Foot-perfect Puma and Cougar dominate Derby semi-finals

Skywalker Puma and Cuil Cougar both produced foot-perfect displays to dominate their respective semi-finals of the Ladbrokes.com Irish Derby at Shelbourne on Saturday.

Skywalker Puma had been the subject of much debate during the week on whether he would get a clear passage or not and he soon answered that question when displaying fine track craft to put himself in the perfect position to strike.

Coolykereen Imp came away racing from trap two, but Skywalker Puma took a step right to avoid any possible crowding before switching in behind the fast starters, Razldazl Bugatti and Coolykereen Imp.

Despite hitting the opening turn in only third spot behind Razldazl Bugatti and Coolykereen Imp, it was already clear Skywalker Puma was going to take some stopping. Running a tight line into the second turn Skywalker Puma made his move up the inside rail, striking the front early in the back straight. From that point there was no doubting the result.

Turning on the power Skywalker Puma simply pulverised a top class line up, drawing further and further clear to hit the winning line six and a half lengths clear in 29.45.

The race for the qualifying places was a far more competitive affair. Having been headed early in the back straight Razldazl Bugatti faded out of contention at the business end. In contrast the strong running Camas came charging through to grab second, while Coolykereen Imp held on to third.

If the display of Skywalker Puma was all about raw pace and power, the victory of Cuil Cougar was all about tremendous early speed. Available at some fancy prices during the week, the Dolores Ruth trained speed merchant came in for some inspired support to start at 7-2.

As expected Tyrur Sugar Ray started the market leader at 2-1 and his supporters would have been mighty happy at the sextet raced into the turn. The much anticipated crowding at trap rise never materialised. Instead Cuil Cougar rocketed from trap two to dictate, while Tyrur Sugar Ray sat a relatively close second on the fence.

But Tyrur Sugar Ray then eased slightly off the fence, bumping into Droopys Jet, who found further traffic problems immediately after. Killbarry Rover also found himself with no room to race, while Razldazl George, despite suffering crowding himself, managed to slip into third on the fence.

Tyrur Sugar Ray maintained second spot behind Cuil Cougar, but had lost both ground and momentum. Cuil Cougar was now eight lengths clear and on his way to a comfortable victory.

He duly cruised home four lengths clear of Tyrur Sugar Ray in a fast 29.69, with defending champion Razldazl George successfully claiming his place in the decider, a further two lengths away in third.

The trap draw has been favourable to most, although Skywalker Puma will certainly be installed favourite to claim a fourth Derby for the Killenaule based kennels of Matt and Frances O’Donnell after he was handed the blue jacket for Saturday’s decider.

Defending champion Razldazl George will bid to become only the second greyhound in history to claim more than one Derby victory and he has been handed a favourable draw on the fence, while his fast starting kennel companion Cuil Cougar looks a likely pace-setter from trap three. Tyrur Sugar Ray in four is probably the most inconvenienced by the draw, while Coolykereen Imp and Camas have drawn traps five and six respectively.

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