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Coral Puppy Cup - Romford 400M - £10,000


DAVID PRUHS says he sets out to win at least one big race every year, and on Friday the Peterborough trainer ticked that particular box for 2016 when Kooga Klammer produced a sizzling front-running performance in the £10,000 Category One Romford Puppy Cup (400m).

It was a display of the highest quality, from a dog who needed to produce a smash break to win and delivered on the button. Kooga Klammer came home almost four lengths clear in 23.75sec (0.10sec fast).

In doing so he became the fastest actual-time winner of the event since the very talented Eden Star scored for Sheffield trainer Barrie Draper in 23.60sec back in 2011, when the even-money favourite. Kooga Klammer is also Pruhs’ second winner after Laughing Gravy was successful in 2014.

If the betting is an indication, Kooga Klammer was also Pruhs’ second-string. His Dark Recruit was nicely drawn in trap one on the back of a sizzling semi-final in the red jacket – a race in which he defeated Kooga Klammer by two lengths in 23.89sec (0.10sec fast).

Dark Recruit was the 11-8 favourite for Friday’s final, with Kooga Klammer at 2-1. It was then 6-1 Unlikely Turbo, 8-1 March On Monty, 10-1 Chancer Mac, 14-1 Blackstone Champ.

As is often the case over this four-bend trip at Romford so much depends on the start. The principals in the betting both needed a good break because, given the evidence from the semi-finals, whichever of the Pruhs duo led would probably win.

At trap-rise were treated to fabulous start from Kooga Klammer. His break was more than a length quicker than anything he had achieved in the competition and was smart enough to put this son of Hayley Keightley’s former sprinter Roxholme Bully clear of the field at the turn.

It became a one-runner race from that point as Kooga Klammer (trap four) charged along the far side. March On Monty (trap six) started well, stayed wide at the first and second bends, and entered the back straight in second place. Dark Recruit (trap one) was never a factor after breaking only moderately.

Chancer Mac (trap five), a litter brother of Dark Recruit, was the least exposed of the finalists with just a couple of runs under his belt. The second of those was a win at the semi-final stage of this competition.

Perhaps it was his inexperience that caused Chancer Mac to trap slowly. He was another unable to get in a blow at the slick winner. As was Unlikely Turbo (trap three) who went into the race as the only unbeaten runner in the preliminaries but broke slowly and paid the price. Blackstone Omar (trap two) finished at the back after a first and second bump.

So, in the end, Kooga Klammer had three and three-quarter lengths to spare over March On Monty, with Dark Recruits a further six and a quarter lengths back in third.

The winner is expected to be targeted at the RFS Puppy Derby at Wimbledon and trainer Pruhs doesn’t expect the 480-metre trip at Plough Lane to prove too taxing.

I was mightily impressed with March On Monty. The Philip Simmonds-trained dog was easily the youngest in the line-up but ran a race that belied his years and inexperience when breaking well and getting closest to the winner at the line.

Dark Recruit will have his day. He missed the opportunity here from what looked a favourable draw but can be expected to regain the winning thread very soon.

In fact, from first to last, it was a good quality renewal of this prestigious competition which stretches back to 1975 when the inaugural running at Romford was won by the very talented Xmas Holiday, trained by Phil Rees Snr.