Racing on a very warm May night on Friday saw a bumper crowd in attendance at St James Park, with the two semi-finals of the Red Mills Champion Unraced Stake down for decision.
Castlelyons Zack proved the pick of the two semi-final winners when he obliged in the second one. The second semi was a messy affair with a lot of bumping at traps. Helens Champ avoided the bother as he led up from trap 1.
Castletown Zack followed the leader around the first but was impeded from behind by Lemon Maeve. This allowed Helens Champ six lengths clear down the far side and the pace setter looked in control of the race. However, Castlelyons Zack was soon off in hot pursuit.
Approaching the third bend, Castlelyons Zack really began to close up on the leader. Zack was on terms by the last and barged his way to the front on the inner. Castlelyons Zack (Bright Outlook - Head Bound) galloped up the home straight to defeat Helens Champ by three lengths in 29.23.
The first semi was won by the Graham Holland trained Jimmy Boy. The winner was not fastest away but showed lovely early to up from trap 6. Jimmy Boy got the better of Boherna Rumble around the first two bends and was two lengths to the good heading out of the second turn.
There was no change racing to the third but Jimmy Boy did look susceptible to a strong finisher. It was not to be as Jimmy Boy (Droopys Scolari-Supreme Hestia) pulled plenty for pressure and eased away to win cosily by three and a half lengths in 29.32.
Castlelyons Zack the one
In what is an open looking final, the selection has to be Castlelyons Zack. He looks capable of a big run if he gets a clear path.
The opening race went the way of the Paul Hennessy trained Horse (Make My Day-Say Goodnight). The winner showed good early pace from trap 2, and led the pack into the first bend.
After some bumping Horse was able to skip six lengths clear of Toystory Forsure out of the second bend. Horse, the 2/1 favourite, continued on his merry way and won easily by six lengths from the running on Karlow Way in a time of 29.46.
The second race was a novice 725. Oldroad Bluebell started best and got the bend ahead of Dragon Mamai. Dragon Mamai was forced to check and dropped back into the field causing trouble.
Oldroad Bluebell went on and was a length ahead of Knockdrinna Deco passing the line for the first time. Oldroad Bluebell continued to lead around the third and fourth turns as Knockdrinna Deco dropped a length further back.
The long time leader took the race by the scruff of the neck as she increased her lead to five lengths into the fifth bend. Crackoftheash ran on from a long way back to claim second spot, but Oldroad Bluebell (Express Ego-Oldroad Penny) won well by four lengths in 41.41.
The Paddy Carrigan a2/a3 race was level early and into the first bend. Skylark Snowy went on from trap 1, with company in the shape of In Bound Lady from trap 6.
Skylark Snowy was slightly shading it at the second but by the third they were neck and neck. It continued to be nip and tuck all the way to the line, with victory going to the wide running In Bound Lady by a head in 29.60.
Knocking on door
Frontier Sound has been knocking on the door in recent weeks so it was no surprise to see him land the spoils in the Lennon Memorial a4 race. After an even start, Frontier Sound got clear into the first bend.
From there, he was going to be difficult to catch. Ridgemount Frank gave chase to the leader down the back stretch but remained three lengths adrift of Frontier Sound. Frontier Sound (Droopys Kewell-Frontier Music) was never going to lose this one and did the job professionally as he defeated Royal Oak Oscar by six lengths in 29.32.
Races 5 and 6 were two semi-finals of the Reflex Printing A3/A4 stake. Slaneyside Diego (Head Bound-Smooth Sky) put down a marker as he took the first semi by three lengths in 29.38.
After an even start Flomur Phoenix led Slaneyside Diego around the first bend. Phoenix was up by a length at the second bend but he was unable to stop Slaneyside Diego challenging on the inner at the third. The Derek Kehoe trained Slaneyside Diego took over into the last and stormed up the home straight to win impressively.
Chicago Matt started best in the second semi but was outdone going to the first bend by Knockdrinna Duke. Duke ran the bends smartly to move three lengths in advance of Graigues Classic out of the second.
Down the back straight Ascot Andrew caught the eye as he blasted from 4th up to challenging for the lead. Unfortunately, he ran into the back of Knockdrinna Duke and was badly checked. Knockdrinna Duke (Duke Special-Affleck Boswell) was unaffected and stayed away from all other dangers to win by a length and a half in 29.58. Graigues Classic filled the runners up spot.
The last race on the card was an a1/a2 race. After a level start Locnamon Angel led around the first bend. The leader was two lengths in front at the second as Ballygur Ted chased.
There was no change in proceedings regarding the front duo heading to the third, but in behind them Shes Only Saying was getting much closer. Shes Only Saying swept by the front two turning for home and held off the rallying Locnamon Angel by a length, with Welesbourne Dan flying home in third.
The winning time for the Paul Hennessy trained Shes Only Saying (Maryville Rumble-Tyrur Tara) was 29.43.