Blake now hot favourite for Derby fi­nal

Irish Independent - - SPORT - MICHAEL FOR­TUNE

LAUGHIL BLAKE looks set to go off an odds-on favourite for next Satur­day’s fi­nal of the Boyles­ Ir­ish Derby at Shel­bourne Park after pro­duc­ing another highly pol­ished dis­play in the semi­fi­nal.

Mem­o­ries of yes­ter­year came f lood­ing back on Satur­day as a huge crowd thronged Shel­bourne for the semi-fi­nals and the ex­cite­ment was in­tense. But there was a spe­cial cheer from the vis­it­ing Tip­per­ary hurl­ing fans as they wit­nessed Laughil Blake, which is trained in Tip­per­ary town by Michael O’Dono­van, race to an em­phatic vic­tory in the first of the semi-fi­nals.

We have rarely seen a grey­hound exit the trap with such speed as Laughil Blake came away run­ning from box and his first split of 3.31 was sim­ply phe­nom­e­nal. I doubt if I have ever seen a dog con­test­ing a high- class race en­joy a five- or six-length lead by the bend but it was a case of the Mary and Paul Jen­nings-trained dog out front and the rest trail­ing a long way in his wake.

Vic­tory was al­ready as­sured bar­ring ac­ci­dent and thank­fully there were no hic­cups. The black son of Brett Lee and Laughil Lass gal­loped on to win by three­and-a-half lengths from Emers Su­per­star in 29.41 with Tyrur Sugar Ray in third.

Emers was al­ways sec­ond while Sugar Ray made his­tory in fin­ish­ing third as he is now the only grey­hound apart from tre­ble win­ner Span­ish Bat­tle­ship to contest three Ir­ish Derby fi­nals.

But more his­tory was in the air in the sec­ond semi­fi­nal where Bal­ly­mac Vic main­tained his bid to be­come the old­est ever win­ner of an Ir­ish Derby as he fin­ished third be­hind his ken­nel com­pan­ion Vul­turi in 29.65.

This time Bor­neo was the pace­maker as Bal­ly­mac Vic wasn’t as quickly away as nor­mal from the inside. Vic ac­tu­ally bumped early with Dean­ridge Pen­nys and was only joint fourth to the bend as Bor­neo led from Dean­ridge and Vul­turi.

Vic ral­lied well and got up the inside for sec­ond ahead of Dean­ridge on the sec­ond bend but he then drifted wide, car­ry­ing Dean­ridge with him. The lat­ter checked and Sky­walker Far­loe col­lided into him.

Vul­turi now f lew up the inside and was in a chal­leng­ing po­si­tion on the third bend. He proved too strong on the run-in for Bor­neo and won by a length with Bal­ly­mac Vic stay­ing on to be a four-length third. It meant that Tralee breeder/ trainer Liam Dowling has two fi­nal­ists in Vul­turi and Bal­ly­mac Vic.

Laughil Blake was guar­an­teed trap six and has been in­stalled as the 4/5 favourite by spon­sors Boyles­ports and they then bet: 5 Tyrur Sugar Ray, 11/2 Bal­ly­mac Vic, Vul­turi, 10 Bor­neo, 12 Emers Su­per­star.

The draw for the fi­nal is: 1 Tyrur Sugar Ray, 2 Emers Su­per­star, 3 Bal­ly­mac Vic, 4 Vul­turi, 5 Bor­neo (m), 6 Laughil Blake (w).

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