Thankyou to Paddy McGhee
National Meeting Preview
A quick glance at the draw suggests we could have a number of fancied runners remaining on Monday morning. The top fancies look to have been fairly evenly spread out throughout the draw and if we take it literally with the big fancies, the Derby could well see trainers Gerry and Michael O'Donovan with two runners left at the semi-final stage....... However it’s never that simple.
Crushers Oak v Blades of Glory in Nenagh
Blades of Hope is the one to beat in the top quarter. He has had two outings this season and performed well on each occasion, a beaten finalist in a good trial stake at to Crushers Oak and a winner at where he impressed on the clock from the second round onwards. He meets Phantom in the first round and he may have a tight battle in the early stages however he is expected to advance. A second round buckle with the winner of Leg It Fast and Kitchen, a Corn semi-finalist, however may well be a test for Blades as both runners are expected to perform well. Master and Stephens Owen meet in a buckle which could decide the quarter final opponent for Blades. has only been seen once this season and was impressive in Derby qualifier while it took Stephens a few goes before it all clicked into place in Gorey.
The second could quite possible produce a quarter final to savour. Impressive Newcastle West All Inn will be favourite to advance from the quarter but a buckle with Kyle Bruce, the early season winner could be on the cards for Monday. Old Puppy winner Call Up Pal is also in this quarter and is somewhat unfancied considering his performances this season. He didn't lose much in defeat to Serene Angel in the Corn and could be a tricky second round match up for Kyle Bruce. All Inn however, remains the stand out selection in this quarter.
Crushers Oak has been a talking point since his victory and has been cut in price a number of times since then. He is expected to start as Derby favourite and will have a big say in the third quarter. Four of the five dogs he defeated on way to trial stake victory are now in the Derby line-up with the addition of Dave to the field. He will be back in slips on the first day with the same hound he beat in his first course, Feel My Pulse. A tricky performer and one who is capable but an upset is not the expected outcome this time around. The McManus pairing of What a Legacy and Funny Alonso will be both hoping for decent performances while Billy has been the subject of a gamble in recent days. Big things are expected from Crushers Oak he will have a big local following, and he certainly has the ability and the form to land this quarter.
Gerry Holian team for Clonmel
The bottom quarter looks likely to come down to a third round buckle between the Michael O'Donovan trained pairing of Serene Angel and Timber House. Both runners have many followers this season and will both be well supported in the ring on Saturday morning. Serene Angel was seen to good effect in over the Christmas period while Timber House has not coursed since his impressive victory. Others in the bottom quarter to look out for include the buckle between Fairy and Harbour, is a runner who may excel on the hill while will have improved plenty from his victory. The smart Trim qualifier District Twelve may have a buckle on his hands in the first round with but could be the type to win a few rounds.
how I have read the draw and of course we will still have our customary shocks along the way. Overall I fancy All In to take victory in what could be the perfect year for trainer Michael O'Donovan.
Greyhound & Oaks
Jessie and Judy will have the honours of getting the 2015 National Meeting underway on Saturday morning. Both runners find themselves in an extremely tough opening quarter which includes the fast , Leigh and Linden Village, an exciting buckle between Churchill Queen and Bated Breath and Oaks favourite, the much touted Lantern. To pick a winner of this is tough and although the betting will suggest she has a tough draw in the first round and could well be meeting Barrow Cockle at a bad time. Two runners which could provide the shock in the quarter are Jessie and Churchill Queen. Jessie was twice a runner up before collecting at , while Churchill Queen beat both Baby and on the way to collect her ticket at .
Magical is a lady I really like. Although beaten by her first round opponent early in the season I think she can get the better of Crafty this time round. She has pace in abundance and can go a fair way in the second quarter. Girl's second round clock from the All-Age Bitch in would impress a few form students and this lady has been the subject of interest over the last few days. She qualified at Balbriggan and has been a popular talking point since then. Dale has not been seen since Cavan but was a convincing winner of the Oaks Trial Stake there. She had already ran-up at Westmeath and looks like an Oaks contender. She will be fancied to reach the latter stages of the competition and could set up a quarter final buckle with Magical .
The third quarter looks very open and the buckle between Windfarm Ivy and could go a long way in deciding it. Windfarm will certainly run on strong on the hill but may not have enough to overcome the . Vienna Calling is a runner who has done little wrong this season and the unexposed Matts Country could spring a surprise or two. just gets the vote to book her semi-final place.
The bottom quarter of the Oaks will provide plenty of good quality action. A quarter packed full of quality including the three Michael O'Donovan trained runners, early season All In, and Sugar, North Kilkenny winner and Roscommon qualifier and Brendan Keogh Charm. The semi-finalist to have made it through this quarter will certainly have earned it. and Maple have similar profiles, both runners up before collecting their tickets. Doon form has worked out particularly well with Lantern and both qualifying afterwards. She has not enjoyed the best of draws however and will have a difficult passage through. It is a very tough quarter in which many of the runners have chances, if I had to pick one it would possibly be Maple.
A few more obscure selections in the Oaks as opposed to the Derby, Magical could get my vote but it really is a wide open affair.
Kevin Smith Champion Stakes
Avenue Ranger and Malone get the stake underway, both runners have had great season and were both only beaten on one . Avenue Ranger is the one fancied to advance. Charlie and Tynwald Ash are next up with the winner expected to book a semi-final spot. Tynwald should be relatively fresh after just three runs in while if Charlie's Dundalk mishap was to be ruled out he would not be the price he currently is. He has undoubted ability but on the back of the Christmas runs and the form of which Tynwald has been in I'd be siding with Tynwald Ash to book his semi-final spot.
The second quarter sees two of the outsiders in the competition meet with Marshals Mercury set to take on the track bred Hotspot. Both runners have shown their liking for a long field and this will be a tight call on Sunday evening, preference just given to specialist Hotspot. Needham Work is unbeaten on the field, nine from nine and meets a fast Roquefort Barney in his first course on the big stage. Roquefort disappointed in last season and the lightly coursed Needham gets the vote to advance after his two impressive victories this season.
In the third quarter it is the top third season performer Tom who takes on the fast Kyle Roger. Tom had his qualification secured early in the season while Roger needed a victory in the Kingdom Cup to secure his place. Kyle has youth on his side and may just get the better of the former Corn Puppy winner. Vale View Flyer and Eastern Shore meet in the next buckle and it looks as though Vale View will get back to winning ways. He was withdrawn at the quarter final stage of last years Derby having gone back to slips and he could be a big player in this stake.
Save the best to last. The bottom quarter will be hotly contested. A cracking buckle and the highlight of the first round draw is undoubtedly Needham Danger and Master. Both runners bring great form to the table with Master having an edge on form. Needham however has been exceptional since a second round defeat in the Irish Cup last season. Unbeaten since he has collected the Irish Plate, the John Cup at and the Corn All-Age to add to his Corn Puppy stake from last season. He is a hot favourite for the stake and rightly so. The last buckle in the stake sees Floating Patriot take on Sunlight, both captured Cups early in the season with wins in and Cashel respectively. just with victory in two weeks ago. Floating Patriot may well land this buckle and set up another buckle.
Overall the talking point is Needham v . A buckle everyone in will look forward to. The winner will take some beating and I am just siding with a Needham Danger victory. Tynwald Ash could be his final opponent.
Grace Champion Bitch Stake
Needham Marie and Loyal Lyric get the first round underway. Marie has been impressive in her victories at and and Old while Loyal Lyric is making the journey from Tyrone to for the third year in a row. Hopefully the litter of pups she has on the ground for next season are watching her closely. Although she is a remarkable bitch she may have to play second best to Needham on this occasion.
Baby and Careful Betty are next up and both have performed really well throughout the season. Careful Betty took well to the new surroundings in and can transfer that form to . She already has good form here from last season where she reached the third round and will be expected to go very well here again.
Late Drama now meets first reserve Kates Shoes after the withdrawal of Sceptre. Late Drama looks the better of the two on paper after her successes at and New Ross and can qualify for the semi-final.
The last buckle sees Fire Height take on Split Decision. The latter will not fear the hill and the long field after success at both and Johnstown however Fire Height may just be too good. Picking up her eight points in a very short space of time, she has put herself to the head of the betting.
A quality renewal of the All-Age Bitch Classic, Careful Betty gets my vote. She won’t have things easy against any of her competitors most notably a semi-final clash with Needham Marie but she is the selection here. Fire Height the likely final opponent.
Finally, I wish all connections the very best of luck with their runners. And to all who make the annual pilgrimage to , good luck and enjoy our favourite three days of the year.