Maestro doubt casts Leger shadow

The question marks over Sparta Maestro’s participation in tonight’s second semi-final of the Kerry Agribusiness St Leger at Limerick leave a lingering shadow over the race as a punting medium but, more importantly, over the stake as a whole.

Connections have the unenviable task of having to make a late decision as to whether or not to run the former Puppy Derby winner but we can be sure that whatever the decision, it will be in the best interest of the dog.

His absence would leave a big hole in tonight’s heat, one which Priceless Sky would surely fill.

Even in the presence of Sparta Maestro, Paul Hennessy’s six-timer seeking dog would have real claims. He possesses superb pace to the turn and he set the standard with his 29.44 victory in the quarter-finals.

Provided he can avoid an early clash with Head For Fame, he should quicken clear. If Sparta Maestro runs, supporters will be taking long, anxious looks behind but, in his absence, it may be left to Priceless Sky’s kennel-companion Droopys Comedian to chase him home.

Skywalker Puma hasn’t been without his injury concerns this week but connections have always been adamant that he will line up ready to run for his life in the first semi-final.

The Derby winner finished full of running in last week’s quarter-finals and while there is some potential for early trouble, his class should prove too much for his rivals.

In Waterford, trainer Dolores Ruth dominates the head of the market in the final of the €13,000 Gain Select Stakes with Razldazl Rioga and Milldean Tally.

On last week’s form, the former, owned by Micheal O’Muircheartaigh, is the one to beat but there’s no mistaking that Milldean Tally showed huge pace in defeat then.

The Oaks winner missed the kick on that occasion but she is capable of a much quicker getaway. Razldazl Rioga is a more likely winner but at the odds, I prefer to side with the bitch. She’s drawn inside her kennel companion and it’s crucial that she prevents him from getting across to the rails on the run-up. On her very best form, she has a sporting chance of doing so and she earns a narrow vote to lead home what should be a Ruth 1-2. Seamus Graham’s Eabhas Fantasy has a fine record from the inside box and will be on hand to plunder the prize should there be any trouble amongst his more-fancied rivals.

The first round of the Comerford Cake National Puppy Stake takes place at Shelbourne Park and two of the most promising runners, Farloe Buddy and Stateside Troika, line up next to each other in the second heat.

Both count a 28.27 victory amongst their recent exploits and, as one would expect, there is little to separate them.

Stateside Troika would appear to possess more early pace than Farloe Buddy and is well drawn inside that rival.

But the last-named, trained by Owen McKenna, possesses superb all-round speed and that earns him the nod.

Another to catch the eye is Melodys Gamble, who is clearly a lot better than he showed on his debut here. The full-brother to 2010 Puppy Derby winner Melodys Royal and half-brother to Oaks heroine Milldean Tally has since trialled in 28.33 and that suggests he’ll take beating in the final heat.

nFrances O’Donnell’s Munster Puppy Cup winner Ardfert Thunder is yet to make his competitive Shelbourne Park debut but he wowed the crowd at the track on Thursday night when he recorded a brilliant 28.09 trial.

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