Shea heads a trio of trebles
With two rounds under their belts ahead of last night's action it was reasonable to expect that those runners with serious outright claims in the 2017 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake would come to the fore amidst a cauldron of intense and palpable racing tension at a crucial stage of the world's richest puppy event. And so it proved in a wonderful quarter-final session as we witnessed some truly remarkable performances not only in victory but also by those who produced game battling displays to qualify for the semi-finals which now houses twelve immensely talented youngsters who can all script a plausible path to victory from this point in an open and exceptionally high quality renewal of this most prestigious greyhound racing event.
We will enter next Saturday's semi showdowns with three unbeaten Kirby runners and cementing his place at the top the outright market, Fraser Black's Vancouver Shea was first to complete his hat-trick in the opener. Aided in the early exchanges by crowding on his inner after a level start from Trap 6, he paced up with intent on the outside before forcefully taking command upon turning the first bend and would proceed to complete a brilliant five length victory in 28.40. Clearly back to his sizzling Round One form, he was never seriously threatened throughout when posting the fastest time once more but the pair of qualifiers behind him were equally as impressive for theirs was a much more complicated passage.
At trap rise, Clonbrien Hero sought to move towards the middle from Trap 1 while Ivy Hill Blitz drifted to the inside from his Trap 5 berth. A concertina effect brought bumps for all in the opening exchanges but determinedly refusing to cede his claims in the event, our 2016 Leger runner-up Native Chimes battled his way to second place at the bend and would chase the leader home in an equally laudable performance while pursued by Ivy Hill Blitz who too deserves huge credit as an inexperienced runner who is improving for each outing.
Bocko continues to boss
The exceptional early pace of Bentekes Bocko has ensured the safest passage of all to the semi-finals and the Pat Buckley charge could be forgiven for believing that he is being brought to Limerick for a solo trial every Saturday for he has hardly sighted a rival in the stake thus far. Again dominating from Trap 2, his early pace saw him in command at the first bend in the second quarter-final however it must be noted that his inside pitch was greatly appreciated here when fending of Nitro Notorious who was forced to check having shown brilliant pace to almost join the eventual winner.
Leading throughout Bocko was all out to defend his lead at the line when posting 28.65 in a half length verdict over Jaytee Barracuda and the latter must be labelled as the quarter-final eye-catcher. Bumped on the outside at the first bend, he showed exceptional pace on the back-straight and would likely have claimed victory but for finding Bocko's tail flashing in his face at the wrong time when turning into the bottom bends. Underwhelming a week prior, Jaytee put himself back in Kirby contention with this display. Filling third here was Borsalino when only a length further back and he too was crowded more than once and lost little in defeat while showing impressive pace throughout after a moderate break on the fence.
Pet pounces late to Snare the Champ
The early part of Heat 3 may have been predictable with the vicious early pace of Rathnasnare Champ ensuring that he would get a clear sight of the hare while others sought a run behind him. Again responding to fervent cheers from his large swell of support, he flew to the opening bend after a level break from Trap 4 and took a four length lead to the back-straight when chased by Coolavanny Pet who railed tightly to secure a safe passage at the bends following her moderate start from Trap 2. These would fight out the win with Pet certain to be staying strongly and the qualifying positions were all but decided at halfway when Shewhodareswins had negotiated her way to a battle for third place as she too was certain to be doing her best work late on.
Up front, Champ was maintaining a powerful forward momentum and still held a length over the Dowling darling entering the home-straight but railing tightly, the game bitch found a gap on the fence and just managed to deny the long time leader on the line for a short-head verdict in 28.68. It was a wonderful display of their respective talents by both who treated us to a thriller but watch this video replay again and take note of a simply awesome staying performance by another powerful bitch in third as Shewhodareswins reduced a once seven length deficit to just a solitary length at the line!
Remember Crokers Champ??
Peter Cronin ran-up this event in 2014 with his brilliant early pacer Crokers Champ and his Cometwopass has been sparking memories of that superstar in this renewal with his similar early paced racing style. He would become the third runner to register a Kirby hat-trick in the final heat when crucially outpacing Drive On Tipp to the turn before skipping clear off the second bend. Bumping in behind saw the latter emerge at the top of the back-straight in a battle for second with Higher Level and these three would fill the qualifying places.
Cometwopass duly converted the opportunity that his early dash had brought in what was another impressive victory but again it was a bitch who showed the strongest staying power as Paula Heffernan's Higher Level powered from halfway to reduce her once five length arrears to just a half length at the line in 28.75 with Drive On Tipp a length further back. The half-sister to Country Legend, who reached three major event semi-finals on this track, bears all the strong running qualities of that Limerick favourite and remains a contender for the Kirby, let alone the €5000 bitch prize that she will race for in next week's second semi-final where all three remaining ladies have been drawn alongside each other.
Trap 1 NATIVE CHIMES
Trap 2 BORSALINO
Trap 3 IVY HILL BLITZ
Trap 4 RATHNASARE CHAMP
Trap 5 COMETWOPASS
Trap 6 JAYTEE BARRACUDA w
Semi-final 2Trap 1 DRIVE ON TIPP
Trap 2 BENTEKES BOCKO
Trap 3 COOLAVANNY PET
Trap 4 SHEWHODARESWINS
Trap 5 HIGHER LEVEL
Trap 6 VANCOUVER SHEA m