Sunday 26 February 2017

Graduate can steal the show

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Leopardstown's Bulmers Live series kicks off this evening, with Sharon Shannon and Damien Dempsey set to provide the musical entertainment after what promises to be a decent programme of on-track activity.

Just before Shannon and Dempsey take the stage, Notable Graduate will get the opportunity to add to his growing legion of fans in an 11-furlong Listed race. Dermot Weld's likeable colt won for a second time this term when disposing of two rivals at Gowran Park last month, but tonight's nine-runner affair will be a more thorough test.

With the exception of the un-rated Navan winner Laughing, each of Notable Graduate's rivals can boast a mark of 90-plus. Haziyna, so impressive at the same Co Meath course last time, may prove his most serious threat if she continues to progress.

Still, that Notable Graduate has been spoken of as Irish Derby material by Weld tells its own story. As the likely favourite here, it will be surprising if Pat Smullen's mount doesn't send the revellers off to the post-race festivities in an upbeat mood.

Earlier, Invincible Ash is fancied to land the €37,375 Ballyogan Stakes. This valuable six-furlong sprint has frequently gone for export of late, and Capercaillie and Beyond Desire are out to plunder a third in succession for the British raiders.

On the basis of the duo's clash at Nottingham in May, Capercaillie, representing last year's successful trainer-jockey combination of Clive Cox and Luke Morris, has an edge, but Invincible Ash leads a strong home defence. While Sing Softly, Tweedy and Knock Stars have chances, Mick Halford's mare's form is excellent.

A four-time winner in 2010, she mixed it with some high-class sprinters in Dubai in the spring, and ought to get her domestic campaign off to the best possible start under Gary Carroll now.

Carroll also has a squeak on Mountain Pride in the 10-furlong handicap, though Monday's Naas winner Leceile could be hard to beat here.

Noel Meade's mare carries a five-pound penalty for that triumph, but the ease with which she obliged would suggest that she had a bit more than that in hand.

In the preceding three-year-old handicap over the same trip, Spin Of A Coin gets the nod. Although this is low-grade fare, Eddie Lynam's gelding has performed well to be placed on his two latest outings.

He has gone up a total of six pounds for those efforts, but he remains unexposed in just his fifth handicap.

Irish Independent

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