Cilla fastest in Reddan Champion Bitch at Thurles

local contributor


local contributor


Fancied runners, bar one, make the Irish Sprint Cup semi-finals at Dundalk Stadium, writes Joe Carroll

Greyhound racing cannot take place yet but horse racing can.

All the action from Thurles Greyhound Stadium

The prestigious Champion Bitch Stake at Thurles Greyhound Stadium is under new sponsorship in 2021 with all involved greatly indebted to Reddan Windows & Doors of Nenagh for an event which attracted a high-quality entry ahead of five opening round heats on Saturday.

With an intriguing mix of experienced and less exposed contenders, it was one of the lightest raced entrants who stole the headlines on opening night as Ray Patterson’s Skywalker Cilla (Laughil Blake-Droopys Zero) confirmed the immense promise of her career start last August while fastest in just her third race outing.

On a heavy track, the December 2018 whelp made just a moderate start from trap 3 in Heat 4, but trainer Mark O’Donovan will have been greatly pleased with the battling qualities she displayed as smart early dash saw her secure the rails, and crucial clear passage, when ranging up on the inside of Swanley Chick and Allowdale Shelly nearing the turn.

Negotiating the bends at pace, she edged clear of Swanley Chick to the backstraight before settling the race while stretching her advantage to the closing bends. Comfortably in command, Skywalker Cilla registered a five-length verdict over the Jamie McGee charge in a brilliant 29.13 (-60). Upholding local form, Allowdale Shelly retained third when just fending-off Railteen Dara while four and a half lengths further back as both advance to quarter-final stage.

Brave Belle got it Right

Equally impressive when claiming Heat 2, Sean Corrigan’s Right So Belle (Laughil Blake-Nostalgia) lay down quite a marker when bravely prevailing in a race stacked with outright contenders.

The Aidan Denton trained March 2018 whelp was swift to stride from trap 6 but Azzabi has a stunning 17.48 to her name for the 300-yard trip at Thurles and the Thomas O’Donovan speedster displayed all that early dash when denying Right So Belle a lead at the opening bend.

Into the backstraight, Azzabi held a narrow advantage as the pair raced five lengths in advance of Ballymac Notoyou but passing halfway, the O’Donovan charge looked likely to settle the race as she stretched to a near three length lead. 

Rallying around the closing bends however, Right So Belle closed the gap before ranging up on the outside entering the home straight and with a sustained effort, the Denton charge settled a brilliant buckle with a length and a half to spare in 29.33 (-60). In behind, Ballymac Notoyou closed late when a length and a half further back while Sporting Pat qualified as a fastest fourth placed runner.

Blitz bolsters home challenge

Always hopeful for local winners of the major events at Thurles, young Paddy Scally’s Cabra Blitz (Pat C Sabbath-Cabra Fifi) grabbed the captain’s armband for the home challenge in the first round when presenting in sparkling form after a seasonal layoff.

Swift to stride from trap 4, she battled bravely for a first bend lead when sweeping into the turn ahead of Apothecary and Droopys Florist. The latter would be baulked out of contention while negotiating the bends but bounding clear out front, Cabra Blitz had the race in safe keeping by halfway.

Completing with four and a half lengths in hand, the Scally charge posted 29.36 (-60) while in behind, Sporting Rita stayed strongly to head a three-way photo for second as both Waitforthecuckoo and Nans Kate filled the places.

Setting a smart standard for the event when claiming the opening heat, a long journey home to Lifford for Niall McGhee will have been shortened somewhat by the game victory of Nemisis (Droopys Jet-Ballymac Galtee) when in command for much of her 29.46 (-60) performance.

Breaking just off the pace from trap 6, she galloped a true line to the opening bend before sweeping across a line of rivals while turning. Extending to the backstraight as many in behind suffered crowding, Nemisis was pursued to halfway by Ashwood Soul with Free From Desire third.

The latter caught the eye while staying strongly to claim second in the home straight, but Nemesis was never under serious threat when holding two lengths in hand over Free From Desire as Ashwood Soul retained the third qualifying place, a length further back.

Rounding up the heats in a pleasing opening round for trainer Jamie McGee, Ebony Delight (Droopys Jet-Killinan Baby) was back to her best for owner John Edwards when dominating Heat 3.

A slick start from trap 2 saw her contest for early dominance with Mucky Harbour but crucially commanding the rails at the opening bend, Ebony Delight got the better of that tussle as the pair brushed while negotiating the turns.

Skipping clear to the backstraight as Paradise Asia advanced to second, the McGee charge had the result beyond reasonable doubt before the closing bends and duly converted when holding five lengths in hand of that Sean Meade rival at the line, with Kerryroad Butch a further half length back in 29.44 (-60).

Master runs Rings round rivals

The Open action outside of the Bitch stake was again over 570 yards on Saturday and well-travelled in recent times, Ring Master (Sparta Maestro-Wrathchild) made a winning return to the scene of his last victory when an impressive winner of the AA0 event.

Swift to stride on the outside, the December 2017 whelp displayed superior dash on the long run to the bend and turned with over a length in hand of Rockburst Mike. The latter never afforded the Brussells charge an easy lead, however, and the pair served up an entertaining buckle to the closing bends with Ring Master never more than a very tight length to the good.

Finally pulling away from his closest pursuer on the run to the line, a brave winner posted a smart 31.84 (-60) over a gallant Magical Jasper who stayed stoutly, going down by a length and a half when filling second in his hattrick bid.

The best returns amongst the graded action also came over 570 yards with Radar Dave (Romeo Recruit-Cavies Lucy) very much impressing in the concluding A4 event for Robert & Tadgh Bruce. With a brace of victories at shorter, the lightly raced September 2018 whelp had always looked likely to appreciate extra yards and battling his way to a first bend lead on Saturday, duly converted in comfortable fashion.

Leading Mackees Mikado to the backstraight, Radar Dave had reached his five-length winning margin by halfway before completing a third victory from six race starts in 31.98 (-60) as Errill Daithi stayed well for second.

The preceding A3 contest over the same trip also brought a third career win for Stephanie Ryan’s Knockalton Conor (Silverhill Shay-Kitmins Denise) when a return to trap 1 brought a crucial clear run that had eluded the John Byrne trained November 2018 whelp in his latest outings.

Breaking well, he would just shade matters in the early exchanges before ably defending his rails pitch to turn in advance of Chestnut Clint and Abigails Sky. Two lengths to the good on the run to halfway, Knockalton Conor would cement victory when forcing Chestnut Clint to check at the third turn before staying stoutly for a two and a half-length verdict over that same rival in 32.10 (-60).

Commencing the action, Eamon Lloyd’s Knockroe Storm (Storm Control-Rosmult Racer) made a winning start to his career in the ON2 525 and will have caught many eyes with his manner of victory.

Breaking close to the pace from trap 3, the May 2019 pup reached the bend in a battle for second as all trailed the early pace of Smokey Leah to the backstraight. Bumped before reaching the backstraight in third, Knockroe Storm had all of ten lengths to recover passing halfway but displaying strong running abilities, produced a powerful finish to reel-in the pacesetter close home for a most pleasing two and a half length verdict in 30.28 (-60).

Rounding out the results, Ned Fogarty’s Memories Rock (Laughil Blake-Singing Hen) is warming to his early career campaign and backed-up last month’s maiden win by going back-to-back in the A7 525. Command of the inside throughout the early stages proved crucial as the April 2019 pup held a one-length lead to the closing bends before repelling the renewed challenge of Nugget for a half-length verdict in 30.20 (-60).

Gaining reward for recent consistency, Seamus Butler’s Mons Grove (Farloe Blitz-Sneezys Lizzy) secured a much overdue first career win in the following A5 525. Second on four occasions, the August 2018 whelp sneaked a run at the bends when securing the rail form trap 4 and third to the backstraight, impressed when gamely striking the front at the closing bends. Staying stoutly, she shed her maiden tag with two and a half lengths to spare over Cabra Sage in 30.06 (-60).

The remaining A5 525 housed a field of lightly raced pups and progressing for a debut experience, young Joe Bourke’s Demon Say Ten (Azza Azza Azza-Demon Cause) secured a first career win when just about leading throughout. 

Matching strides with Race And Class on the run to the bend from trap 5, the Brendan Everard trained June 2019 pup rounded that rival for a backstraight lead and two to the good at halfway, duly converted despite that rival’s renewed effort when reducing the margin to the minimum at the line in 30.27 (-60).

Top Dog

The Open 570 events have been warm contests over recent weeks and back to winning ways, Ring Master’s 31.84 (-60) on a heavy circuit was a performance of real merit.

Best Bitch

Fastest in the Champion Bitch, Skywalker Cilla retains the potential of a true superstar and even after such a stunning performance, remains largely unexposed as a lightly raced and extremely exciting racer.

One To Watch

Maria & John Kennedy’s Free From Desire (Definate Opinion-Pippy) is a confirmed strong runner in the top flight and although likely to be racing from behind in the remainder of the Champion Bitch Stake, she did make up eye-catching ground after a poor start when chasing home Nemesis in their first-round clash.