IT'S hard to believe its almost four years since the Liam Twomey-trained Witches Belle landed the final of the Irish Oaks at Shelbourne Park.
Witches Belle had been regarded as a major player right through the bitch classic, but Edel Twomey's runner was sent off a 6-1 chance for outright glory in the 2016 feature.
The Owen McKenna owned and trained Leamaneigh Mags which hit the ground running and led up from Witches Belle on the outside and an improving Sidarian Pearl.
Witches closed with each stride and was upsides the leader as they negotiated the bottom bends. Turning for the judge, Witches Belle hit the front and raced to classic glory up the straight. By the line, she had established a two and a half-length lead in 28.44. Picking up €25,000 for that winning performance, it's something that will live long in the memory.
From day one, Witches Belle (Droopys Scolari-Lemon Belle) looked a star in the making. Winning on debut in Youghal, well-backed as well I may add, she came home well, to win, in 29.62. She then went onto to finish third in the final of the Rising and YTS Unraced stake final, behind Skywalker Rossa, a great performance from the young pup at the time.
Soon after she took the A2 575-yard stake in Cork, posting a super 30.89 when winning by six lengths. Third in the Easytrip Parking Open Bitch Stake Final at Cork, she later finished in the same position in the final of the Macroom Open Motors 575-yard final, also at Cork. At the back end of January 2016, she was sent to traps as a 10-1 chance in the final of the Joe Dunne Memorial Puppy open 525 at Shelbourne Park.
In what can only be described as a super final, she came home on top to the land the spoils, winning in 28.78, she had Riverside Oscar, Droopys Roddick, and Clares Rocket all in behind. She also reached the final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Stake Final at Limerick, third in the end but picking up €10,000 for her performances.
In the days after winning that famous final at Shelbourne Park, Liam Twomey said: "Winning the Irish Oaks was a special moment, it will go down in the foclóir in our family for a long time. We'd expect to be still talking about it for many years to come."
Since retiring from racing action, she has had a wonderful start to her breeding career. Witches Belle has plenty more pups on the ground and going on her first litter to Head Bound, there's every chance she could develop into a top-class brood. Witches Ethiopia and Witches Houston, both out of Witches Belle and Head Bound, have the pace to feature in big events this year. More success is expected for the Witches kennel.
The Twomey family are well known within the greyhound circle and Moss Twomey (Liam's father) previously told the Echo: "As long as I can remember we have had greyhounds, my father registered his first greyhound back in 1930 and he was only 15 years of age at the time. I was born in 1950 and there have always been dogs at our place.
"My father bred some very decent dogs, he bred a dog that was beaten in a photo finish of the English Greyhound Derby. An English Oaks winner, an English Leger winner and a Peterborough Derby winner so my father bred some top class dogs.
"Moving on to myself, I went to a lot of dear dogs but only bred fairish sorts. What I concentrated on was rearing pups for English people. When the schooling track was at Mick Keeffe's, I used to bring them down there and then send them off to England.
"One of the first ones I bought was Witches Yard, bought down in Castleisland, she won four Cashman Opens at the Cork track, but she was a trap six specialist and there was no seeding in those days.
"It was £500 for a race which was a lot of money back then. She was in the semi-finals of the Laurels twice, but never got to the final, she was a right bitch. We've kept plugging away since."
The Twomey family are expected to enjoy more big-race success in the coming years.
Cork greyhounds have done extremely well in recent years, especially in big race events. The Twomey family look to have some very pacey performers in their kennels and with youngsters coming through all the time, they will be dreaming of more big-race glory.