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Ladbrokes Puppy Derby - Monmore 480m - £12,500

IRISH raider Toolmaker Me Dad posted the fastest time in the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby at Monmore on Saturday and will line up a warm favourite for the weekend’s £12,500-to-the-winner decider.

The Robert Gleeson-trained flyer followed up his heat success when overcoming early crowding in the second semi-final to finish best and lead home Troy Zico (David Mullins) by one and a half lengths in 28.37sec (-10) for the 480m trip.

Roman Empire was next quickest as Ernie Gaskin’s exciting and powerful runner also overcame a bump at the first bend before unleashing his now trademark surge of middle pace to lead at the third bend, before racing right away.

By the line, he had drawn nine and a quarter lengths clear of Heathlawn Heidi (Kevin Boon) in 28.45sec with trainer Gaskin amongst many to be impressed with the way the July 2017 heavyweight is finishing his races.

“He just opens up and draws clear, and is certainly very exciting to watch,” he said. “It’s early days in his career but he’s showing trackcraft beyond his years - and that’s something you can’t teach. It’s just natural.

“Even in his heat when he had Swift Biscuit in front of him as well as Heathlawn Heidi, he had to switch to pass Heidi just as she made her own move. For a big dog it was an impressive move, but for a raw puppy even more so.”

Purchased from the Dunphys, Gaskin explained how he came by the son of Droopys Sydney and Droopys Hilda who he part-owns along with Paul Carpenter and Kevin Dear.

“It’d been a long time since I’d been in the market for a Category One-type dog, and the best place to start was with the Dunphys. I spoke to Michael and asked him about Droopys Hilda’s litter - I’d done my homework! - and there were a dog and a bitch left.

“I took them both and Droopys Aoife made her debut at Central Park on Sunday - she ran well to finish second. She actually trialled in with Roman Empire and they went head to head until the third bend, and then Roman Empire just goes on.

“In time something like a 515m at Hove could suit, but we’re in no rush to step him up. Hopefully he can just let them run their races, and find a way through on Saturday. It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully he gets a chance to run.”

The first semi-final of the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby saw Patrick Janssens continue his fine run of form as Seaglass Tiger pace up and lead off the second bend to win by one and a half lengths clear of Droopys Cruiser (Mark Wallis) in 28.46sec (-10).

Tony Williamson, Monmore’s racing manager, is looking forward to another high-quality final a year on from Rising Brandy’s success from Droopys Verve and Brinkleys Poet.

“Last year’s final was one of the best of recent years, but then the Monmore Puppy Derby has a great history anyway, and I’ve no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more about all six of the finalists over the coming years.

“The two unbeaten pups Toolmaker Me Dad and Roman Empire will command most attention, although the trap draw will have a major say given we’ve ended up with five railers in the final.

“I wish all the finalists the best of luck. It’s been a great Ladbrokes Puppy Derby once again and we look forward to another big night here at Monmore on Saturday. Incidentally, supporting opens close on Wednesday (March 13).

Trap draw for Saturday’s final: 1 Heathlawn Heidi, 2 Droopys Cruiser, 3 Toolmaker Me Dad, 4 Seaglass Tiger, 5 Roman Empire, 6 Troy Zico (w).