Marginal fancy for Sugar Ray in Derby decider

Two days to the final of the Ladbrokes Irish Derby final and a total absence of any negative stories concerning the finalists.

That’s a rarity in itself and hopefully it will remain the situation until Saturday evening when racing will commence at 7 pm.

Such is the make-up of the final that realistic hopes can be entertained by all finalists. Skywalker Puma remains the favourite and Frances O’Donnell was very positive yesterday as she discussed the dog’s prospects. “He is in brilliant shape and we are hoping he will break a bit better on Saturday and be in a position to strike off the second bend. He is learning all the time and we can do more at this stage”.

That is basically how all the owners and trainers feel at this stage. The hard work has been done; their charges have survived five strenuous rounds and have arrived in the final in tip-top form. They can expect nothing more than that”.

Frances’ sister Dolores Ruth is equally happy — and why wouldn’t she be, with two leading fancies including the history seeking Razldazl George. When you get two through to the final you have to be happy and now it’s down to the break. The dogs are in great form”.

My own marginal fancy is for Tyrur Sugar Ray and with this youngest finalist the break if of utmost importance, given his lack of experience. He has shown that he has the early pace to lead both Razldazl George and Skywalker to the bend and he should be too strong home for the acknowledged early pacers. Conor Fahy is “just thrilled that he has made it through a year earlier than hoped. He is getting better with every run and we are delighted with him”.

Lurgan’s John Byrne is thoroughly enjoying the experience of a first Derby finalist and the renowned punter hopes that “for once I can do the bookies a favour. He could lead and that’s what we are hoping for”.

The family with the greatest Derby record is the McKenna clan and Owen will be seeking his second victory with Camas, a dog that is closely related to his previous winner Like A Shot. He knows that Camas will run wide all the way but realises the break could be “the difference between winning and losing. Our fellow gives away a lot of ground through the race but he is strong and I’m very happy with him”.

All owners and trainers are reminded that racing will commence at 7 pm with weigh-in between 5.45 and 6 pm. The gates will open at 3.30 and music by Aslan and other groups will commence from 4.15 pm.

Unfortunately, John Linehan’s Droopys Cain didn’t make it to the Derby final and worse was to follow when the brilliant tracker smashed his hock when leaving traps in a trial last Saturday. The result of this is that he will be taking up a trial period at stud at the Droopys Stud.

It is a terrible blow to connections of both Cain and his recently retired kennel companion Broadstrand Lad and they have responded by agreeing to sponsor the Saturday Getting Out Stakes for the next three months. Next week’s race at Curraheen will be an Open 525.

With the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish Laurels commencing on Friday 21st, there will be special Trial Sessions on Thursday (5 — 6pm) and Saturday (before racing) and next week on Friday (5-6pm) and Saturday (5-6pm). The Laurels winner will collect €30,000 while the best placed bitch will win €5,000.

By the way, the latest sad news on the Sales front is that the September Sales at Curraheen have been cancelled due to shortage of entries.

Before we head off on our country rambles, we must report that super tracker Milldean Panther is on the way back. According to Dolores Ruth he “is responding very well to treatment. He is to visit the vet next Thursday and hopefully he can go back galloping in a month or even three weeks”. The Night Of Stars is his end of season target.

Those travelling to Dublin for the Derby final would do well to go earlier and take in a fantastic night’s racing at Harold’s Cross tomorrow where the twelve first round heats of the Track Bookmakers Puppy Derby will be run. This is a star-studded stake with UK raider Bittles Bar throwing down a serious challenge. But the O’Donnell camp will be hoping to be chasing a Derby double with Refuge Of Sinner!

The final of the €4,000 Red Mills 600 will be run at Enniscorthy this evening and the likely winner here is the Ron Shinkwin trained Piercestown Buzz. He was particularly impressive in winning his semi and looks like being an all the way winner.

With the builders having moved in to the track at the start of the week, Youghal regulars will have reason to smile tomorrow night. They have been waiting a long time for this day and it is expected to be in place for the Christmas parties!

The great traditional Kasco Unraced at Thurles has been deferred by a week and entries will now close on Monday with the heats tomorrow week.

Meanwhile, the semi-finals of the Austin Friar Hotel Fair Warrior 400 will be run at Mullingar on Saturday and the big four would appear to be Psychic Sam and Bulmers Baby in the first heat and Uncle Chico and Tahina Rocco in the second. All four should safely make it to the final on Saturday week.

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