Tag Archives: Ireland

Corbata’s Golden Opportunity

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The lightly raced Corbata ran a big race on his seasonal reappearance in a hot Handicap at the Curragh last month. He finished really well and looked moment like the winner close home, just to get beaten in the dyingstrides by two better horses.

The winner went on to win a Group 3 last week, while the runner-up finished 4th in the 2.000 Guineas trial. That shows this form is very strong and merits serious respect. The handicapper has been lenient, though, as Corbata’s new mark is up by only one single pound. He takes on much lesser opposition here at Leopardstown on Wednesday and could have way too much on his plate for this lot.

Bottom weight Sakhees Jack is the main danger. A fine second on his seasonal reappearance, he has a chance of an unchanged mark. Red Ivy drops in class but has to prove her stamina. Fields Of May for Jim Bolger with first time blinkers can’t be discounted of a slipping mark.

4.55 Leopardstown: Corbata @ 15/8 PP – 10pts win

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National Delight!

Katie Walsh became on Monday afternoon the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National! It was however the first time that female jockey and female trainer were responsible for the big race winner, as Sandra Hughes trains the horse. Her mount, the seven year old Thunder And Roses, travelled strongly throughout and found plenty when it mattered most. He was never too far off the pace but made gradually progress from five out, to be in with a shout entering the home straight. A strong and determined ride by Katie Walsh sealed the deal eventually.

It’s noteworthy that only nine – yes 9 – horses actually finished the race! There was carnage at an early fence, taking out a couple right away, while others had been pulled up throughout the two circuits. The Gigginstown horses however seemed to excel and finished first, second and fourth.

It’s been a wonderful day on Easter Monday, with splendid sunshine and of course great racing. I had the luck to be at Fairyhouse myself to cheer Katie and Thunder And Roses on – it’s been certainly a sweet afternoon as I made this pair my selection for the National (see Preview on this site). And it got even better when Great Minds got up in Cork to win the Listed sprint contest, where he was my 8/1 selection (see preview on this site)!

Preview – Irish Grand National

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Naturally this is a race where you could pick five horses and still may not pick the right one to win. It is that competitive! The conditions at Fairyhouse will ensure that this is a real test of stamina today, not only because of the long 3m 5f trip, but also very much because of the soft ground.

That says spring is in the air nonetheless, and we should have a cracking race in prospect under the pleasant April sun. I could say allot about each and every runner, but will concentrate on the horses that intrigued me most – I had 11 runners short-listed, and cut it down to three horses to follow today.

Thunder And Roses; Katie Walsh – 25/1 

The seven year old gelding had a fair first season over fences. A mud loving hurdler as high as 135 rated, he was always going to be a better chaser potentially and currently rated 136, he could still have a bit improvement left. He was disappointing at Cheltenham where he fell, was a modest third in Grade 2 company before, but won a 3 mile contest at Fairyhouse in impressive style back in January. Now on his Handicap debut, he looks not out off it with a fair opening mark, and this test today and could be what he really wants.

Dogora; Paul Townend – 33/1 

He is only a six year old and is one I’m sure hasn’t shown us all he has got yet. His performance in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham was really good I felt, even though he got a bit tired up the hill. But he was one of the horses affected by the fallers at the second last but he kept going and was by no means disgraced in 4th. It looks like this kind of test is what he wants, so the big field and trip should suit him. He has done well on soft ground in the past and of a mark off 135 he could be dangerous.

Tammys Hill; BT O’Connell – 25/1 

This hunters chaser had a rather light campaign this season and clearly has been kept fresh for the National. He can race off a very fair mark and has class, as he won the Foxhunter Chase two years ago at the Festival. I believe he has the trip in him and he goes well in these kind of ground conditions. He looks in with a big chance.

All three selections 2.5pts Each/Way

Preview – Curragh Opener

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I hope your appetite for the start of the Irish flat season is wetted by now and you have had a chance to read my preview for the Irish Lincolnshire – but there is plenty more to come on the opening meeting of the Curragh! There’s some really good Handicaps as well as one intriguing Group 3 on the tab…. so let’s get right into it!

3.10 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs, 3yo plus

Great Minds looks a very short price here. A winner of this very same race last year, he followed up with another big handicap triumph on Guineas weekend, and should relish conditions today. But not only does he have to overcome a lengthy absence, but also a 9lb higher mark. There might be well more to come from him but on prices I believe Focus On Venice makes most appeal in this field. He is still pretty lightly raced and has won on each of his last two seasonal reappearances.

He beat smart Michaelmas on debut in 2013 and won a good Cork Handicap last season, from where he went on to finish a gallant runner-up in Listed company. He was found out for class in Group 3 company subsequently but now dropped into Handicaps as a fresh horse one would think he has a big shout in this race. His mark looks fair and it’s not impossible that there is still more to come from this four year old colt on what is only his sixth start. Only question mark is the heavy ground. He performed well on yielding in the past, so there is an indication that he could be fine.

Focus On Venice @ 13/2 Coral – 5pts win

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3.45 Curragh: Park Express Stakes (Fillies’ Group 3)

Interesting renewal with plenty of possibilities and the heavy overnight rain doesn’t make it any easier to solve the puzzle. Last years runner-up Odeliz is back for another crack and must be a big runner. She has form on soft ground in top class company and the only worry is her habit to find usually one or two too good. This time again?

Aiden O’Brien usually takes a while to get his string going and that certainly is something to keep in mind if assessing the chance of lightly raced filly Easter. However there is plenty to like about her. She looked big and scopy last year, as well as talented with a good attitude when getting off the mark in a Leopardstown maiden towards the end of the year. She should relish the step up to 1m and should handle the ground with plenty of soft ground form on her dam side.

Afternoon Sunlight was an excellent prospect last spring but saw her colours significantly lowered in the second half of last season. If she has improved over the winter, she is in with a good chance, though she has to give weight away. Avenue Gabrial has been progressive last year and showed to handle soft ground. She has two listed wins to her name so far, and while a bit more is required here, she has the right profile do really well.

Alive Alive Oh has never reached the heights one expected in the early days of her career, but a break and first time cheek-pieces may help her to be competitive today. Lightly raced Steip Amach caused a huge upset in the Killavullan Stakes at the end of last season. She could have still more to offer now as a three year old.

Verdict: I usually don’t like backing three year olds against older horses at this early stage of the season, but Easter looked a lovely big, scopy sort, who could have plenty more to come, and she may not be unsuited by todays conditions. The weight for age allowance is a significant bonus and I would have expected to see her right at the head of the market.

Easter @ 4/1 Coral – 5pts win

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The Best Of The Rest: 600k gns yearling The Warrior tries to get off the mark in the 6f maiden. He didn’t live up to his price tag last season but may have more to offer now as a three year old. He should be hard to beat but any flaws may be exploited by the exciting newcomer Mulkeyya. A half-sister to Mustajeeb, she could be a big runner for Dermot Weld.

The Curragh finale is an intriguing one mile maiden with last years Racingpost Tropy fourth Jacobean at the head of the market. This is only his third start and there is surely more to come, but it might not be quite as straightforward as the market predicts. Dermot Weld’s Ashraf looks a very interesting contender, so could be Appeared, who wasn’t far beaten on debut behind Jacobean in a maiden last year.

PREVIEW – 2015 Irish Lincolnshire

Irish Lincolnshire 2014

Last years winner Stuccodor has another crack at the Irish Lincolnshire and tries to defend his crown. He prevailed inan exciting finish twelve month ago and trainer Dermot Weld will be pleased to see the rain arriving right in time. Stuccodor proved gutsy last year and with conditions to suit is one of the main contenders once again. However he has to overcome a massive weight this time, even though this is offset to an extend by a useful claimer in the saddle. Nonetheless this looks a stronger race than last year and it is a big task to win this as the top weight.

The lightly raced Onenightidreamed heads the market and his lightly raced profile gives him a very fair chance to go close off a potentially lenient mark, if he can overcome an almost year long break. Another well fancied horse in single-figure odds is Unsinkable. He won a big Apprentice Handicap at Leopardstown when last seen and could well improve further, but first has to overcome a 11lb hike in the mark. Not an easy task in a classy field as this years one in the Irish Lincolnshire.

A lightly raced contender is certainly You’re Fired as well. Progressive over the last two seasons, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him going close. He’ll relish any drop of rain. But is he good enough? We’ll find out. Veteran Vastonea won the Topaz Mile at the Galway Festival last year and ended last season on a high, when going agonisingly close in the Irish Cambridgeshire of a career highest mark. Boomshackerlacker ran with loads of credit at Meydan’s dirt this winter, but may find this here a big ask off a big weight over a trip he’s never been successful at.

It’s noteworthy that Frederik Tylicki comes over from the UK only to ride Haaf A Sixpence. The six year old gelding was much improved lately when landing a good Southwell Handicap. He may have finally turned the corner and a return to turf right into a big handicap may well suit. He has done remarkably well in those kind of races in the past and is only 2lb above his last turf winning mark, which came in a very strong Newmarket Handicap in autumn 2013.

Defining Year, the second Weld runner in this race, has a poor strike record over the one mile trip, but ran a couple of excellent races in defeat. It has to be noted that he comes down in the weights and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him going close. Aiden o’Brien saddles improving Bishan Bedi. He’s been a good winner on the Dundalk All-Weather, and may have still a bit more to give, but that says he has to improve quite a bit to have a chance.

You always have to respect Kevin Prendergast runners and I feel he has an outstanding chance to go really close with lightly raced Maskoon. The now four year old ran a couple of really nice races last year, has proven track, trip and ground record and may well exploit his Handicap mark. He gets a very nice chance by the handicapper and with the 5lb claim of useful apprentice Gary Paul Halpin in the saddle, he should really be a big runner here.

Another one who may be able to make use of a slipping mark is Third Dimension. He won a good maiden over 1m last year, and ended the season with a very strong effort in a big 10f Handicap at Leopardstown, when he didn’t get the run of the race but made eye-catching progress in the closing stages. With the soft going in his favour, I feel tone mile could be about the right test for him with the likely fast pace sure to suit.

Hasanour was improving all the time last season. A winner at the Galway Festival and subsequently at the Curragh, both times in hot Handicaps, he should have the right tools to run really well, if he is fit on his seasonal debut. He has to overcome a career highest mark, but could be up to it. Aussie Valentine could be a dark horse. Silvestre De Sousa is an interesting jockey booking.

Verdict: Plenty of chances, and I feel that Maskoon could easily outrun his big price tag. He’s allot in his favour. Haaf A Sixpence looks a serious chance as well. He loves these type or races and poses good recent form. He is overpriced in my mind, as well as progressive Third Dimension, who may find an ideal test in the Irish Lincolnshire.

Maskoon @ 16/1 Stan James – 5pts win
Haaf A Sixpence @ 14/1 Betfred – 2.5pts win
Third Dimension @ 20/1 Stan James – 2.5pts win

Taste of Champagne for James at Naas

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This big novice handicap looks wide open with plenty of improving individuals in the line-up. Conditions at Naas are going to be tough today, with plenty of rain falling overnight.

Personally I do fancy one runner in particular. I was already pretty sweet on Champagne James’s chance at Leopardstown last month, but it turned out that things happened a bit too fast for him over 2m 1f on rather decent ground. That was his Handicap debut after he was a good second in a Novice chase at Fairyhouse before where he caught my eye initially.

He’s a big strong horse, made for chasing and hasn’t shown his true potential yet. Rated at 126 he could be exploiting this mark today, stepping up back to 2m 4f in soft conditions. This race is hotter than the last one, but as a result he is on a good weight, much in contrast to the big top weight he had to shoulder lto. I’d expect him to go really well today as he looks still overpriced, despite prices already falling.

2.50 Naas: Champagne James @ 13/2 Betfred – 5pts win