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Dog chat: Cougar tops market ahead of Laurels draw

The draw for the 2012 Red Mills Irish Laurels is due to be made at noon today at Curraheen Park but, up to yesterday, the entries were still "slow coming in", according to racing manager Brian Collins.

At that stage, the number of entries had just gone over the 60 mark, and leading the list was recent Irish Derby runner-up Cuil Cougar, which did a flying 28.15 trial last Saturday. This early pacer looks tailor-made for Curraheen's 525-yard circuit and he is the likely ante-post favourite.

His kennel companion Razldazl Riog wasn't trialled, but the reigning Laurels champion knows the circuit inside-out.

Meanwhile, the quarter-finals of the Track Bookmakers Puppy Derby will be run at Harold's Cross on Friday, when most eyes will be centred on the Dolores Ruth-trained Razldazl Luke, which produced another power-packed finish to grab victory in the second round from what had appeared to be an impossible position.

It's going to be tougher to get these clear runs as the stake progresses, and Luke will need to be getting away more on terms, with the likes of Ballyhill Sub, Ringstown Snowey and Refuge Of Sinner to contend with.

Phil Gough's Sparta Maestro continues to dominate the Mulvaney Memorial 600 at Shelbourne, and he will again be red-hot favourite in the opening semi-final on Saturday. He's unbelievably powerful over the 600-yard trip with his early speed, allied to amazing staying powers. He has now won both his races over the distance by a minimum of nine lengths, and this weekend he is likely to leave Noirs Buachaill and Moss Lane struggling in his wake.

The other semi should be dominated by Ian Reilly's Oneco Cool, but he'll need to make massive improvement if he is to trouble Sparta Maestro in the final on Saturday week.

On Thursday at Enniscorthy, the final of the Gain Future Champion Unraced will be run and this could develop into a terrific scrap between Kereight King and Jacks Allstar.

The latter had been unbeaten up to the semi-finals, where he was left trailing by Kereight King in a flying 28.47. If Kereight can repeat that form, then Aidan Denton will be on a winner.

But Peter Cronin's Jacks Allstar is capable of much better and a trap one draw could bring them much closer together.

Irish Independent