Monday 27 March 2017

Course specialist Minsk can set Oxx on the double

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On the season's final card at The Curragh -- which is free to attend -- tomorrow's Hacketts Bookmakers Irish Cesarewitch presents a typically mind-boggling premier handicap.

Among the 20-strong field to contest the €38,400 prize is a sole English-based challenger in the shape of Mark Johnston's English Summer. If someone as shrewd as Johnston has elected to travel just one runner, then it naturally demands respect, but in this case the home defence appears fairly robust.

Asiya, representing the Celbridge handler Norman Cassidy, is one that deserves to land a race of this stature, having finished second in similar events on its two most recent starts.

Much Acclaimed, which beat Asiya here last month and followed up with an emphatic triumph over hurdles at Listowel, is another to consider.

Preferred on this occasion, though, is John Oxx's Minsk. Successful on its last two outings over 12 furlongs at headquarters, this Dalakhani three-year-old's chance is boosted by the booking of the smart five-pound claimer Sam James.

Oxx might also take the Listed Finale Stakes with What A Charm. On what will probably be the four-year-old's final start for Oxx this term, the Cheltenham Festival winner meets another Prestbury Park hero tomorrow in Noble Prince.

On the pick of its Flat form for Andre Fabre a few years ago, Noble Prince could put it up to his 12 rivals now, but the fact that What A Charm has a run under her belt may just give her an edge. When she reappeared at Listowel, Johnny Murtagh's mount relished the soft ground to score in similar company.

Earlier, Katla is fancied to take the Waterford Testimonial Stakes. This Listed contest appears even more open than the Finale Stakes, with little to choose on figures between the majority of the 16 contenders.

Dropping in class, Empowering has a chance for Aidan and Joseph O'Brien, but Katla gets the nod. Well held over five furlongs at Newbury, John Grogan's three-year-old is at her best in tomorrow's conditions of six furlongs with a cut in the ground.

The Ballydoyle father-and-son partnership, who have teamed up to great effect with their juveniles recently, might take the opening maiden with the debutant I Have A Dream, though Homecoming Queen is opposed in the subsequent Listed race.

With the going likely to ride slow, Swerve is instead taken to excel for Dermot Weld. Fourth here on her debut behind Crusade, Pat Smullen's mount sluiced up in testing going at Listowel, and the step up to a mile might also be in her favour.

Irish Independent

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