Greyhounds: Cilla sets standard in sizzling Champion semis at Thurles track

Noel Dundon


Noel Dundon


Bar One Irish Sprint Cup quarter-final draw revealed following eventful weekend at Dundalk Stadium, writes Joe Carroll

Greyhounds action from Thurles stadium

Sponsors happy with the quality of racing

New sponsor, Reddan Windows & Doors of Nenagh, will have been delighted with the quality of entry for the 2021 Champion Bitch Stake at Thurles Greyhound Stadium and with the finalists now known, last Saturday’s meeting in the Premier delivered a scintillating session of semi-final action where Ray Patterson’s Skywalker Cilla (Laughil Blake-Droopys Zero) went fastest, just!

An opening round scorer in 29.13 (-60), the Mark O’Donovan charge faced a stiff test while drawn in trap 3, to the immediate outside of big rivals Ebony Delight and Mucky Harbour. Ideally housed on the fence, it was the latter James Kelleher charge who again displayed her exceptional early dash, and Mucky Harbour dictated to the first bend when a length to the good.
Skywalker Cilla crucially retained second to this point and pursued the leader into the backstraight but challenged to her inside by Nemesis, the pair would see Mucky Harbour bound clear to a three-length lead at halfway.

Bridging the gap while impressing to the closing bends, Skywalker Cilla raced on the leader’s tail to the home straight and swinging wide for one last challenge, reduced the deficit further with every stride on the run to the line.

All-out close home, the gallant effort of Mucky Harbour (Laughil Duke-Droopys Harbour) to lead throughout would just fall short and Skywalker Cilla forged a thrilling shorthead verdict in the bravest of fashion, posting a brilliant 28.96 (-40). In behind, there was two lengths back to Niall McGhee’s Nemesis (Droopys Jet-Ballymac Galtee) who retained third while fending off the late rally of local hope Railteen Dara by three parts of a length with Waitforthecuckoo and Ebony Delight also eliminated.

Blitz bounces back
The major events at Thurles are intensely coveted by the local faithful and made to settle for fourth at quarterfinal stage, young Paddy Scally’s Cabra Blitz (Pat C Sabbath-Cabra Fifi) bounced back to her very best in the opening semi, ensuring realistic home hopes for this week’s final.

With an ideal pitch on the fence, Thomas O’Donovan’s Azzabi was always the fancy for an early lead and ably defending her position in the initial stages, she duly reached the corner with a narrow advantage. With Sporting Pat slow to stride, all remaining rivals raced in a line approaching the bend but crucially edging ahead of Ashwood Soul to her inner, Cabra Blitz secured second before tracking Azzabi into the backstraight.

With the O’Donovan charge setting a searching gallop out front, Cabra Blitz performed with huge credit to remain within a length to halfway, but she would find Azzabi (Azza Azza Azza-Miss Pyromaniac) extending to the closing bends and the Scally hope had over two lengths to claw back at the crown of the bottom turns. Offered an opportunity on the rail entering the home straight however, Cabra Blitz powered to the line while overhauling the long-time leader for a brilliant one and a half-length verdict.

Posting 29.06 (-40), she ensures tight form-lines ahead of final analysis where the qualifying effort of Paradise Asia (Droopys Nidge-Alexandra), when one and a half lengths back in third, will merit major scrutiny. From an unsuitable draw in trap 5, the Sean Meade charge suffered significant early crowding before recovering from fifth place off the second bend. Staying stoutly, she ensured the elimination of Ashwood Soul, Sporting Pat and Right So Belle.

Kate continues to impress
Having been highly complementary toward David McGrath’s Taylor Kate (Tyrur Big Mike-Leamaneigh Breda) for A2 570-yard victory a week ago, the progressive youngster justified the adulation on Saturday when ably coping with her rise to A1 over the same trip and the January 2019 whelp will now join the Open ranks after another hugely impressive performance.

Level away from trap 2, she matched strides with Cabra Dawn on the long run to the opening bend and turning shoulder to shoulder, the pair would exchange a bump with Cabra Dawn shuffled back as Flashy Fifi advanced to second.
A length to the good on the run for halfway, it was from this point that Taylor Kate stamped her class on the race when bounding clear to the home straight. Extending to seven lengths over Flashy Fifi, Taylor Kate will make her Open bow next time having posted a fast 31.50 (-40).

A second 570 contest on the night came in A3 grade and produced a thrilling finish as Peadar Kinane’s Kevinsfort Tiger (Ballymac Eske-Minnies Luselle) remarkably secured a fourth career win despite only fifth to the closing bends.

It was Brindle Beauty who overhauled pacesetter Whizzing Katie at the third turn, but a packing field of rivals gathered on her hind quarters entering the home straight. Rounding rivals while widest of all, the Brendan Everard trained Kevinsfort Tiger swooped late and fast while narrowly denying the near identical move of fellow strong stayer Road To Reward by a last gasp shorthead verdict. Posting 31.84 (-40), less than two lengths covered all six runners; hats off to the grader!

Peter on Point in hattrick
The first of Saturday’s 330-yard events came in S2 grade and another to reach Open class on the night, Pat Curtin’s Peters Point (Droopys Jet-Moanteen Beauty) never sighted a rival with a career best in his trap to line victory while completing a sprint hattrick.

Successful at Thurles over the same trip last November, the lightly raced August 2018 whelp added an S3 win at Tralee before returning from a layoff on Saturday. Presenting in sharp form, he just showed in front from trap 2 before asserting to a tight one length lead over Borna Jack to his inside.

Forcing that rival to check approaching the first turn, Peters Point readily settled the race thereafter when repelling the late rally of that same rival by a length and a half in a slick 17.85 (-10).

Later on the card, the night’s S4 330 would deliver a second win from three career starts when David Hogg’s Whizzing Porter (Droopys Jet-Whizzing Josie) displayed slick early dash after a moderate break from trap 4. Leading to the turns the promising March 2019 pup repelled the late threat of Ballycoole Logan by half a length in 18.05 (-40).

The remainder of the Saturday action came over 525 yards, but it was a sprint convert who was fastest over the trip as Karen Murphy’s Trap Joey (Droopys Jet-Mt Heaton Daisy) made an impressive transition to four-bend racing in the concluding A2 525.

Graded S1 but second in a top grade 330 last time out, his early pace was always going to be a potent weapon at the trip, but he was set a searching examination throughout the initial exchanges as Ascot Blake broke best.

Grateful for a trap 1 pitch on the inside of that rival, Trap Joey just managed to keep tabs on Ascot Blake to the corner before seizing the lead into the backstraight as this duo kicked clear. Further testing the Murphy charge, the admirable Ascot Blake was a constant threat before checked at the third turn as Trap Joey skipped clear once again. Seeing out the trip with ample resolve, he reached the line with five lengths to spare in a smart 29.31 (-40).

Omar still unbeaten
Following a brace of victories to commence his career at Thurles, Philip Heffernan’s Omar (Confident Rankin-Mayleen) is developing a handy knack of dipping his head at the right time for he secured back-to-back photo-finish victories when claiming a wonderful hattrick in Saturday’s A4 525.

Again, displaying slick early dash, the June 2019 pup ably defended the rail from trap 1 before skipping clear to the backstraight. At least eight lengths adrift in fourth at that point, his biggest threat would come from the strong staying Boherna Debbie as she began to reduce her deficit while staying strongly.

Still in command to the home straight, the Heffernan pup appeared to have enough done when seeing off Rahyvira Quinn but all-out close home, Omar stuck his neck out for a head verdict over the fast-finishing Boherna Debbie in 29.69 (-30), gamely keeping his unbeaten record intact.

That winning time was matched in the A6 525 as Eamon Lloyd’s Knockroe Lee (Storm Control-Rosmult Racer) also remained unbeaten. Returning from a layoff to back up his debut win, the May 2019 pup led from the opening turn when two lengths in advance of Cabra Nala while the A7 525 saw Michael Doyle’s Golden Oldie (Droopys Sydney-Dalcash Kalade) claim a first race win at the second attempt when leading throughout a one and a quarter length defeat of Security Molly in 29.99 (-40).

Top Dog
Returning from a short break in sizzling form, the lightly raced Peters Point could prove very difficult to contain despite a rise to Open class following his slick 17.85 sprint win.

Best Bitch
In a performance worthy of any top-grade event, Skywalker Cilla displayed admirable battling attributes in addition to her obvious class when overhauling Mucky Harbour in a brilliant Champion Bitch Stake semi.

Most Impresssive Debut
There was just a sole novice contest on Saturday, but the Amazing Four Syndicate’s Star Bally (Ballymac Eske-Lemon Steff) left a very pleasing impression when leading throughout his 0N2 525, posting 29.83 (-40).

One To Watch
Anne Dwan’s Boherna Debbie (Droopys Jet-Isle Of Capri) is four starts without a win but surely her maiden victory will arrive in the very near future having displayed pace beyond her current A4 grading when just failing to reel-in Omar in their 29.69 (-40) clash.