Saturday night’s Micheal Fortune Night Of Stars meeting at Shelbourne Park way exceeds any hype that might have proceeded it with 13 exceptional races.
Racing manager Derek Frehill said: “There were plenty of quality entries, but also a good array over the different distances including several from the UK.”
The first five races are worth €2,000 to the winner, the remaining eight carry a first prize of €10,000 with Frehill somehow managing to nominate a ‘race of the night’. Though there is some strong logic behind his selection as the 10th race on the card, the Open 525.
He said: “There is a Derby winner (Ballyanne Sim) in one. In two is a Gold Cup winner (Music Toour Ears), in three is a double Laurels winner (Rockybay Foley), in four is a Puppy Derby winner (Broadstrand Bono), in five is a Produce Stakes winner (Grangeview Ten), and in six is an Easter Cup winner (Clona Blaze).
“There is so much early pace in there that it is nearly impossible to pick the winner. If I was forced to pick, I would probably let heart rule head and go for Ballyanne Sim.”
There are a number of flashbacks to Boylesports Irish Derby Final night, not least the opening sprint where Salacres Punch will again be taking on Blame The Game.
Frehill said: “They are far from the only two with a chance including (track record holder) Ardnasool Jet. But with Blame The Game running so well, you’d have to give him the edge to reverse form with Salacres Punch.”
Golden Jacket winner Stardom represents UK interests in the seventh race, the 750 though Frehill can see no further than track record breaker and English St.Leger winner Redzer Ardfert.
He said: “You could never rule out Jaytee Tornado, Lenson Blinder won over the 750 at Limerick but would need to come on from that and Jet Stream View is in great form. But I couldn’t go (as a selection) beyond Redzer Ardfert.”
Ireland’s most popular bitch Killmacdonagh would attract a crowd on her own and the Oaks winner returns in the eighth race, a 525 restricted to her gender.
Frehill said: “She has had a break after what has been a long year. There is a lot of early pace in the race with Sliabh Liag in great form but it’s Killmacdonnagh for me.”
The ninth race is the marathon and features the UK runner likely to start at the shortest SP on the night, Antigua Fire.
Frehill said: “He won the 750 last year and is stepping up over the trip, Are Nagini won the 850 a year ago. You have the Romford track recored breaker Riverside Honey in six, but I have a fancy for Lightsaber Puma who is in great form over 750 and looks as though he will benefit for the extra distance.”
The 11th race features the enigmatic Wolfe, a dog who at one stage or another was both Derby and Leger favourite without winning either.
Frehill said: “I think the longer run to the bend will suit him even though he has Magical Cormie, who was beaten last time out when well fancied, on his inside. Ballymac Cooper is another stepping up in distance and I know how highly thought of Newinn Lester is. It will be some race.”
If anything typifies the ‘Night Of Stars’ banner, it is the 12th race where Boylesports Derby winner Lenson Bocko makes his reappearance.
Frehill said: “Bocko was a brilliant Derby winner and he will draw a crowd in his own right. Let’s not forget you have another finalist there in Mucky Brae, and the consolation winner in Sophies Man. I will select Lenson Bocko, but with Blue East on his inside, he will need to do everything right.”
The final race on the card is the Open 600 where last week’s Irish St. Leger winner Ballymac Anton makes a reappearance.
Frehill said: “He would obviously have a great chance if he isn’t tired after Limerick. He faces the Shelbourne Park 600 yard standard bearer in Macaroon Crus, Lemon Ozzy is well proven as is Getting Up though he is not well drawn. Overall though, in my opinion, Cesarewitch winner Skywalker Logan is the one who they all have to beat.