Beautiful day for racing it was today. Went down to my local track here in Naas to watch a couple of races. The 2m Novice Chase and the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle were of obvious interest.
Next Destination was the class act on the day, winning the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in fine style. Jumped well and was well on top in the closing stages. Visually probably not as impressive as many would have hoped, but lest we forget it was heavy ground and a Grade 1, after all.
Next stop is Leopardstown and the Dublin Racing Festival – if all goes well, said Willie Mullins afterwards.
Willie Mullins unveiled French recruit Demi Sang in the Novice Hurdle half an hour earlier. The five year old looks a nice prospect, staying on nicely to deny three years older Avenir D’Une Vie. He needs further, in my mind.
The Arkle route is the one Mullins wants to pursue, though. Not sure if that is what this lad wants, given he already won over 2m 3f as a hurdler in France.
No Samcro in the race makes the task on hand for Next Destination somewhat easier. One would think so, at least. A brilliant Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle winner, comes here with plenty of positive experience.
He created a big impression on a number of occasions now. A fine bumper horse last season, he proves even better over hurdles. 2/2 now, overcoming a slight fright at at the third last but came back on the bridle and putting the race to bet in impressive style.
He’s the clear favourite on anything we know. What we don’t know yet, how much upside does the Joseph O’Brien trained Speak Easy has to offer?
He landed a maiden hurdle when debuting under rules at Navan last month. Clearly green and not quite sure what to do, he made Mark Walsh work a bit throughout and missed a couple of jumps.
However the way he made progress and motored home without ever being really touched, in a maiden hurdle that looks like solid form, is something to take note of.
Connections decided against the Tolworth and rather opted to come to Naas. They will hope he has learned plenty the other day. He’ll have to be a fast learner if he wants to trouble the favourite.
However in his favour is the step up in trip. 2m 4f should suit much better than 2m. Given how good Speak Easy already looked when showing plenty signs of inexperience, one can only imagine how much more he can bring to the table if understanding more of what his job is.
Interesting side fact: Speak Easy has achieved the highest time speed rating in the field so far. Not always an indicator for success, nonetheless the fact Next Destination hasn’t run better than 109 yet, is another small piece in the puzzle that let me come to the conclusion that there is potentially less between these two than the market suggests.
It is hard to see anyone else from the field having a realistic say in the outcome of the race. So at 11/2 it is impossible for me to not back Speak Easy. Maybe Next Destionation is the better horse and can use his experience to full extend – however on pure price reasons, I feel Speak Easy has a better than 16% chance to win.
A few of my images from the Birdcatcher Day at Naas, featuring the similarly named Premier Handicap plus two Listed contests with the Garnet & Bluebell Stakes.
Been a wet day. Desperate conditions made it hard work for horses and jockeys. Still some good performances. Most notably the ones of team Lyons/Keane. Trainer and jockey teamed up for a hat-trick on the card.
La Coronel did the job in the QE II – wire to wire as they say over there. 6/1 – finally a winner again!
On the menu today, Naas! For the first time since moving to the county Kildare town I have the chance to go racing as a local! Really looking forward to it. Always enjoyed coming here in the past, but of course it’s even sweeter if you just have to walk to this beautiful track, instead of slogging through Dublin’s traffic.
Selections for Naas, 15th October 2017:
1.20: Lost Treasure @ 9/2 Bet365
Superbly bred as expected bred from this yard and might have advantage over most here as an early January foal.
1.50: Cheering@ 9/1 Ladbrokes
From family of derby winner Pour Moi, so trip is short enough. However could easily be good enough on debut in an open field.
2.25: Zeb City @ 12/1 Bet365
Bottom weight who looked progressive in maidens. Now handicapping off fair mark with top jockey in the saddle could see him go close.
3.00: Cocohulababy@ 14/1 Bet365
Excellent run on second start in hot Leopardstown maiden when turning widest but finishing well. Put experience to good use at Dundalk last time and won well. More to come.
3.35: Pocketfullofdreams @ 16/1 Ladbrokes
Well exposed and does not strike as a likely winner. However if the better fancied horses fail to strike, he could be there to pick up the pieces given ground and trip should be fine and he has some fine form in the book from earlier the season, which gives him a chance.
4.10: Remembered Joy @ 22/1 Skybet
Still a maiden after five career starts, however goes handicapping for the first time now and that might make a difference. A lowly opening mark gives her a chance over trip and ground possibly to suit. It is a poor race that does not take allot to win.
4.45: Giorni Felice @ 13/2 Bet365
Nicely off the mark at Roscommon, overcoming all sorts of trouble. He may have looked impressive because he beat poor opposition and therefore an opening mark off 80 is stiff. However there is not allot in the race to fear here and conditions should suit.
5.20: Jet Streaming @ 8/1 Bet365
Superb win at Galway when overcoming near impossible circumstances. Cried out for a trip and not disgraced when five lengths beaten in a big Curragh Handicap subsequently and when fifth in a Group 3 at Newmarket when last seen. This is easier – she remains with potential.
The flat is back! The curtain raiser at Naas on Sunday is done and dusted – is has set us up for what should be an exciting season ahead. While HQ at the Curragh is one big construction site at the moment, it was Naas that picked up the traditional Irish Lincoln meeting – it was a perfect race day, so let’s have a quick look back at the action.
People power spoke – a very healthy crowd flocked through the gates on a day of most beautiful sunshine. Spring was clearly in the air – finally one might say.
Naas racecourse itself is in redeveloping mode right now. The little stand overseeing the winning post is gone. Sadly. Possibly my favourite spot to watch racing from in Ireland. But an overhaul is needed if the county Kildare track wants to stage bigger and better race meetings in the future.
Kevin Prendergast’s filly Moonlight Bay kicked off proceedings with an exceptional turn of foot in the opening maiden of the season that only a couple years back produced Dawn Approach.
This Pivotal filly could be quite a smart horse to follow in her own right. Some performances in behind by Power colt Way Back Home and Park Army, finishing respective in 6th and 7th, caught the eye over a trip possibly too short for them to shine on debut.
The promising three year old filly Alphabet switches stables from retiring David Wachmann to Aiden O’Brien during the winter and got the first winner for powerhouse Ballydoyle under the belt thanks to a commanding performance in the 6f maiden. The ground – but possibly more importantly the first time tongue tie – clearly helped her to put her best foot forward.
Ma Fee Heela, a €200k pick up at the breeze up sales, was gambled into 7/4 favouritism and travelled nicely but couldn’t cope with the acceleration of the winner. Better ground and a step up in trip will see him go much better in the future one would assume.
French recruit Gymkhana got the ball rolling for Ger Lyons and Collin Keane in the saddle as they landed the first handicap of the new flat season. The four year old colt clearly relishes the mud and may move into pattern races after a clear success of a mark of 89.
Fair play to Maarek for finishing third here of what was a tough task having 10st 2lb to carry. The veteran remains nearly as good as ever but will probably find it tough to get his head in front without the help of the handicapper I feel.
Lightly raced bottom weight Gino Severini took the Madrid Handicap. She got a superb ride by Chris Hayes. Hard luck for Mr Adjudicator and Hansian Prince who both travelled well behind but got hampered multiple times. Both could go well the next time.
The big disappointment was Jim Bolger’s Vociferous Marina. Sharing favouritism in betting market in the morning she drifted badly to 11/1 on course before the off and ran rotten as the moves in the betting suggested. Judged on last season she is clearly better than this and the run might be best to forget.
English raider Czabo proved hard to pass in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes. A listed winner over a mile as a juvenile, she took the scalp off favourite Somehow in a scrappy finish for the Mick Channon team.
One would expect Aiden O’Brien’s runner-up to come on for the run and be a force in pattern races this season. She looked nice in the parade ring before the race and has clearly wintered well.
Fourth placed Queen Anne’s Lace looked at one point last season potentially smart, she seems to have a habit of travelling powerfully through the race only to find remarkably little under pressure. It was the same story here and it might be interesting to see her fitted with headgear.
The highlight of the day – the Irish Lincolsnhire – shaped as competitive as always. Previous winner Onenightidreamed and two times runner-up Aussie Valentine tried their luck again. Dermot Weld’s lightly raced Sikandarabad was punted off the boards. The English came over with 94 rated Spring Offensive.
In the end it was the rather unlikely victory of Brandan Brackan who produced a career best to win of the second highest weight in the field. In fact this was the first time the now eight year old has won a race in spring. If Ger Lyons would train the winner, then, according the betting, stable companion Sea Wolf was expected deliver the goods. The 5/1 chance finished a 3 lengths beaten third – a superb result for the Lyons team overall!
And Aussie Valentine? Brides maid yet again! Yes, would you believe it? Runner-up in 2015, in 2016 and now in 2017! Some achievement for Paul Deegan’s inmate. But will he ever get over the line?
The concluding 1m maiden was taken by Aiden O’Brien with two times raced Galileo son Orderofthegarter. The three year old colt couldn’t have been more impressive, romping home by 11 lengths! It’ll be interesting if he can produce that sort of form on better ground too. Given his dam won a really good conditions race on fast ground one would think he can.
Here it is, the first flat meeting of the 2017 Irish flat season! Sun is shining – what a surprise! Ground at Naas after a week of rain is still soft to heavy as the racecourse tweeted this morning. It should be a fantastic day and I’ll be driving down to the county Kildare venue later on.
My main bet of the day is in the Irish Lincoln: Aussie Valentine at 8/1 e/w, already played this a while ago and feeling confident he’s hard to keep out of the money at least. Runner-up the last two seasons when the eventual winners were seemingly very well handicapped, he gets in off a very handy mark this time, 5lb lower than last year and loves the ground.
The first two maidens are quite difficult to solve, I let them run without the burden of my money on their shoulders in the first, but think Invincible Ryker (4/1) is sets a fair standard in the second one through his form from last season behind a subsequent Group placed horse. He also handles soft ground and can improve this year.
The sprint handicap might go to one of those lightly raced sorts at the top of the market. With price in mind I fancy a nibble on Dalgleish’s raider Dark Defender who at least likes the ground and has a favourable draw off an okay mark. at 16’s it seems worth a try.
The Madrid Handicap is intriguing: smart 2yo form meets race fitness. I stick with potential class and do like despite top weight Bolger’s Vociferous Marina (4/1) allot. At second time asking she got off the mark in a competitive Curragh maiden in softish conditions last year and did that in brilliant style. There’s Oaks talks so she’s clearly thought to be a smart girl.
Ger Lyons’s Hansian Prince looks worth a small saver at 14’s.He won a Limerick maiden over 7f in desperate conditions last season and produced a stunning turn of foot. A mark off 82 seems reasonable to play with.
Somehow looks hard to beat in the G3 Park Express but Aiden’s rarely fit this time in year and his Dubai runners were a big disappointment I prefer the look of Weld’s 3yo Queen Anne’s Lace (7/1). Not easy against older horses to run this early in the year but she is better than hare bare form suggests, she travels strongly and will relish the ground.
Money is floating in for Harlequin Rock and it’s easy to see why. This Rock Of Gibraltar son hasn’t shown anything in three maidens but will be very suited by the step up to 1m on his nursery debut. He gets into this race off a very low opening which may underestimate his potential.
First time gelded, which works well for sons of ROG, he is from a mediocre family, although his dam has produced horses that who have been competitive off mid-60 marks. Here’s a fair chance that Harlequin Rock is underestimated in this field.
Harlequin Rock @ 8/1 Betfred – 5pts Win
3.45 Ripon: Class 3 Handicap, 6f
A couple of these have a big shout but at the given prices veteran Mass Rally makes appeal. He’s slipping down to a realistic mark, in fact hasn’t been racing of such a lowly mark since 2012 when he won the Ayr Silver Cup off 94.
He is still competitive as he proved at York earlier this year. He has to bounce back today after a dismal run at Hamilton, but now down to a mark off 95 as well as dropping in class, he should be very competitive with softish conditions to suit.
Mass Rally @ 8/1 Sportingbet – 5pts Win
4.25 Naas: Conditions Race, 7f
Not too many make appeal, but Weld’s Katimavik could be well in here. He was an impressive scorer at Fairyhouse over seven furlongs last year, after which his trainer said this lad needs better ground. He was disappointing on his seasonal reappearance but made amends subsequently in a three-runner handicap when hanging tough against a mid-90 rated individual.
On that evidence the drop in trip should suit. Katimavik still had only four career starts and with trip & ground to suit he could be a good ten pounds better than his current rating which would give him a prime chance in this field.