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26 Jan 2022

PICTURE SPECIAL: Ballymac Merlin wins Irish St Leger final in Limerick Greyhound Stadium

FOR the second time in  three years Ballymacelligott’s Liam Dowling landed the biggest price on offer in the Limerick Greyhound Stadium – the Irish St Leger.

Last Saturday night his Ballymac Merlin defied the odds to win the 2021 Matchbook Betting Exchange Irish St. Leger title.

The Dowling’s won the Leger in 2019 with Ballymac Anton and it was the Kerry handler who again claimed glory as Ballymac Merlin, a son of Vulturi and Ballymac Belle, saw off Pat Buckley’s English Derby winner Deerjet Sydney by three parts of a length at the winning line.

Staying-on was Priceless Jet, who was a further length and a half back in third, while Allforthebest, Russian Glory and Part Blake didn’t enjoy much luck in the feature and they finished in that order crossing the line.

The joint 8/1 outsider of the field, Ballymac Merlin had just the four career wins to his name from twenty-two starts but he produced a sensational display on the night that mattered and after stopping the clock in 29.68 to take home the €30,000 first prize.

In an exciting final, with the break set to prove of utmost importance, it was Deerjet Sydney who showed first from trap three and as we have seen many times in the past, he immediately shot across his talented inside rivals to take ownership of the rails.

The market front-runners meanwhile, Russian Glory and Part Blake, were already in deep waters as Part Blake found himself the meat in the sandwich from trap two, while Russian Glory also came together with his kennel companion on numerous occasions early on which ultimately ended his hopes of landing the Classic.

In contrast, with everything happening on the inside, you could have driven a bus up the middle of Limerick track and it was to play into the hands of Ballymac Merlin who stretched out brilliantly from four to follow Deerjet Sydney into the opener corner.

Next best at this point was the improving Priceless Jet, with Allforthebest, who was also a victim of a tardy start from five, another who had a lot on his plate entering the opening turn.

Entering the back straight and it was Deerjet Sydney who had a length in hand over Ballymac Merlin and it was a further length and a half back to Russian Glory, who managed to recover somewhat from the early traffic to sit a narrow third.

Straightening up down the back however, and we were about to see some magic from Ballymac Merlin as he made what proved to be the decisive move in the contest.

Noted for possessing serious pace down the far side, Liam Dowling’s charge stepped it up a notch to accelerate alongside Deerjet Sydney midway down the back and he powered up the inside of his rival at the penultimate turn to take control. 

Still all to play for rounding the bottom turn, Ballymac Merlin had done some serious running to get to the front and he was still going strong despite Deerjet Sydney coming back at the leader as the greyhounds approached the home straight.

Very little to separate the pair, Priceless Jet was also closing in behind and fitting of how thrilling this year’s renewal has been, an exciting finish was to follow with the Classic still up in the air with 50-yards remaining.

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