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Jonathan Hobbs rounds up the latest greyhounds news

Jonathan Hobbs greyhounds column: Up for the Cup at Shelbourne Park

Jonathan Hobbs brings us the latest ahead of Shelbourne Park on Saturday night featuring the Ladbrokes Easter Cup Final.

It's a huge night at Shelbourne Park tonight with the Ladbrokes Easter Cup Final completing another superb week for Irish greyhound racing - in the circumstances.

Like everywhere they are racing behind closed doors, but away from the cut and thrust of the action on the track some major moves have taken place with positive announcements from Greyhound Racing Ireland.

A major redevelopment of Shelbourne Park itself has been approved which will see the upgrading of facilities and brand new additions to what is already considered the greatest greyhound stadium in the world.

A press release this week talked about the track having iconic status, which it absolutely has - even casting an eye over the roll of honour for the Easter Cup gets the juices flowing given this major race in the Irish calendar boasts a host of champions as previous winners.

First run in 1928, past victors have included the great Spanish Battleship (twice), Indian Joe, Farloe Melody (twice), Mr Pickwick, Chart King, Late Late Show (twice), Premier Fantasy and last year’s champion Wolfe. It really is some list.

Catch the action from the Dublin track on SportyStuff TV/RPGTV (Channel 437) tonight with a top-class programme headlined by €25,000-to-the-winner Ladbrokes Easter Cup Final - with the Hobbsy vote going the way of Knocknaboul Syd.

Pat Buckley’s dog showed up well in the English Derby at Nottingham last year, won by kennelmate Deerjet Sydney, and can cheat an outside draw with his trademark early pace - although the brilliant Billys Diva will be no pushover.

This bitch of John Kennedy’s has been a revelation through the competition, a youngster for whom the Easter Cup might not be even her main target!

Unusually, given her precocious talent, the Easter Cup is just a stepping stone for Billys Diva to the upcoming Con & Annie Kirby Memorial at Limerick.

In a short space of time - it was first run in 2013 when won by Roxholme Bully - this competition has become the number one target for owners and trainers of the top puppies in Ireland and in 2021 boasts a total prize fund of €150,000.

It is again sponsored by JP and Noreen McManus and, while this year’s event will be run behind closed doors as per the current restrictions, the traditional fundraising element to it will still take place among the Limerick GAA clubs.

The competition begins on Saturday, March 27, and will help launch a new weekly Talking Dogs programme - featuring live racing from Shelbourne Park every Saturday night.

Limerick will join Shelbourne for the duration of the Kirby Memorial, until the final when SportyStuff TV/RPGTV takes over for the final.

All of this comes as Irish greyhound racing, or greyhound racing full stop, hits back at the mistruths surrounding the sport with the latest in a series of short films, commissioned by the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation (IGOBF), titled ‘For The Love of the Dogs’ #BehindTheTrack.

Catch the latest one here:

99% of us are Good Honest People | #BehindTheTrack Part 6

Sheffield trainer Carl Perry is looking forward to an extra special Friday given his Geelo Gold Dust has made it through to the Coral Golden Sprint Final at Romford - on the same day as Alaphilippe lines up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Both are owned by Nic Brereton (Geelo Racing) with Perry training Geelo Gold Dust and Alaphilippe running for Fergal O’Brien - another big greyhound fan!

An across the card Cheltenham/Romford double would be a dream, but just the prospect is an exciting one - so good luck to all.

Of course, greyhound fans will also be cheering on multiple Derby-winning trainer Paul Hennessy as his mare Heaven Help Us heads again for Cheltenham.

She is owned by John Turner of Jaytee Jet fame - the pair having combined to win the 2016 Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon. Good luck to another top team.

Great news from the GBGB in terms of the big-race calendar for 2021.

A host of new events have been added to the list of competitions for the year, including the George Ing St Leger at Yarmouth - sponsored by owner Jack Cranfield.

Heats take place over 659m at Yarmouth on Monday, May 17, with the semis a week later and the £7,500 final on Saturday, May 29.

Catch all the info via the latest GBGB Calendar here.

Well done to Graham Rankin and Jaguar Macie, winners of February’s RPGTV/GWA Greyhound of the Month.

A superb and rare bitch winner of the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby at Monmore last month, victory completed a rapid rise to the top for the Scottish runner who cut her teeth at Hove and had been running in graded contests at Pelaw Grange.

The upcoming Arena Racing Company Northern Puppy Derby is the next target for Jaguar Macie after her trial at Newcastle on Friday.

Given an earlier slot this year in a reshuffled calendar, the ARC Northern Puppy Derby kicks off with heats live on Sky Sports Racing on Wednesday - and that promises to be a real midweek treat for greyhound fans.

The ARC-owned north east venue has staged a batch of quality trial stakes this year and, along with the recently staged Ladbrokes Puppy Derby at Monmore, is a really stepping stone and pointer to the Derby for the younger talent out there.

Sky Sports Racing kicks off the open-race week with the semi-finals of the BGBF British Breeders Stakes at Nottingham, although before then catch some cracking opens from Swindon (SSR) and Central Park (RPGTV) tomorrow night.

The programme from the Kent track features the last batch of trial stakes before the heats of the Cearnsport Springbok, the novice hurdlers’ championship, next week.

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