We missed out on Saturday in the Derby Final but I have no complaints and congratulations to the Eugene and James Robinson.
It is a small kennel, they are nice genuine people and very good at their job. Put it this way, I wouldn’t want to try and improve a dog that Eugene has had his hands on.
I think that showed how they produced Ballyanne Sim at his peak on the night it mattered.
I think the winner needed everything to go his way, in terms of the trap draw, and the inside was running very well. But that is only an observation, not sour grapes, and he was a thoroughly merited winner.
Last year we had two finalists, both beaten, and didn’t have a winner on the night. This year we had four, including a couple who also benefited by the inside going, and won nearly €40K.
Better still, all the dogs came off the track safe and it was an enjoyable evening.
The Derby is the pinnacle and to win it once is incredible. They certainly don’t come along like buses.
We will probably take six or seven of Limerick for the St.Leger and much to my surprise, they will include Clonbrien Hero.
I had a chat with the owner after the Derby and he thought it was perhaps time to retire the dog to stud.
We arranged that he would come over to pick him up, but not until my daughter Rachel was home from school because she thinks a lot of Hero and would like to say goodbye.
But when we sat down and talked about it, I mentioned that I didn’t necessarily think it was the best plan.
Breeding is struggling and given the bad publicity the dog received, I think he needs that enquiry out of the way before he goes to stud.
My view was, the dog is not injured and loves Limerick, so why not keep him going?
Also, I know from experience, how hard it is to get any bitches for a young dog. I have Rural Hawaii who won an Irish Derby and has probably served six bitches.
It doesn’t help that he is a son of Head Bound and there is still plenty of frozen semen from the sire still available.
We are not a stud kennel so it doesn’t particularly affect us. But it makes life very difficult for the young sires.
I am not convinced that allowing semen to be used years after a stud dog dies is necessarily good for breeding.
Although Hero loves Limerick, it is not the easiest track to run. I much prefer Shelbourne, despite the inside drainage issues, between the first bend and the sprint traps in the winter.
The problem with Limerick is that it is a downhill run to the first bend and a lot of dogs struggle to keep their balance.
I am guessing that it has something to do with it being a landfill site and there are signs of subsidence in other parts of the site including cracks in the concrete.
I don’t know Charlie Lister very well. He is a bit aloof, and like me, he tends to keep himself to himself. He only talks if he has something worthwhile to say.
But his record is there to be admired as the greatest trainer the sport has produced in England.
Like any of us, Charlie can’t win every time, but look at how his dogs are turned out and you can see the quality of his training.
I wish him a long and happy retirement.
We have five left in the Puppy (Juvenile) Derby and I am hopeful that several will go through to the next stage, particularly Blueberry Diva, who picked up a bit of a niggle but should go better next time out.
Puppy Derbys have changed due to the shortage of dogs. To fill them, they have had to be extended to juvenile events.
It isn’t ideal, but given the Irish graded system, you are no worse off, even if you are giving away a few races and months of experience to some of the older dogs.
The way I see it, if I have a good young pup who wins well and gets upgraded to A3, he will probably be taking on five experienced older runners. At least in a juvenile competition, half the runners will probably have no more experience than him.
What is noticeable is how the best younger dogs aren’t being withdrawn after the first round and being sold to England.
Many are still being sold to English owners, but with so few decent puppy races in England, they are leaving the dogs over here.