IT'S all systems go for the opening round of the 2020 Irish Greyhound Laurels which will get underway at Curraheen Park tomorrow night.
Sponsored by the Jimmy Barry-Murphy-led Friends & Supporters of Cork Greyhound Racing campaign, the Laurels is one of the most prestigious 'Classic' competitions in the Irish greyhound racing calendar and boasts a prize fund of over €50,000.
66 greyhounds will go in search of Laurel's glory, with 11 first-round heats tomorrow night. Four from each heat will progress into the next round along with the four quickest fifth-place finishers.
Speaking to the Echo, Jimmy Barry-Murphy said: "The Laurels is our Derby here in Cork. It's the biggest event in Cork and going back to the days of the old Old Western Road, it was always packed to the rafters and growing up I always thought it was a real special occasion and huge for the greyhound people in Cork."
"The Laurels is a very special event for us, everyone knows the background of last year, we raised funds from the ordinary greyhound folk in Cork, Munster and all over the country to subsidise the prize money and keep it at the level we wanted too.
Last year was a fantastic outcome, a dream outcome really with local trainer Kieran Lynch winning it with Rockybay Foley. At the end of the day, we don't mind who wins it because it's the spirit of the event that's most important and showcasing the Laurels is our priority."
As always, we are expecting some high-class performances over the next few weeks at Curraheen Park. The big local hope this year is the Johnny Linehan-trained Broadstrand Bono. A winner of the Juvenile Derby at Shelbourne Park last year, he looked a leading player for this year's Derby until picking up an injury that ruled him out of the event.
A recent 28.11 spin around Curraheen Park would suggest he is back to something near his best and he should give ante-post supporters a big run for their money.
A finalist last year and a recent winner of the BarOne Sprint at Dundalk Grangeview Ten is another with high hopes for trainer Patrick Guilfoyle. A flying early pacer, we can expect him to feature prominently over the next few weekends.
Others to watch out for are the likes of multiple big race winner the Liam Dowling-trained Ballymac Anton and Brodys Magic who impressed with a recent flying 28.00-second trial.
The 2020 Laurels will begin tomorrow night and will run for five consecutive Saturdays, with the final hosted on Saturday, October 24th.
In other news, trainer Owen McKenna gave Talking Dogs a positive report this week on his start tracker, Pestana.
“It’s just great to the through the op. He’ll stay with Shane for five days to a week so he can keep an eye on him, but he’s very happy with how everything went.
“He’ll come back to us for the duration of his recuperation. At the moment that’s all we’re focusing on, getting him right.
“I’d like to thank Denis [Beary] for all he did on Saturday night. We brought the dog down to him and he did everything he could to make him very comfortable. Those were crucial hours and he got us through them.”
Indeed, judging by the reaction on social media, it seems everyone in the greyhound world is rooting for Pestana and we wish him the most-speedy of recoveries.
Newinn Taylor was crowned Derby Champion on Saturday night last as the Graham Holland-trained runner came home in front to win the €115,000 first prize. Having earlier won the National Produce Stakes at Clonmel, there's no doubt that the Simon Taylor-owned runner is one of the quickest in the training.
It was disappointing that Pestana picking up a serious injury at the opening corner but the word this week is very good and I'm sure he will prove very popular at stud.
The coverage on RPGTV gave the event was excellent throughout and the work that went on across social media was also very impressive. Sarah Kinsella, of BoyleSports, certainly led the way and all the focus will now turn to the opening round of the Irish Greyhound Laurels tomorrow night.
Finally, the English Greyhound Derby is upcoming at Nottingham and the Graham Holland-trained Newinn Session, also owned by Simon Taylor, heads the market for outright glory. He will take some beating in the event.