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Puma pounces in derby

IT turned into the battle of the cats at Shelbourne Park on Saturday night as the Frances O'Donnell-trained Skywalker Puma caught Cuil Cougar in the final strides of a thrilling Ladbrokes Irish Derby final.

The money poured on Skywalker Puma and he closed the 2/1 favourite to land the €120,000 prize. But it was the 3/1 second favourite Cuil Cougar, trained by Frances O'Donnell's sister, Dolores Ruth, which raced clear into the back straight from Coolykereen Imp.

Skywalker Puma slipped into third place entering the far side. He moved second entering the third bend and was just a length adrift of Cuil Cougar rounding the final bend.

Cougar railed tightly as Skywalker drifted very wide in the straight to put the result in doubt again, but Skywalker Puma's famed finishing burst then came into full play and he came flying wide up the straight.

They hit the line wide apart and there was an agonising wait before it was confirmed that Skywalker Puma had snatched victory by a neck from Cuil Cougar in 29.39, with defending champion Razldazl George in third.

The winner is a son of Royal Impact and Dianas Ranger and was bred in Ballydonoghue, Co Kerry, by Paddy Purtill. He is owned by Devon-based solicitor Ray Patterson.

Sparta Maestro produced a sensational 32.10 track record-breaking performance to win the 600 in runaway fashion while Liam Dowling's Ballymac Vic won the Derby Consolation in 29.46 and Niall Dunne's North Bound took the Derby Plate by a length from Swift Marathon in 29.74.

Irish Independent