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Clares the one to beat after stunning run

Clares Rocket gave an outstanding performance Stock photo: Martial Colomb
Clares Rocket gave an outstanding performance Stock photo: Martial Colomb
Michael Fortune

Michael Fortune

Clares Rocket took his rivals apart with a stunning performance in the first semi-final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Puppy Stake at Limerick on Saturday and will be a hot favourite to land the €80,000 prize next Saturday.

This was a brilliant effort from a young dog that has been getting stronger with each outing and will be chasing a seventh successive victory in the final.

He is trained by Graham Holland for the Limerick-based Full House Syndicate and he absolutely flew from traps to quickly establish his superiority. He was eight clear of Riverside Oscar at halfway and raced on powerfully to win by eight lengths in 28.00. The solitary bitch survivor Witches Belle ran on with her usual gusto to snatch second by a short head from Riverside Oscar.

The other semi was won in totally different fashion by Pat Buckley's Droopys Roddick which has also reached the final unbeaten. He was only third into the back as Maytown Eclipse led from Riverside Chip but Droopys improved to go second down the far side and he stalked Maytown around the bottom bends.

Roddick then ducked inside off the final bend and got up to win by a length from Maytown Eclipse in 28.52 with Riverside Chip five lengths adrift in third.

The draw hasn't been kind to Roddick as he is in four while Clares Rocket, one of three finalists for Graham Holland, goes from two with Riverside Chip and Witches Belle on either side of him. The draw is: 1 Riverside Chip, 2 Clares Rocket, 3 Witches Belle, 4 Droopys Roddick, 5 Riverside Oscar, 6 Maytown Eclipse.

Before you go off seeking a price about Clares Rocket for the English Derby you would be advised to go easy as Holland yesterday said that a trip to Wimbledon is not in his plans at the moment and Rocket and his numerous kennel companions are likely to concentrate on all the major Irish prizes.

Also at Limerick, the Robert Gleeson-trained Ballymac Bigmike turned over the favourite Quietly in the final of the Barrington's Hospital Treaty Cup when grabbing a half-length victory in 18.58.

Scottish winner

Francie Murray's Fair Taxes was the only Irish-trained winner in the semi-finals of the RPGTV Scottish Derby at Shawfield as he came home more than a length in front of Eden The Kid in 28.92.

But there will be a second Irish finalist as the Brendan Matthews-trained Leave The Dawn recovered from a slow start to finish a five-length second behind Droopys Buick in a new record 28.63. Irish Derby winner Ballymac Matt won the other heat in 28.75.

Pat Buckley will be chasing a classic double next week with Paradise Maverik in pursuit of a repeat success in the Gain Dog Food Irish Cesarewitch. The near veteran tracker was given quite a fright in the first semi-final at Mullingar by Master Moroney and he only got up close home to win by half a length in 33.57. The other semi was won by sponsor's representative John Fox as Philiblue won from Droopys Tee in 33.65.

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