**2016 Irish St Leger










As ever, http://grgracing.blogspot.ie/ will provide the most comprehensive coverage of the 73rd Irish Greyhound St Leger to be found anywhere either in press or online. Race card previews and analysis of each round with extra split times only to be found here.




2016 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger………….The story so far!

A month of enthralling action in the Kerry Agri-Business Irish St leger has brought all the thrills and spills that accompany the classic events of the sport as another stellar cast of entries for the concluding classic event on the racing calender brought together some of the most formidable Open racers for one last tilt at classic glory in 2016.

From the outset, patrons were treated to exceptional performances and igniting the St Leger litmus paper on our opening night was Jaytee Dutch when scorching to an eight and half length defeat of Theres The Bell in a brilliant 29.56. His trainer Paul Hennessy, now chasing his fourth Irish St Leger in all and a third since moving to our new venue on the Dock Road would exit Limerick on that opening night with the two fastest runners of the event as his young superstar Priceless Brandy was next best on the clock with 29.58. The latter however left a lasting impression when defeating Leave At Dawn by three lengths despite a poor start and some second bend crowding, promoting himself to joint favouritism in the process.

Priceless Brandy with Susan Hennessy
Carrying the favourite’s mantle into the first night was Pat Buckley’s English Derby finalist Lenson Rocky and he too would justify his billing when claiming Heat 10 in professional manner. Leading to the opening bend, h
e completed a two and a half length victory over Native Chimes, who displayed impressive pace throughout, in 29.75. The win formed part of Round 1 double for the Buckley kennels as Coolavanny Pat had scored victory in the preceding heat when posting 30.00.

Graham Holland has been the hottest trainer in the classic events throughout 2016 and he too would give notice of his St Leger intentions on night one when his brace of brilliant bitches too provided a heat winning double with Irish Derby finalist Sidarian Pearl leading the way. Presenting fresh and at her imperious best, she was never seriously threatened when dominating the concluding Heat 11 after a fast break, defeating a game High St Jesse by five and a half lengths in 29.69. 

The first leg of the Holland double came when Ballinakil Clare claimed Heat 6 in similarly dominant fashion. Also coping competently with a middle draw in Trap 4, her early pace carried her to a first bend lead which allowed safe passage throughout her six length success over a staying on Rockbay Captain in 29.82.

Arguably the most well received result of the night came in Heat 2 when Limerick kennels filled the forecast places as Denis Kiely’s Shaneboy Russell stole an early march on Tim Gilbourne’s Gulleen Billy with smart pace on the run to the first bend. A three length lead on the back-straight was enough to see the former home in a polished display over the strong running Gulleen Billy, by two lengths in 29.79. The remaining heats were claimed by Peter Cronin’s Sab Miller who held the more fancied Highview Event by a head in 29.83, Boherash Messiah who held the same margin over Swithins Brae in 30.02, the same time recorded by Burgess Popeye when claiming Heat 8 after Combo Sidney posted 30.65 in a troubled opening heat.

Big kennels to the fore in Round 2

With the luxury of generous qualifying conditions now gone, it was no surprise to see the competitions leading trainers dominate the results table with doubles for the Sheila Spillane & J.J. Fennelly partnership as well as trainer Graham Holland and a brilliant treble for Pat Buckley but it was again Paul Hennessy who left with the fastest runner of the 2016 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger when Priceless Brandy confirmed his status as an Irish Greyhound Racing superstar with a sublime display of imperious pace while scorching to 29.53 in Heat 5. 

The young Kilkenny kennel star led home a high class tri-cast in the race when overhauling compatriot Jaytee Dutch on the back-straight despite finding a poor break from Trap 2. The manner in which he dismissed the challenge of that exceptionally talented rival was a sight to behold and he justifiably ascended to outright favouritism at 7/2 having led home an eye-catching Irish Oaks winner Witches Belle by three lengths.

The Buckley treble on the night came through Coolavanny Pat who led home the pacey Swithins Brae by two and a half lengths in 29.84 before Droopys Punk produced a career best when repelling Leave At Dawn by half a length in 29.83. That same winning time saw Lenson Rocky as one of six runners to remain unbeaten at this stage when completing the trio with four lengths in hand of Ballymorris Diva.

The highest profile elimination of the round was undoubtedly Graham Holland’s Sidarian Pearl when suffering crowding before a fall in a heat which was claimed by kennelmate Highview Event. The latter used his impressive early pace to provide some compensation with a smart 29.76 success. The chances of a Holland bitch claiming the St Leger remained on track however as his Ballinakil Clare confirmed her well-being in the closing heat with another slick display over Native Chimes who again showed big pace in defeat despite going down by three lengths in 29.68.

Completing the set of eight winners who all came from just four kennels was the Sheila Spillane & J.J. Fennelly duo of Burgess Dubh and Burgess Popeye as the latter remained unbeaten in the event when producing a brave display to land Heat 4 in 29.88. Burgess Dubh brought up the double in Heat 6 when he recovered from a tardy start which left him in an unpromising fourth place off the second bend. Powerful back-straight pace however saw him range up on the hind quarters of the leaders before just denying Creamery Bale by a shorthead in 30.18.

Turbulent Quarter-finals change Leger complexion

Peter Cronin with Swithins Brae
Beginning the quarter-finals as master of her own fate, Graham Holland’s brilliant bitch Ballinakil Clare entered the semi-finals as the only unbeaten runner of the competition. Again showing her adept breaking abilities from Trap 2, the 2016 Oaks finalist ensured safe passage by again leading to the opening bend before completing a dominant victory over a strong staying Chillmark Chaser by five lengths in 29.64, the fastest time of the night.


It then seemed more than a touch dismissive when the bookies boards read 20/1 alongside the name of Peter Cronin’s Swithins Brae ahead of the second quarter-final and although missing his break, the powerful early pacer forced his way to the front off the second bend to inflict defeat on Jaytee Dutch by one and a half lengths in 29.84. Another gaining his first win in the event at this stage was Native Chimes when the pup defeated Burgess Dubh by a neck in 30.13 after an epic duel despite both missing their breaks. A big casualty here was Witches Belle who met with repeated bumping when just failing to sweep the opening bend in front.

Outright favourite ahead of the round, Priceless Brandy also had his St Leger participation under threat in the closing heat when his tricky Trap 4 draw saw him trailing in fourth place on the back-straight. Rachel Wheelers High St Jesse was claiming her reward for consistent good performances with a two and a half length defeat of Arclight Bolt at the business end of the race as the favourite was made to pull out all the stops, keeping his campaign alive in third place.

Record breaker Brandy back with a bang

Peering out from the same Trap 4 that brought such a scare in the quarter-finals, Priceless Brandy this time found a much improved break to ensure a clear run to the first bend in the second semi-final. Displaying smart early pace, he swept the turn with two lengths in hand and the St Leger favourite had victory secure before even reaching the back-straight. 

What followed however was a sublime display of power when galloping in isolation throughout an eleven length victory and it was clear that our track record was about to come under threat when this young superstar continued to move strongly in the home-straight.

Stopping the clock at 29.26, he claimed his new track from Droopys Nidge who had posted 29.29 in this event two years ago and adds this accolade to his 525 yard record at Kilkenny. Confirming his place at the top of the market, he led home Native Chimes who again showed big pace in second and the wonderfully game Country Legend who will now contest his second major final at Limerick.



Leave At Dawn
The opening semi-final was claimed by Peter Cronin’s Swithins Brae in similarly dominant fashion. Finally getting to grips with the Limerick traps, he produced his best start of the event to lead Jaytee Dutch by five lengths at the top of the back-straight. Leading throughout, he posted a smart 29.61, two lengths ahead of Jaytee Dutch who gained ground from halfway in a strong staying performance. An intense battle for the final qualifying place was settled by Leave At Dawn in the dying strides when admirably recovering from much crowding to deny Graham Holland a finalist, catching Highview Event in the shadow of the line.









THE FINALISTS


SWITHINS BRAE Improving throughout the competition, Peter Cronin’s exceptional early pacer Swithins Brae has graduated into a formidable open racer in this year’s St Leger. Struggling to find his best break, he used his natural pace to negotiate his way to qualifying positions in the opening two rounds before recovering from a tardy start to score victory in his quarter-final. However, this young pretender finally managed to break on terms in the semi-final and he returned a sparkling performance which if repeated now would certainly bring a bold bid for glory. In that scenario, it would require a clear run for even our favourite to reel him in close home and he is a live contender at 4/1.

NATIVE CHIMES Johnny O’Sullivan’s big and powerful Native Chimes has garnered many admirers in this year’s St Leger since displaying exceptional raw speed when contesting just his fifth career race in our opening round. In each outing since, he has wowed with eye-catching pace at various points of the circuit while still learning his trade. His achilles heel now however is his lack of breaking prowess. That may come in time and he looks a future superstar of the sport but on the evidence of his previous heats, he is likely to be trailing on the run to the bend, from where victory would prove difficult. His win claims however become much greater and very realistic if he can find an improved start. 10/1.

COUNTRY LEGEND The outsider of the field, Maurice Heffernan’s Country Legend has been a favourite of Limerick patrons since reaching the final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial in 2015. A wonderfully game performer, he also reached the semi-finals of this event last year and has this time plotted his way to the final when staying strongly to find a qualifying place, sometimes from highly unpromising scenarios. He will be finishing as fast any again tonight but lacks the early pace of his rivals and appears likely to simply get too far behind before kicking into top gear. It will require a fast break which we have not seen for some time if he is to cause a shock now. 25/1.

PRICELESS BRANDY Our deserving favourite, Paul Hennessy’s Priceless Brandy is the fastest runner over 550 yards to ever grace the new Limerick track following last week’s phenomenal track record performance. Finding an improved start then, it would appear that a repeat of that start is all that will be required. However there are concerns for those willing to take the short price and Brandy must repeat that good start to ensure an early clear run with a lively kennelmate on his outer that can move well to the bend. However, any opposition to Brandy in the market would be speculative and this brilliant superstar of greyhound racing thoroughly merits his favourite tag and will convert if securing a clear run. 4/9.

JAYTEE DUTCH A kennel companion to the favourite, Paul Henessey’s second finalist Jaytee Dutch has been a model of consistency throughout the competition. Fastest on the opening night, he would hold real claims if repeating that level of performance now. However, he seemed to lack that same spark in two subsequent defeats, including when outpaced by Priceless Brandy on the back-straight in Round 2 which would temper confidence ahead of the final. That said, he appeared to be approaching top form when showing strong pace behind Swithins Brae last week having suffered crowding and if he can build on that now, still holds claims of victory. He has been breaking well at Limerick, and consistently so. An inside seed, he will drift towards the inside but not dramatically and if breaking better than Priceless Brandy, which he often does, his win chances will increase greatly. 5/1.

LEAVE AT DAWN Along with Country Legend, Brendan Matthews’s Leave At Dawn has plotted his way to the final without a heat victory. However, a consistent performer at the highest level, his strong pace from the second bend has seen him produce impressive placed efforts, round on round. Often tight for room at the opening bends, he will need his very best break to hold win claims here but if doing so, can find further advantage from a highly favourable draw. He will race in isolation on the run to the first bend and if the five inside seeds were to become embroiled in crowding, his ideal draw could prove the catalyst for final shock. If on level terms off the second bend, it would take a strong effort to repel the game stayer. An outsider with a chance at 14/1.


The Verdict

With any big race, the key to deciphering the likely result is to first establish the runners who are most likely to secure clear passage. However, following the phenomenal track record performance of Priceless Brandy last week there are two more pertinent scenarios to consider ahead of this final. The first of these is the one where Priceless Brandy breaks well and in that situation the outcome will become very clear, very quickly. 

If we fully subscribe to that theory the final becomes a one dog race but in this sport, we know only too well that all six finalists always have claims of victory.

Staying with our favourite, he must break well to ensure a run and the pressure is on for him to produce that now for his own kennelmate Jaytee Dutch on his immediate outside has been starting well throughout the competition. Should the favourite find himself a half a length or more behind Jaytee Dutch from traps, he could see his racing room rapidly diminishing on the run to the bend, bringing with it the chance of first bend trouble.

Possibly one of the best drawn runners on the fence is Swithins Brae in a heat that contains five inside seeds. A slick early pacer, he has highly realistic claims to command affairs on the inside and appears almost guaranteed a clear run if finding an adept break. Improving with every outing in the event thus far, his are realistic claims of victory if Priceless Brandy did find any early complications which makes Swithins Brae a plausible alternative for those unwilling to take the short price about the favourite.

Favourite Priceless Brandy
The claims of Jaytee Dutch too must be given some consideration for of all the finalists, he is the most consistent from traps. All evidence suggests that he will hold a prominent position approaching the bend and if he turns first, he would cause a compression of runners behind and prove very difficult to reel in thereafter.



Overall, Priceless Brandy is extremely hard to oppose and with slow starters Country Legend and Native Chimes on his inner, it is more likely than not that he can find sufficient racing room to assert his dominance on the back-straight, or even earlier. He along with Swithins Brae and Jaytee Dutch are likeliest to enter the back-straight in the tri-cast positions with Swithins Brae possibly splitting the Hennessy runners at the line. Verdict: 4-1-5









Clare goes in for the Kil in eventful Q/final session………paul cooney
The classic events of greyhound racing are so called because they are pinnacles of the sport and require any aspiring champion to maintain form while repeatedly facing only the strongest calibre of rival in round after round of unforgiving sporting challenges at the very highest level. There are no hiding places for any prospective Irish St Leger winner who must display the ability to somehow find a qualifying place from unpromising positions, a ruthless thirst for victory when opportunity comes their way while taking full advantage when offered the opportunity to eliminate their closest threats.

Our twelve remaining semi-finalists in the 2016 Kerry-Agri Business Irish St Leger have already displayed a abundance of these essential qualities but an eventful session of heats la
st Saturday night will have reminded connections of all that there is no place for error at the final qualifying hurdle now having come through quarter-final heats where many outright fancies were unceremoniously eliminated.

Beginning the quarter-finals as master of her own fate, Graham Holland’s brilliant bitch Ballinakil Clare enters the semi-finals as the only unbeaten runner of the competition. Again showing her adept breaking abilities from Trap 2, the 2016 Oaks finalist ensured safe passage by again leading to the opening bend before completing a dominant victory over a strong staying Chillmark Chaser by five lengths in 29.64, the fastest time of the night. A high profile casualty here was Razldazl Tierna who missed his break and suffered at the closing bends when Leave At Dawn gamely forced his way to third when staying strongly.

Cronin’s Brae lands 20/1 shocker?!

Flagged up on these pages as the competition’s fastest early pacer, it seemed more than a touch dismissive when the bookies boards read 20/1 alongside the name of Peter Cronin’s Swithins Brae ahead of Heat 2. Granted, he faced some of this season’s most impressive Open racers in a stacked and treacherous contest but for a select few punters, this was a gratefully generous gift, if appearing unlikely when he missed his break!

Peter Cronin
Trailing narrow leader Jaytee Dutch on his inner, Swithins Brae switched left to claim the rails pitch before rushing up on the inside to contest the lead which he would claim as his when galloping inside a crowding field upon turning. Leading Jaytee Dutch by a length at the top of the back-straight, he repelled that persistent challenger all the way to the line for a one and a half length verdict in 29.84. The heat brought bumping and crowding for all remaining runners and all but ended Pat Buckley’s St Leger challenge when Lenson Rocky’s poor start led to his elimination before Coolavanny Pat was crowded out of his third position at the closing bends when Highview Event galloped strongly late on to claim the last qualifying spot.

Green and naive, Native is still gifted

Johnny O’Sullivan’s Native Chimes has correctly garnered many admirers in his St Leger campaign thus far and displaying phenomenal pace a various points of the circuit, the January 2015 pup gained a hugely deserved victory in Heat 3 despite once again producing a tardy start from Trap 1. His early pace saw him flying at a tightly packed field approaching the first bend where he inevitably bumped Hulla Villa on his outer. A further thump was imminent from Burgess Dubh who was now arriving on his inner having trailed all following his poor start from Trap 2.

With benefit of the inside however, this pair would dominate affairs to the back-straight and were locked together before Native Chimes began to assert approaching the closing bends. A length to the good when straightening for the line, the pup was all out to repel Burgess Dubh at the line when just managing to prevail by a neck in 30.13.

Unlucky Belle bade farewell
Arguably the greatest shock of the night was the elimination of Witches Belle in this heat and it was a cruel twist of bad luck which saw her just fail to sweep the opening bend in front on the outside before hampered. A further and more significant interference came shortly after and her usual powerful back-straight surge could not materialise thereafter when clearly suffering while trailing in last place at the line.

Filling third place here was Country Legend and Maurice Heffernan’s strong stayer will now contest his second St Leger semi-final on a circuit where he has excelled in the past when also reaching a Con & Annie Kirby final in 2015.

Brandy made to battle behind Jesse

Favourite backers would get no respite from the quarter-final shocks in our closing heat as red hot fancy Priceless Brandy became the latest outright contender to see his St Leger aspirations under threat when failing to produce a good start from his tricky Trap 4 draw. Conversely, Rachel Wheeler’s game bitch High St Jesse used her suitable draw in Trap 2 to command the inside rail in the early exchanges and repelling Arclight Bolt, turned first before forging to a decisive back-straight lead over that same rival.

Bumping in behind saw Homepound Dream in third with the favourite facing a three length deficit if he was to remain in the competition. Up front, High St Jesse was maintaining her strong gallop when posting 29.87 in a two a and a half length defeat of Arclight Bolt as Priceless Brandy gamely produced a powerful finish to claim third at the closing bends.

SEMI FINAL 1
1) Jaytee Dutch 2) High St Jesse 3) Arclight Bolt 4) Swithins Brae 5) Leave At Dawn 6) Highview Event

The two best drawn runners here are Jaytee Dutch and Highview Event which is a huge advantage and they are natural starting points in a very tricky heat. It is fair to say that the former again appeared below his brilliant best last week despite breaking well, which throws a question mark over his current form. However he is trapping well, can secure a passage on the rails and looks booked for a qualifying place. Highview Event may have been behind him last week but merits big respect here as he can use his early pace to aid his claims of a clear run on the outer by leading Leave At Dawn to the bend.

The big question is whether Peter Cronin’s Swithins Brae can break on terms, something he has failed to do in three heats thus far. If he did, he would be the likely winner but taking past performance as the best predictor for the future, he will find himself a length adrift in the early strides before rushing at the leaders between runners at the bend. In that scenario, this heat becomes almost impossible to predict where the pleasing draws for Dutch and Highview Event become hugely significant. As does the Trap 2 draw for High St Jesse who is likely to track Jaytee Dutch to the first bend, sneak a run on the inner and be in contention at the top of the back-straight. The percentages dictate that these provide the most reasonable solution in search of the tri-cast but in reality, all runners have claims to reach the final. Verdict 6-1-2

SEMI FINAL 2
1) Native Chimes 2) Chillmark Chaser 3) Burgess Dubh 4) Priceless Brandy 5) Country Legend 6) Ballinakil Clare

It is difficult to select a well drawn runner here, let alone a winner for uncertainty surrounds the likely early behaviour once traps open. The clear favourite for the heat must be Ballinakil Clare as the only unbeaten runner of the competition and the most reliable early pacer, in superb form. But how will she perform from Trap 6? There is little doubt that she will seek to move left, how dramatically so will depend on how fast she breaks. She has once raced from Trap 6 in her career and that was when being eliminated from the Con & Annie Kirby here in March!

So what happens closer to the rails? Native Chimes is a monster but he has still not mastered trapping. He will be flying at the leaders approaching the bend but what will he find in his way? He has been seen to move towards the middle to get a clear sight of the hare behind runners and that can bring trouble, so he is hard to adamantly recommend. Another who needs to sharpen up at traps is Priceless Brandy but this week, he can definitely be the master of his own fate for the runners either side of him will not match his early pace, if he can find anything close to an adept break which offers real win claims now.

It is difficult to rule out Ballinakil Clare in her current form and she is included in the Trio but the likeliest first bend scenario here is Chillmark Chaser on the inside of Priceless Brandy with Clare either dominating after a fast break or at least upsides that pair. The scramble thereafter can see Priceless Brandy back to winning ways with the bitch safely qualifying ahead of Native Chimes whose raw speed is taken to somehow find a way to qualify. 4-6-1

BETTING: Priceless Brandy 9/4, Ballinakil Clare 9/2, Jaytee Dutch 5/1, Burgess Dubh 10/1, Swithins Brae 10/1, Highview Event 10/1, Native Chimes 12/1, Leave At Dawn 12/1, High St Jesse 20/1, Country Legend 25/1, Arclight Bolt 33/1, Chilmark Chaser 40/1.

Surviving runner’s sectional times:

1st SEMI-FINAL
Starting Split
To 325 yards
Closing 225 yrd
JAYTEE DUTCH



                          Round 1
2.82
17.30
12.26
                          Round 2
2.81
17.41
12.40
                          Round 3
2.80
17.55 crd
12.39
HIGH ST JESSE



                          Round 1
2.93
17.63 crd
12.44
                          Round 2
2.90
17.71
12.20
                          Round 3
2.88
17.53
12.35
ARCLIGHT BOLT



                          Round 1
2.93
17.84 crd
12.30
                          Round 2
3.05
blk
----
                          Round 3
2.91
17.58
12.46
SWITHINS BRAE



                          Round 1
2.93
17.54
12.49
                          Round 2
2.91
17.50
12.51 chk
                          Round 3
2.87
17.47
12.37
LEAVE AT DAWN



                          Round 1
2.85
17.44
12.35
                          Round 2
2.87
17.61 crd
12.25
                          Round 3
2.95
17.82 crd
12.24
HIGHVIEW EVENT



                          Round 1
2.77
17.44 bmp
12.40
                          Round 2
2.79
17.40
12.36
                          Round 3
2.81
17.75 blk
12.33




2nd SEMI-FINAL



NATIVE CHIMES



                          Round 1
2.86
17.66 crd
12.26
                          Round 2
2.89
17.43 crd
12.46
                          Round 3
2.96
17.78 bmp
12.35
CHILLMARK CHASER



                          Round 1
2.98
blk
-----
                          Round 2
2.88
17.97 bmp
12.24
                          Round 3
2.88
17.75 crd
12.24
BURGESS DUBH



                          Round 1
2.95
17.99 crd
12.15
                          Round 2
2.93
17.75 crd
12.43 crd
                          Round 3
3.03
17.83 bump
12.32
PRICELESS BRANDY



                          Round 1
2.88
17.45 crd
12.13
                          Round 2
2.92
17.36
12.17
                          Round 3
2.98
18.01 blk
12.21
COUNTRY LEGEND



                          Round 1
3.02
17.92 blk
12.26
                          Round 2
2.96
blk
----
                          Round 3
2.86
18.10 blk
12.12
BALLINAKIL CLARE



                          Round 1
2.83
17.42
12.40
                          Round 2
2.76
17.39
12.37
                          Round 3
2.76
17.37
12.27






Hot Brandy in charge as the Witch warms up

The Irish St Leger never fails to provide thrilling greyhound racing action and on a pleasant autumn evening last Saturday, patrons were treated to some simply stunning performances throughout eight second round heats. With the luxury of generous qualifying conditions in the previous round now gone, it was no surprise to see the competitions leading trainers dominate the results table with doubles for the Sheila Spillane & J.J. Fennelly partnership as well as trainer Graham Holland and a brilliant treble for Pat Buckley but it was again Paul Hennessy who left with the fastest runner of the 2016 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger when Priceless Brandy confirmed his status as an Irish Greyhound Racing superstar with a sublime display of imperious pace while scorching to 29.53 in Heat 5.

A track record breaker for 525 yards at Kilkenny when still a pup, the young Kilkenny kennel star led home a high class tri-cast in the race when overhauling compatriot Jaytee Dutch on the back-straight despite finding a poor break from Trap 2. The manner in which he dismissed the challenge of that exceptionally talented rival was a sight to behold and he has justifiably ascended to outright favouritism at 7/2 having led home an eye-catching Witches Belle by three lengths.

The latter too left Limerick last week with her search for a second classic success firmly on track as she clearly benefited for her racing return of the previous week. A strong running second in such a quick time while also getting the better of Jaytee Dutch late on despite second bend crowding was a most laudable effort and the 2016 Oaks heroine may have yet more improvement to come.

Battling Pat inspires Buckley treble

The second round action began with the first leg of a Pat Buckley treble as Coolavanny Pat became the first of five winners to remain unbeaten in the St Leger. Breaking smartly, he managed to fend off the attentions of fast early pacer Swithins Brae to take a one length lead to the back-straight and holding that same advantage, battled his way to a decisive lead when sweeping across that rival at the third turn. A game two and a half length success saw him stop the clock at 29.84.

Treble for Buckley
The second leg of the treble came in the following Heat 2 where Droopys Punk seized his opportunity with aplomb having scraped through Round 1 as a fastest loser. The smart early pacer sneaked his way to the front on the inside of Razldazl Tierna to lead off the second bend before gamely repelling the challenge of Leave At Dawn by a half length in a career best 29.83, the same winning time as Lenson Rocky who completed the treble in Heat 7 when striking the front at the first bend despite a poor start to lead home Ballymorris Diva by four lengths to also remain unbeaten.

Holland double compensates for Pearl tumble

Back to winning ways and staking his claim for outright honours in Heat 3, Highview Event made a crucial fast start from his favoured Trap 6 and used his impressive early pace to dominate throughout a heat that proved a bumpy outing for his rivals who all suffered in his wake. Most significantly, hot favourite Sidarian Pearl failed to display her renowned early pace before being knocked over at the first bend but gratefully, the Puppy Oaks heroine did complete safely as Honeypound Dream chased home her kennelmate at a deficit of eleven and a half lengths in 29.76.

Holland still holds strong hand
Retaining the chances of a Holland bitch claiming St Leger glory was Ballinakil Clare who brought pleasing compensation in the concluding heat when the slick early pacer found another fast break that would see her lead throughout in 29.68 while clearly displaying an adept ability to run the Limerick bends at pace. That prowess coupled with her breaking ability makes her a live contender for outright honours. Chasing her home when defeated by three lengths was Native Chimes but this young January 2015 pup left a huge impression when showing both sizzling early pace after a poor start and powerful back-straight pace when a threatening presence on the leader’s outside having been three lengths adrift at the second bend.

Burgess Boys stake their claim

Completing the set of eight winners who all came from just four kennels was the Sheila Spillane & J.J. Fennelly duo of Burgess Dubh and Burgess Popeye as the latter remained unbeaten in the event when producing a brave display to land Heat 4. Led on the run to the bend, he paced up on the outside of Hulla Villa and Chillmark Chaser before admirably holding strong against a hefty bump to assert at the top of the back-straight. Leaving a good impression he prevailed by four and three quarter lengths over that pair in 29.88.

Burgess Dubh brought up the double in Heat 6 when he recovered from a tardy start which left him in an unpromising fourth place off the second bend. Powerful back-straight pace however saw him range up on the hind quarters of Awaywiththepixies and Creamery Bale off the closing bend before just denying the latter by a shorthead in 30.18.

1st Quarter-final

Ballinakil Clare will start favourite here and although Creamery Bale is capable of a fast start on her inner, she is fancied to lead with a rails pitch at the first bend which can see her home for victory thereafter. Fancied to fill the trio places will be Razldazl Tierna who can track her to the back-straight before being challenged for second place at the closing bends by Leave At Dawn. A qualification case can be made for the remainder and Ballymorris Diva may have best claims if repeating her recent fast starts to take advantage of any possible crowding on her inner.

2nd Quarter-final

A vicious draw has created a heat worthy of the final itself. Supporters of Jaytee Dutch will be happy that he has drawn Trap 1 again but last week’s effort must be labelled as below par when passed by two rivals after a good start. However, if presenting in the form that he displayed in Round 1, he would be the choice. His complication here is that Swithins Brae in Trap 2 is the Leger’s fastest early pacer and although not trapping at speed, is certain to be moving fastest into the first bend. 

Three unbeaten runners are housed to his right and this heat may get very tight upon turning which makes Highview Event’s draw on the outside a big advantage. He is selected as the runner with the most likely clear run and can be joined in the semi-finals by Lenson Rocky whose pace is taken to get him out of a treacherous situation and Jaytee Dutch who may use his crucial rails pitch to secure a place.

3rd Quarter-final

The Oaks champion Witches Belle will start favourite and all appears in place for her to get back to winning ways from a suitable Trap 6 draw. She has a plausible opportunity to match or even lead those on her immediate inside for clear passage to the back-straight from where she would convert a clear cut chance. The main threat would be an improved break from the exceptionally fast pup Native Chimes in Trap 1. 

He has his best opportunity to get a clear sight of the hare thus far in the St Leger and could possibly get loose if trapping well. If matching Burgess Dubh from traps, he can avoid moving right behind runners as he did last week and qualify thereafter. Theres The Bell is taken to fill the remaining semi-final place.

4th Quarter-final

Priceless Brandy is the fastest runner of the St Leger thus far and will be a short price to remain unbeaten despite a tricky draw here. There is a danger of crowding on the run to the bend unless he improves his break however and although he is almost impossible to oppose, he is put forward as the winner with due caution. 

Meriting plenty of respect in Trap 1 is Droopys Punk after the reliable trapper found and improved career best run last week and an ideal draw gives him plausible claims of an upset if repeating that run. Fancied to also reach the final by tracking Droopys Punk from her ideal Trap 2 draw is High St Jesse.

Betting: Priceless Brandy 7/2, Lenson Rocky 6/1, Jaytee Dutch 8/1, Witches Belle 8/1, Ballinakil Clare 10/1, Burgess Popeye 10/1, Coolavanny Pat 14/1, Highview Event 14/1, Burgess Dubh 16/1, Swithins Brae 16/1, Native Chimes 20/1, Bar 25/1.

We commence the quarter-finals with 6 Middle seeds and 2 Wide, while five bitches still remain.


Trainers with multiple entries remaining: 3 Pat Buckley(from original 7) 3 Paul Hennessy(6) 2 Graham Holland(4) 2 Brendan Matthews(2) 1 Peter Cronin(2).







Hennessy going Dutch on double hot Brandy………paul cooney

An exciting opening session to the 2016 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger brought a host of smart performances from extensively talented classic contenders throughout eleven first round heats on Saturday last but leading the way while registering the fastest times of the night were the Paul Hennessy trained duo of Jaytee Dutch and Priceless Brandy who gave notice of their intentions to deliver a fourth St Leger title for the Kilkenny kennels.

Hennessy holds strong hand
First to ignite the Leger litmus paper in Heat 3 was Jaytee Dutch and he enjoyed a virtual solo passage throughout a dominant display. Making light of his slightly concerning draw in Trap 5 he produced a fast start to lead from trap rise and was never seriously threatened when defeating Theres The Bell by eight and a half lengths in 28.56, the fastest time of the night.


The second leg of the Hennessy double came in Heat 7 where Priceless Brandy produced what was arguably the performance of the round when recovering from a moderate start, also in Trap 5, to defeat Leave At Dawn by three lengths. Battling his way to contention on the inside of Droopys Punk at the second bend, he saw Leave At Dawn rush up on the outside and claim a one length back-straight lead as Brandy suffered some minor crowding. A powerful gallop from this point however saw the Kilkenny 525 yard track record holder produce his winning challenge at the third bend before staying strongly to the line in 29.58 for the 550 yard classic trip.

Holland’s ladies strut their stuff

Next best on the clock behind the Hennessy pair was Graham Holland’s superstar bitch Sidarian Pearl who showed that she has retained her form despite a busy 2016 campaign and she was at her imperious best when completely dominating our concluding Heat 11. Breaking smartly from Trap 4, she displayed her immense early pace for a two length first bend lead and posting the fastest early split times of the round, proceeded unchallenged to a five and a half length verdict over High Street Jesse in 29.69. 
                                                                             Sidarian Pearl in Rd 1 victory

She was completing Holland’s own St Leger double as kennelmate Ballinakil Clare had already claimed Heat 6 in similarly dominant fashion. Also coping competently with a middle draw in Trap 4, her early pace carried her to a first bend lead which allowed safe passage throughout her six length success over a staying on Rockbay Captain in 29.82.

Rocky comes out fighting for Buckley

2014 winning trainer Pat Buckley assembled a strong team of challengers ahead of Round 1 and he too registered a double on the opening night as team captain Lenson Rocky returned a thoroughly professional performance to take Heat 10. The English Derby finalist paced up well on the outside of a closely packed field approaching the bend and readily asserted before reaching the back-straight.

Staying the trip well he posted a pleasing 29.75 when two and a half lengths in advance of an eye-catching runner-up, Native Chimes. The latter showed exceptional early pace after just a moderate start here and further impressed with a powerful gallop on the back-straight after suffering some crowding. Ceding little and probably gaining late ground on the winner, the Johnny O’Sullivan trained January 2015 pup is a young star to note as he makes his graduation to top Open competition in the St Leger.


Buckley scores a late double
The first leg of the Buckley double had come in the preceding Heat 9 as Coolavanny Pat battled his way to victory over Lightfoot Rafael in a highly competitive encounter. He tracked early pacesetter Gwan Slab to the bend before striking the front early in the back-straight but his biggest challenge would come from the Hennessy trained Lightfoot Rafael who displayed powerful back-straight pace and he pressed the winner all the way to the line when ceding victory by one and a half lengths in 30.00.

Arguably the most well received result of the night came in Heat 2 when Limerick kennels filled the forecast places as Denis Kiely’s Shaneboy Russell stole an early march on Tim Gilbourne’s Gulleen Billy with smart pace on the run to the first bend. A three length lead on the back-straight was enough to see the former home in a polished display over the strong running Gulleen Billy, by two lengths in 29.79.

The remaining heats were claimed by Peter Cronin’s Sab Miller who held the more fancied Highview Event by a head in 29.83, Boherash Messiah who held the same margin over Swithins Brae in 30.02, the same time recorded by Burgess Popeye when claiming Heat 8 after Combo Sidney posted 30.65 in a troubled opening heat.

Fastest runners clash in vicious Round 2 draw

A successful opening night for Paul Hennessy will not have left much time to rest on laurels as the following draw for Round 2 saw his fastest winners pitted against each other in adjacent traps for tonight’s Heat 5. The Kilkenny kennels will be praying for a cleanly contested race here as Jaytee Dutch occupies Trap 1 with his younger compatriot on his immediate outer in Trap 2.

Witches Belle will need to improve in Rd2
Adding further intrigue to this clash is the presence of Liam Twomey’s Irish Oaks heroine Witched Belle in Trap 4 who will be hoping to improve on her opening round fourth to Sab Miller when entitled to be in need of the outing after a four month layoff. Jaytee Dutch clearly has the best of the draw and is fancied to defend his rails pitch on the run to the bend from where he will prove extremely difficult to overhaul. Priceless Brandy will pose a threat throughout and is expected to comfortably qualify provided he can avoid a clash with Lassa Exquisite(3) who can complicate affairs with his smart early pace.


Trainer Pat Buckley retains a strong hand in the event and his Lenson Rocky shares co-favouritism at 7/1 with the Hennessy duo ahead of Round 2. He is expected to remain unbeaten from Trap 3 in Heat 7 where he will have kennelmate Alfies Diamond(2) to guide him to the first bend before his back-straight pace proves too strong to contain.

Also having his challenge complicated by a tricky second round draw, Pat Buckley will take three runners to traps for a highly competitive opening heat where qualification will be at a premium. Coolavanny Pat is the sole first round winner in the line-up and looks set for a forward bid from Trap 5 but a rails pitch for Brendan Matthews’s Theres The Bell offers realistic claims for him to get back to winning ways in a heat where all runners hold realistic claims.

The following Heat 2 can see Graham Holland’s Sidarian Pearl extend her fantastic strike rate yet further in 2016 as a suitable Trap 3 berth can again see her dominate in the opening strides. She posted the fastest sectional times in Round 1 and is expected to lead kennel companion Highview Event(6) who re-opposes with his opening night conqueror Sab Miller(1), these three are fancied to fill the qualifying places.


With the luxury of extra qualifying places now gone, the 2016 Kerry Agri-Business Irish St Leger action truly ignites with a greater threat of elimination bringing the battling best out of our aspiring classic contenders in Round 2. The opening night provided entertaining highlights and expect many more in what promises to be a fiery night of St Leger action.

Betting: 7/1 Jaytee Dutch, Lenson Rocky, Priceless Brandy 10/1 Sidarian Pearl  12/1 Witches Belle, Burgess Popeye 14/1 Ballinakil Clare 16/1 Highview Event, Swithins Brae, Burgess Dubh, Sab Miller 20/1 Droopys Dollar, Brinkleys King, Coolavanny Pat, Lightfoot Rafael 25/1 Bar. (Boylesports)

We commence Round 2 with 6 Middle seeds and 8 Wide while seven bitches still remain.


Trainers with multiple entries remaining: 6 Pat Buckley(from original 7) 6 Paul Hennessy(6) 3 Graham Holland(4) 2 Brendan Matthews(2), Peter Cronin(2), Keiran Lynch(2).








St Leger set to bring down curtain on 2016 Classic season…………..paul cooney

For regular patrons of Limerick Greyhound Stadium, the near twelve month wait for the return of Kerry Agri Business Irish St Leger action can never elapse quickly enough! For this is the defining event for generations of greyhound enthusiasts in County Limerick and it’s surrounds, providing dreams of classic success since securing it’s place at home in the Markets Field venue since 1944 when claimed by No Relation in 31.48 for the 550 yard distance.

 An original classic of the sport since it’s inception in 1932, the Irish St Leger was first held at Celtic Park in Belfast with Castle Eve the inaugural winner in 32.08. Moving around the country in following seasons, the event visited Shelbourne Park on four occasions during the 1930’s with three renewals at Harolds Cross and a sole appearance at Clonmel in 1933 before the first Limerick staging in 1940 when Cherrygrove Cross prevailed in 31.82.


Becoming an inherent part of Limerick sporting culture in the intervening years, the Irish St Leger is one of the most sought after titles in racing. Coveted by trainers and owners alike, it continues to attract the elite of the sport in search of a classic victory that can define a career for both dog and handler. Maintaining the exceptionally high standards set at the city center venue in the Markets Field the New Limerick Greyhound Stadium has enjoyed four wonderful renewals and all is now in place for the 2016 running of the concluding classic event on the calender which is again made possible by the wonderfully generous sponsorship of Kerry Agri Business.

Hot Holland with 5 hopefuls

Skywalker Rory triumphs in 2015
Claiming the title in 2015 was the brilliant Skywalker Rory for trainer Pat Guilfoyle when defeating Sidarian Vega by six lengths in a dominant 29.47 success. Now trained by Graham Holland it was strongly hoped that he would return to Limerick in defence of his title but he has clearly not recovered in time having been forced to withdraw from his recent Boylesports Irish Derby quarter-final. His trainer however has been at the business end of all the major events in 2016 and with three classics already secured in a hugely successful season, is a natural starting point when studying form ahead of tonight’s opening round heats.


Assembling a strong team of five hopefuls, connections of recent Derby finalist Sidarian Pearl will be hoping to go one better this time around and the exceptionally talented bitch will begin her campaign in the concluding heat of Round 1. Likely to start favourite despite a less than ideal draw in Trap 5, she may have most to fear from the certain fast finish of Droopys Dollar but is nonetheless expected to begin her St Leger campaign with victory.

Rivalling the Puppy Oaks winner for claims of being the kennels first string is Highview Event who truly came to prominence in the 2016 Irish Greyhound Derby and was highly fancied for outright honours there before a troubled quarter-final elimination. Capable of fast times while rushing to the first bend he will be on many shortlists for St Leger glory but will have to be sharp from traps to contain a true superstar of 2016 in Heat 4 as Oaks heroine Witches Belle returns to Limerick where she thrilled her legion of fans on the way to a third place finish in the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial here in April.

Witches Belle with trainer Liam Twomey
Edel & Liam Twomey’s superb bitch will be warmly welcomed back to a venue where she showed herself capable of competing with, and defeating some of Ireland’s best racers while scorching to magnificent times. Returning at a trip that will ideally suit her style and battling qualities, the 2016 Sporting Press Irish Oaks winner adds greatly to a stellar St Leger entry.


Jointly heading the trainers table before commencement is 2014 winning trainer Pat Buckley with a seven strong team ahead of Round 1 action. Bridging a ten year gap following the victory of Never Give Up in 2004, his second St Leger title came through the paws of Paradise Silva two years ago and the kennels will bring a favourite’s chance to this season’s renewal. Lenson Rocky performed with huge credit in the recent Irish Derby before his quarter-final exit and is a maturing competition racer who showed his immense talents when previously reaching the English Derby Final at Wimbledon while still a pup!

8/1 in the outright market, he begins his campaign in Heat 10 and will start favourite but there will be no hiding places here with a fast kennel companion Alfies Diamond a certain rival for early supremacy, Tipperary Cup winner Skiproe Master and unexposed pup Native Chimes all capable of upsetting the odds. The Buckley assault is strong in depth behind the favourite with Coolavanny Pat and Alfies Diamond in particular having much to recommend their chances while Droopys Dollar who opposes Sidarian Pearl in Heat 11 should be ideally suited to the Limerick circuit.


Hennessy is hottest Leger trainer

Also with seven entries and seeking a fourth St Leger title is trainer Paul Hennessy who first guided Larking About to victory in 2002 before What A Tornado triumphed in 2011. His third victory in the event came in 2013 as the then Oaks champion Locnamon Bridie completed a landmark classic double when defeating the boys in a dominant final display. 


Hennessy, always a factor in St Leger!
In St Leger terms, he is the in-form trainer as he also ran-up the event in 2012 with Priceless Sky and guided Jaytee Valencia to fourth place last year. His team this time is headed by Kilkenny 525 yard track record holder Priceless Brandy and the more experienced, consistent Jaytee Dutch. Both were unluckily dumped out of the Derby in Round 2 but as a consequence, come here relatively fresh. Priceless Brandy begins his campaign in Heat 7 and a blistering Limerick trial points ominously to his chances there while Jaytee Dutch, who doesn’t know how to run a bad race, warmed up with a slick race victory last week and holds real claims in Heat 3. Both are priced at 10/1.

Of course with any renewal of the St Leger, hopes are always high for a local success and among the many track favourites, Tim Gilbourne’s Gulleen Billy may lead the charge from an ideal draw in Trap 1 as he begins his campaign in the second of tonight’s heat. He relishes the 550 yard trip, evidenced by his third in this season’s Greenpark Open 550 Stake in May and his impressive strike rate at Limerick may continue if defending his rails pitch early on tonight. The following Heat 3 will see young trainer Julie O’Connell with her first St Leger contender and despite defeat in recent starts, Clonleigh Brave is capable of blistering clocks if securing clear passage and a deep run from the Hospital trained charge would come as little surprise.

These are just a few of the likely opening night highlights ahead of the 2016 Kerry Agri Business Irish St Leger so book your front row seat for five weeks in Limerick’s racing theatre as our impressive cast of players act out the as yet unwritten script in what is certain to be another epic showcase for the 73rd renewal of this most prestigious classic.

Betting: Lenson Rocky 8/1, Priceless Brandy 10/1, Jaytee Dutch 10/1, Highview Event 12/1, Alfies Diamond 12/1, Burgess Popeye 14/1, Witches Belle 14/1, Burgess Dubh 14/1, Sidarian Pearl 14/1, Theres The Bell 16/1, Leave At Dawn 16/1, Droopys Dollar 16/1, Coconut Corker 16/1, Coolavanny Pat 20/1, Skiproe Master 20/1, Lightfoot Rafael 20/1, Brinkleys King 20/1, Ballinakil Clare 20/1, Droopys Tee 20/1, Bar 25/1. (Boylesports)

Outright Selections: Droopys Dollar 20/1, Lightfoot Rafael 20/1.

We commence Round 1 with 49 Inside seeds, 8 Middle and 9 Wide while eight bitches will bid to emulate Locnamon Bridie’s 2013 heroics.

Trainers with multiple entries: 7 Pat Buckley, Paul Hennessy 5 Graham Holland 3 Chris Houlihan 2 Brendan Matthews, Peter Cronin, Keiran Lynch.



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