Overnight rain cleared early this morning over Powerstown Park and by 11am a fine crowd had gathered for the opening day of the 93rd National Coursing Meeting. There was plenty of activity in the betting ring with the biggest wagers in the Boylesports Derby coming for Outoftheshadow (7s to 4s). Later there would be a huge move for Clon Eagle (33s to 12s) but unfortunately for his supporters that gamble would go astray very quickly. In the Horse & Jockey Hotel Oaks the money kept coming for the long odds favourite Silent Wonder and as predicted she went to slips as short as 3/1.
The action got underway with a perfect course for Space Trend which had been nibbled at by punters also and was only 8/1 in places. Up and In, away and home, to return again at 11.00am tomorrow morning, what more could you ask for ?. And remember this lady was also in the first course of the day when winning her trial stake in New Ross. A number of longer than average hunts would follow in that first quarter, Woodlands Roisin & Killimor Belle the main sufferers, but things steadied down then and we were treated to some excellent coursing for Day 1. Share The Dream & Loyal Labamba were the two to catch the eye in the second quarter although we got no clock for Con Guiney’s runner as she came off the run-up. This second quarter would also produce the first big shock of the day when Heartbeat got the better of Abbeyfeale winner Graigues Legacy (the loser would later be very lucky to win her course in the Dublin Coach Kitty Butler so perhaps she is not herself).
The third quarter of the Oaks produced a string of impressive performances from the likes of Blades Of Honour, Myleene, Cill Ide Bliss and Howyamissus but they were still overshadowed by the awesome Silent Wonder which simply glided over the ground. She won’t get it easy but if she produces similar runs tomorrow and Monday the Oaks trophy will surely be heading to the Nolan household in Abbeyfeale. The fourth quarter is much harder to call but the bookmakers obviously liked the East Donegal reserve trial stake winner Central Maid because the 33s available before coursing has drastically constricted to 10s this evening. The final course of this first round would send the Val Halla Syndicate from Derbyshire off to lunch very happy when their Flagfield Alonso ran out a gutsy winner over the local Clonmel hope Alonso Blonde.
Slipping his first ever official course at a National Meeting, Alan Kelly (pictured here on right with his uncle & judge Liam Kelly) got Needham Yippee & Mayfield away shortly after 1.15pm in the BoyleSports Derby. It would be one of four flags the maestro Brendan Matthews would raise today with City Expert his only loser. However this first quarter today belonged to Corn Na Feile Derby winner Silent Whisper, a brother to the Oaks favourite. Wouldn’t you like to be driving that van home tonight !!. The thriller we anticipated between himself & Roquefort Teddy just never happened to be honest with the Silent dog always in control. The second quarter in the Derby is a bit like the third in the Oaks, dominated perhaps by the favourite Outoftheshadow but full of other potential winners should he slip up. It certainly won’t be plain sailing for the favourite as he got a number of turns this afternoon and looked tired walking back down. It will take an upset for it to happen but potentially the families of both slippers could be involved in a third round buckle tomorrow afternoon (Long John Silver v That’s My Man).
The third quarter produced the most drama & talking points of the day. First the 50/1 chance Boyneside Swift clocked what was up to then the best clock of the day (bettered just once later); Noel Browne’s Powerstown luck ran out when a playful hare refused to head home after Coolavanny Juno had rose his first flag in an eye catching manner; In a bizarre course the hugely fancied Watchman seemed to lose sight just after he put his head in front against early leader Half A Moment and suddenly took a turn back towards slips; Finally the quarter concluded with a noble run from City Link which places him firmly in contention for outright honours. The fourth quarter was much more straight forward but did give us the best clock of the day when the big local hope Part Exchange had the stands buzzing with his 12.64 run. Whilst anything can happen, right now his buckle tomorrow morning with Kyle Steel could decide the outcome of this bottom quarter.
And so owners & trainers headed out the Lodge Gate this afternoon, some excited, some content, some bewildered and some disappointed. Although never in doubt as to how genuinely nice coursing people are, it was really brought home to yours truly this lunchtime when the draw for the Dublin Coach Kitty Butler Stakes took place. Twenty eight first round losers were entered, leaving four places for the seven reserves. It must have been cruel disappointing for the three which lost out, especially after bringing their runner to Clonmel this morning. However the connections of all three, Gentstown, Chetwynd Belle & Knockane Gracie accepted it in such a graceful manner that your heart would go out to them. Thankfully all six remaining Derby reserves made it into the Stockproof Fencing TA Morris Stakes later. Indeed one of them, Candied Peel, will be involved in the second course of the day when coursing resumes tomorrow morning at 11.00am. See you there !!