Thursday 29 June 2017

Knockfierna can go distance to sink rivals

Damien McElroy

Prospects for a belated start this afternoon to what is now scheduled to be a three-day Christmas Festival in Limerick seem to be improving, with manager Russell Ferris declaring he was "very confident" of them beating the frost overnight.

The track at Greenmount Park was still partly frozen when visited by Turf Club officials yesterday morning and a second inspection this morning (7.30) was the sensible approach, in case the course close to Adare doesn't respond well to the ongoing thaw.

The Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle, which usually attracts choice young talent, is the undoubted centrepiece of today's seven-race session and promises to be an intriguing affair, though hardly up to the standard of more recent renewals with a mere five runners.

The subsequent dual Cheltenham hero Weapon's Amnesty did the business for his local trainer Charles Byrnes two years ago and the Ballingarry handler could have the solution to this likely cat-and-mouse affair once more with the hat-trick-seeking Knockfierna.

Although this Flemensfirth mare was no match over two miles here for a free-going Carloswayback, Niall Madden's mount appears to be progressing with each outing and may be better endowed stamina-wise for this sterner test than Paul Nolan's charge, which faded out of contention after a mistake four out behind Zaidpour in admittedly much better company at Fairyhouse almost a fortnight ago.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins, who took all three initial acceptors out of that Grade Three event, should still bag a winner at the meeting as Red Tiger looks the one to be on in the Holmes O'Malley Sexton Maiden Hurdle, which the Closutton yard has won for the past two years.

Mullins' nephew Emmet, victorious in 2008 aboard The Midnight Club, does the steering on Red Tiger, which beat Aughnacurraveel in a decent Listowel bumper and last time out had the misfortune to encounter Oscars Well at Punchestown.

Leading in the pack behind that Jessica Harrington inmate -- which likewise ran away with a classy Navan race since -- was a smart performance in hindsight by the six-year-old, whose overall profile earns him the nod over both Golden Sunbird and Out Now.

The opening Emmet Leahy Millstream Memorial Maiden Hurdle for juveniles features the jumping debuts of a couple of decent sorts from the Flat, namely English import Domination from the Byrnes stable as well as Mister Carter and Knight Eagle.

The latter concluded his career on the level for Kevin Prendergast off a mark of 97 when a staying-on third to What A Charm and Prince Chaparral in the November Handicap at Leopardstown, and it would be no surprise should Eoin Doyle's latest recruit provide Shay Barry with a memorable return to the saddle after a prolonged spell on the sidelines since his horror fall from the ill-fated Hairy Molly at Killarney.

The Woodlands House Beginners' Chase for mares may principally involve the Curragh-based pair Shirley Casper -- a close fourth to Loup Du Saubouas at Naas on her comeback last month -- and the younger Back Me Up, which makes her seasonal debut.

Runner-up previously to Voler La Vedette over timber at the 2009 Punchestown Festival, Shirley Casper probably rates as banker material for Jackpot investors, with the benefit of that Naas experience over the larger obstacles allied to the bonus of Bryan Cooper's claim.

Irish Independent

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