JONATHAN HOBBS: There can be no better programme of races either side of the Irish Sea than tonight’s Michael Fortune Night Of Stars at Shelbourne Park – a real celebration of greyhound racing with eight ‘championship’ races, each worth €10,000 to the winner, on a 13-race card.
Every major Irish winner in training appears on the card, including the winners of the last two Irish Derbys in Lenson Bocko and Ballyanne Sim, plus a decent UK challenge led by Mark Wallis’s St Leger runner-up Antigua Fire and Ernie Gaskin’s unbeaten sprinter Lambeth Way.
There’s also an appearance from Bockos Doomie (7.57) on the undercard and he could kick off a decent night for the visitors by scoring for Patrick Janssens – if overcoming a midfield pitch. Boylesports Xtra (8.42) is drawn for a big run for trainer Paul Hennessy, too, and could repay support.
However, let’s concentrate on the major Night of Stars races, kicking off with a fantastic sprint contest …..
8.57 Ardnasool Jet is the champion Irish sprinter, twice a winner of the Irish Sprint Cup, and a winner on the card last year for Cathal McGee. Trained now by Peter Cronin, he might get the jump on top UK sprinter Lambeth Way, although both could be put in the shade by prolific-winning and well-drawn Blame The Game.
Play: Ardnasool Jet
9.12 English St Leger winner Redzer Ardfert will be all the rage here and, clearly in good heart, must be respected. However he could be taken on early by Lenson Blinder, himself unlucky at Perry Barr, but set to go clear back on home soil. He might stretch these out and could help make this a great night for the Graham Holland kennel.
Play: Lenson Blinder
9.27 Irish Oaks champion Killmacdonagh has trialled back well enough and could take some holding here if stepping up and out. She ran well in the Derby for Kieran Lynch, too, and will be a popular hotpot on the night. Droopys Hunch is well drawn outside and goes well, especially if it cuts up rough inside.
9.42 Time for a great clash between Antigua Fire and Riverside Honey over 850yd, with Are Nagini not ruled out either. The latter won at this meeting last year, while stripes stays strongly as the TV Trophy third. However, this is a first Night of Stars entry for Mark Wallis and he will appreciate the stiffer test this 850yd provides.
Play: Antigua Fire
9.57 In terms of line-up, has there been better? The 2018 Irish Derby champion (Ballyanne Sim), Gold Cup champion (Music Toour Ears), a dual Laurels winner (Rockybay Foley), a Juvenile Derby winner (Broadstrand Bono), a Produce champion (Grangeview Ten) and the Easter Cup hero (Clona Blaze). Take the well-drawn latter to shine for Graham Holland.
10.12 Wolfe is a popular performer who caught the eye in the English Derby and could be another winner for the Graham Holland team. He’s a powerful runner who has contested all the major events, recently finishing third in the Limerick Leger. Favourite backers will have him on side upped to 575yd. Ballymac Cooper for the forecast?
10.27 Lenson Bocko is the star turn here as the reigning Irish Derby champion, again for the Holland camp. Comeback trials have been top notch and the draw outside looks good for a still young greyhound who came of age through the Classic. However fellow Derby finalist Mucky Brae will apply the pressure with a smash break. He could get away.
Plays: Lenson Bocko, Mucky Brae
10.42 A fantastic contest to bring the night to a close, a special night staged in honour of acclaimed Irish greyhound and horse racing journalist Michael Fortune, a friend and colleague. Skywalker Logan, the English Derby third and winner of the Cesarewitch and Corn Cuchulainn, versus Limerick Leger winner Ballymac Anton. The former, trained by Patrick Guilfoyle, gets a narrow vote.
Play: Skywalker Logan
Good luck everyone.
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