to strike by three parts of a length in 29.93. Hello Mikey held on for second, a length to the good over Pierno who ran a fine race in defeat.
Heat 4 – A GREAT EFFORT FROM NAME
Great Name That displayed all his many qualities to run out a decisive winner of Heat 4 when reeling in early leader Minglers Popeye before powering clear for a facile success.
The Liam Dowling trained son of Droopys Jet and Ballymac Bonnie sat on the heels of Minglers Popeye into the corner and always looked poised to take charge.
Displaying his trademark speed down the back straight, the Very Quiet Syndicate owned Great Name That moved to the front into the third turn before pulling away to emerge a most impressive three and a half length winner in a fastest of the round 29.53.
Minglers Popeye ran a big race to finish as close as he did in second, while Beach Avenue was a further four lengths adrift in third.
Heat 5 – SLICK SYD DOMINATES
Knocknaboul Syd may have been out of luck in the final of the Gold Cup earlier in the month but he returned to wining ways in professional manner in Heat 5.
Pat McElligott’s son of Droopys Sydney and Knocknaboulmadam was electric from boxes and was soon in front.
Golden Tiger gave chase into the turn but was forced to check wide as the leader closed the door. This saw Golden Tiger bump Swords Duke, leaving Glengar Bale to move third. Once entering the back straight with a two and a half lengths in hand, Knocknaboul Syd was always in charge.
Golden Tiger continued to give chase, while Glengar Bale tried to close in third but the order never changed. Maintaining a strong gallop to the finish, the Pat Buckley trained Knocknaboul Syd ran out a ready two and a half length winner over Golden Tiger in 29.64. Glengar Bale was just a half length further away in third.
Heat 6 – KINGDOM’S REGAL DISPLAY
Ballymac Kingdom provided Liam Dowling with the second leg of his treble in Heat 6.
Glenlara Mac came away racing to lead into the turn but Ballymac Kingdom displayed plenty of early dash to challenge and lead from the turn.
Epic Hero stayed close to the fence to challenge for second spot down the back straight but there was no catching Ballymac Kingdom. Epic Hero moved second on his own at the third turn but Ballymac Kingdom was relentless out front.
The powerful son of Definate Opinion and Coolavanny Angie ran right to the line to record a four length victory over Epic Hero in 29.74. Glenlara Mac was just two lengths away in third.
Heat 7 – ARIEL A SPECIAL TALENT
Liam Dowling completed a brilliant treble in Heat 7.
Ballymac Ariel may have been returning after a short layoff, making her debut over 550yds and returning from a small injury, but she again displayed massive pace and promise to win Heat 7 at the expense of long-time leader Newinn Sheedy.
The latter flew from traps and dived inwards causing traffic for Deadly Destroyer, Deerjet Sydney and Ballymac Ariel. Ballymac Ariel quickly recovered, moving second at the turn to chase Newinn Sheedy into the back straight.
The daughter of Ballymac Bolger and Ballymac Cameo was still over three lengths behind Newinn Sheedy but she started to bridge the gap into the third turn. Displaying big pace, Ballymac Ariel was just a length down at the third turn and she stayed to the middle of the track to challenge Newinn Sheedy on his outside.
Striking the front on the final turn, Ballymac Ariel stayed on strongly to record a two length victory in 30.06. Newinn Sheedy was second with Drumdoit Bermuda running a big race the same distance away in third.
Heat 8 – AUXERRE EXUDES A JOIE DE VIVRE
Auxerre has been running out of his skin for a number of weeks and he’s showing no signs of taking his foot off the pedal.
In fact, he produced a career best effort in the final heat, dominating from the outset.
Oliver Shields’ son of Droopys Sydney and Toms Delight broke fastest from the outset box and comfortably led Ballymac Cooper and Chasing Belfast into the corner. Chasing Belfast and Ballymac Cooper bumped at the turn leaving Auxerre further clear into the back straight and, thereafter, there was never any doubt about the result.
Auxerre, who has wins over 575 and 600yds on his card, predictably ran right to the line. Ballymac Cooper gave chase throughout but could make no impression. Auxerre emerged a facile six length winner in a rapid 29.56. Ballymac Cooper had three and a half lengths on the fast-finishing Monbeg Zinzan.
CLASSY DISPLAY FROM COOLAVANNY
Fastest return for the standard trip came in the third race as Coolavanny Class left his rivals standing.
Trained by Owen McKenna for Michael Hartnett, the son of Skywalker Puma and Coolavanny Spice shot clear into the bend and proceeded to lead throughout for a two and a half length victory over Malloggs Marley in 28.42.
BOTH ROMEO AND GRAHAM ON FIRE
Racing ended with Rome On Fire giving Graham Holland a third win on the night.
David Firmager’s son of Droopys jet and Rushmoorbeatrice flew into the turn to take command and he duly dominated throughout to see off No Green Dye by five lengths in 28.73.
KNOW ALL IMPRESSES
There was a very taking display from Jerry Daly’s Know All Nick in the second race.
The son of Ballymac Eske and Cat Girl displayed far superior early speed to his rivals and quickly shot clear before cruising home six length clear of Beechview Cognac in 28.57.
PROLIFIC POOKIE WINS OPENER
Racing opened with Pookies Havana holding the late challenge of Rafas Tiger.
Owned by David and Thomas Weadick, the daughter of Droopys Jet and Pookies Printo stayed tight to the fence after a fast start to lead the field into the back straight and she had enough in hand to hold on by a half length in 29.00.