The Night of Stars story is a simple one. A man came up with an idea, a man pitched and idea and the idea was given the green light.
Eight years on, the annual showpiece continues to go from strength to strength and the 2019 renewal named after the late Michael Fortune was a pretty special occasion.
There were incredible performances from start to finish, remarkable storylines throughout and greyhound racing was, once again, the big winner. There was also a man viewing the action from his hospital bed in Australia cheering on one of the best winners of the night, Boylesports Xtra.
The performances throughout the night were scarcely believable. This was a night when the best took on the best and as a result, we saw some of the best racing imaginable. As expected Lenson Bocko became the first Derby champion since Laughil Blake to complete the Derby/ Night of Stars double but there were stunning performances throughout the card and it’s not fair to single out any one greyhound.
OLD MAN RANGER STRIKES
Rosibirr Ranger truly is a remarkable greyhound and he again displayed his immense talent to capture the Ted Hegarty Night of Stars 350 for his lucky owners Chris Delaney and Paul Pardy. Despite turning four in September, the brilliant son of Paradise Madison and Wrathchild has shown little sign of regression. Indeed, after capturing the Fair Warrior in his previous outing, Rosbirr Ranger looked as good as ever as he held off the gallant efforts of UK raider Salacres Punch.
In truth, they were the only two greyhounds that counted after trap rise. The pair flew out of traps four and five with Salacres Punch looking the more likely winner as he held the inside line. Rosbirr Ranger is an old hand, however and he stuck to his guns, driving the turn.
In contrast, Salacres Punch checked his stride slightly and, suddenly, the race was over as a contest. Salacres did power up the straight but it was futile. Rosbirr Ranger was too far in front and he went on to take the verdict by three parts of a length in 18.62. Ardnasool Jet was five and a half lengths away in third.
REDZER JUST WOULDN’T BE DENIED
There was a thrilling finish to the Remembering Michael Fortune Night of Stars 750, but in the end St Leger winner and Shelbourne record holder Redzer Ardfert was too strong for the long-time pace-setter Jaytee Tornado.
This was far from straightforward for the Brendan Maunsell trained Redzer Ardfert but he displayed his class, power and determination to get there when it mattered. Jaytee Tornado flashed form the inside box and set a searching gallop.
For most of the way Jet Stream View looked the main threat as Redzer Ardfert, owned by Kathleen Clifford and Pat Reddan, struggled to find room but, when he did, he had the pace to make it count. Moving third before the fifth bend and second at the final turn, the son of Paradise Madison and Have You One flew up the straight to eventually reel in the long time leader. At the line Redzer Ardfert had a half length to spare in 41.44. Jet Stream View ran a blinder in third, just two and a half lengths adrift.
SLIABH LIAG TOO SHARP
The Droopys Stud Night of Stars Bitch 525 was over as soon as it started with Gavin Johns’ Sliabh Liag blitzing from trap three to dominate from the start.
In contrast, the warm favourite Killmacdonagh missed the kick and, when she found traffic on the turn, her fate was sealed.
Sliabh Liag, once turning in front, strode on majestically. The Karol Ramsbottom trained daughter of Deanridge Viking and So Said Sarah has been amongst the best bitches in training all year and she was always in complete command.
Mags Angel gave chase from the turn but never looked a threat. Maintaining a superb gallop all the way to the finish, Sliabh Liag took the honours by six and a half lengths in 28.39. Mags Angel held on for second with Killmacdonagh showing big pace to recover from further traffic at the third turn to finish a half length away in third.
MAIREADS A REAL PEARL
After coming in for sustained support all day and all night, Maireads Pearl actually started joint favourite for the Friends of Night of Stars 850 and the money seemed inspired as Joe Horan’s powerful son of Kinloch Brae and Maireads Shauna broke smartly to dictate from the outset.
In contrast, UK raider and joint favourite, Antigua Fire missed the start and was always struggling to play a part. The Fraser Black trained Maireads Pearl was always going to be impossible to reel in but Lightsaber Puma made a gallant effort into the fifth turn.
After charging into second down the back straight, Puma challenged on the inside of Maireads Pearl but, when the door was closed, the race was over as a contest.
Once repelling the challenge of Lightsaber Puma, Maireads Pearl seemed to find an extra gear and he powered up the straight to run out a comfortable four length winner in a brilliant, near-record, 47.13.
AN XTRA SPECIAL RUN FOR SÉAN
Once it was declared that Boylesports Xtra was running for the Séan Ryan Shiner Go Fund Me Appeal, it was written in the stars that the brilliant son of Droopys Jet and Droopys Adelaide was going to win the Lenson Bocko Irish Derby Champion Night of Stars 525 after coming in as a reserve.
The Paul Hennessy trained star had obviously read the script and he flew from traps to set a searing gallop. Broadstrand Bono turned second despite taking a small clip from behind and he really put it up to the leader, closing into the third turn before staying on strongly.
But there was no denying Boylesports Xtra. As if knowing he was running for such a worthwhile cause, John Boyle’s October ’16 whelp stuck his neck out to hold the advancing Broadstrand Bono by a half length in a superb 28.09. The remainder never really got involved with Grangeview Ten finishing six lengths away in third.
COOPER IN AN EPIC
So many times over the eight years of the Night of Stars, the 575y contest has thrown up exceptional performances and the 2019 Toolmaker Josie Night of Stars 575 was no different with Ballymac Cooper and Wolfe serving up an absolute thriller.
Wolfe came away racing from two and seemed likely to turn in front but Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Cooper, despite a moderate start, displayed incredible early dash to shoot to the front approaching the bend. It was a spectacular manoeuvre but the son of Ballymac Matt and Ballymac Scala still had work to do despite going three lengths clear.
Wolfe started to close the gap into the third turn and that set up an enthralling finish. As the leader started to show signs of fatigue Wolfe began to close. Ballymac Cooper drifted across the track, forcing Wolfe to switch sides and that may have cost the latter his chance. The pair flashed past the post locked in battle, but Ballymac Cooper held on by a half length in 30.86.
BRILLIANT BOCKO SIMPLY TOO GOOD
It was no surprise to see Lenson Bocko score in the Boylesports Night of Stars 550 but it was great to see the Derby champion back in action as he sent out a timely reminder to those on both sides of the Irish Sea that he is a very special greyhound.
A 4-9 favourite at the off, it was clear after a single stride that the Graham Holland trained superstar was greatly overpriced. Bolting from trap six he comfortably led Sophies Man and Deadly Dynamite around the turn and kept them at arm’s length throughout.
It was all quite comfortable for Lenson Bocko, owned by the Lochead, Ponder, Whelan Syndicate, thereafter as he strode out majestically to continue his exceptional run of form and claim a twelfth victory from just fourteen career starts.
At the line he had four lengths in hand on Sophies Man in 29.48. Deadly Dynamite was another length and a half adrift in third. Incredibly if you average Lenson Bocko’s career earning out, he has won almost €11,500 per race. Not too shabby!
OZZY OZZY OZZY
The night ended with an exceptional performance from one of the most improved greyhounds in training, Lemon Ozzy.
Owned by the excitable D More D Merrier Syndicate, he ran out a worthy winner of the Track Bookmakers Night of Stars 600.
Defending champion Macaroon Cruz shot from traps and looked likely to dictate but the long run to the turn was to catch him out. Skywalker Logan motored up his inside while Lemon Ozzy displayed a really impressive turn of early speed on the outside to take charge.
The complexion of the race changed on the bend with Skywalker Logan checking wide and finding serious traffic problems. Lemon Ozzy was suddenly left clear of Ballydoyle Valor and this was how they were to remain. Ballydoyle Valor did stay on strongly, closing on the leader but it was all in vain.
Lemon Ozzy was never going to be stopped and the Robert Gleeson trained son of Ballymac Eske and Lemon Lucy crossed the line two and a half lengths clear in 32.08. There was a further four length gap to Ballymac Anton, who could never get involved after a slow start.
AUSTIN SHAKES RECORD
Racing opened in sensational fashion as Lenson Austin gave the 575yd record a real fright in the Priory Walls of Kilgowan Night of Stars 575.
A red-hot favourite after finishing second in the leger at Limerick a week earlier, the graham Holland trained star was in a league of his own.
Taking control in the early strides, Len Ponder and Austin Whelan’s son of Good News and Coolavanny Kelly quickly opened up a commanding advantage before cruising home a facile winner over the always second Grondo King by seven lengths in 30.66, just one spot off the track record.
For over 524yds Fainne Chiarrai looked the certain winner of the second race, the Greyhound & Petworld Night of Stars 525.
Mustang Firmino, owned by the Brown, Bourke & Horig Syndicate, had others ideas, however.
Fainne Chiarrai shot from the outside box and soon took command but, Importantly, Mustang Firmino was soon in chase. The order remained unchanged down the back straight and turning for home but as Fainne Chiarrai started to show signs of fatigue, Mustang Firmino drew closer.
The Peter Cronin trained son of Ballymac Eske and Mustang Vienna kept closing and finally struck the front on the line. At the finish, only a short head separated the pair with Mustang Firmino stopping the clock in 28.44.
A FIRMINO DOUBLE
There was a second Firmino on the scoresheet in the fourth race, the 2020 Irish Greyhound Review Annual On Sale 525 with Cabra Firmino producing a foot-perfect display of front running for Paul Scally and Pat Guilfoyle.
Making a flying start from trap four, the son of Kinloch Brae and Cabra Smokey scarcely saw a rival. Deadly Storm did show early speed to sit second on the turn but he was forced to check wide, leaving the leader further clear.
By halfway Cabra Firmino was in complete command and he increased his lead further to eventually cross the line an impressive ten length winner over Elite Black in a stunning 27.97.
MURTS ALWAYS IN CHARGE
Larry O’Rourke’s Murts Boher won the fifth race, the Vetsearch Making Champions 525, in very similar fashion.
The Graham Holland trained star was racing from trap three and flew from boxes to dictate from the outset.
Catunda Logan gave chase throughout but Murts Boher is amongst the best in training and he maintained a powerful gallop all the way to the finish to run out a comfortable two and a half length scorer in a rapid 28.07.
CODE TOO STRONG
There was a tremendous tussle in the third race, the Vetsearch Open 750, between Southfield Code and Ballymac Merkle with the former eventually coming through to claim a first win over six bends in fine style.
The pair moved past the early pace-setter Razldazl Annie entering the back straight and the pair had a real set-two thereafter. Ballymac Merkle held a narrow advantage into the fifth turn, but Southfield Code was too strong on the run in. Despite taking a bump from his rival on the run in, Southfield Code came through to win for Pat Buckley and Mark Gilbert by three parts of a length in 41.60.