Atitboy ready to strike Gold
What a night for Hillsborough trainer Ronnie McKeown. Three winners, a second and a third at Drumbo Park on Saturday, including runner-up in the Jackie McCann Memorial.
Highlight was the scintillating return to form by Atitboy in the first semi-final of the £10,000 Caledonia Smooth Gold Cup (525), the final of which is on Saturday.
Despite crowding at the opening bend, he hit the split mark at 16.37 seconds and scorched home in a fabulous 28.34.
The Northern Irish Derby winner disappointed when beaten by Flagfield Band in the opening round but he more that put that right. He trapped just behind Skidroe Again as the pair and Atitboy's kennel mate Blenhiem Tricks went to the corner in front where there was bunching.
Atitboy came off best and kicked on as Nalps Crash followed him through with Skidroe pushed out but in front of the slow-trapping Kincraig Rory.
Rory moved third approaching the home-run. Skidroe faded out for a poor fifth leaving Crash and Kincraig qualfying in second and third, separated by a neck.
The second semi was expected to go to Dessie Gilroy's black dog Divis View, trained by Michael Taggart. And everything started well, the 4/5 favourite.
But there was an anxious moment down the far side when he was headed by China Special before coming back in fine style from the third bend and winning easily in 28.50 from Taepot Hill and Swift Iniesta.
Ronnie's other winners were in both semi-finals of the Tennents Open sprint.
Rathin King obliged in 18.24 in fortunate circumstances in getting the better of Turfman in 18.26 but his smart Catherines Drico was a 17.94 victor over Glanmire Master in the other one.
He hit the bar in the McCann final with Ballydoyle Flyer looking set for the £1,200 prize on the turn for home but he was outstayed by Harold Ruddy's Tullna Bound who came from a long way back to take the spoils by half a length in a solid 28.83.
Marinas Calzahe was odds-on to make a winning debut over the minimum trip, but this black bitch owned by Ronnie's wife Marina, could not get in a blow on Sarahs Crystal and Bush Lady, taking third just over five lengths behind the winner in 18.45.