Saturday 25 February 2017

Wi Dud has clear path to success

Damien McElroy

Bedevilled by rain and snow over the winter months, Naas thankfully has no problems weather-wise for this afternoon's launch of its 2010 Flat programme, with the going likely to be mostly good.

The Woodlands Stakes stands head and shoulders above the other six races on an interesting card featuring most of the leading stables in opposition plus two English raiders for this Listed sprint.

Tipperary-born Kevin Ryan and Jim Best, who have sent over recent Nottingham winner Wi Dud and Sir Gerry, most recently in action during the Dubai Carnival, will be relieved that Dandy Nicholls withdrew both veteran Tax Free and last year's Woodlands Stakes winner Inxile. Their defections leave Michael Halford's fine money-spinner Snaefell to shoulder top weight for a race the 108-rated gelding won two years ago but in which he could struggle this time around on his seasonal debut.

While James Nash's Dundalk runner-up Luisant shares that mark as the senior contestant and is not be dismissed lightly either, the visiting pair rather than Walk On Bye should take some catching.

Generally the sprinters from our neighbouring island set and maintain a hectic gallop that often propels them to victory and therefore it will come as no surprise if the seven domestic runners lose out again.

After quite a successful stint in Dubai for Kildare owner Gerry Galligan, it remains to be seen whether those exertions have taken a toll on the globe-trotting Sir Gerry and marginal preference is for Wi Dud.

That six-year-old's younger stable companion Cobo Bay has also been brought over on the ferry by Yorkshire-based Ryan and former champion Pat Smullen has been booked as well for this hat-trick seeker.

Last month Cobo Bay made all the running to justify favouritism in a Wolverhampton claiming affair. Though a repeat effort is on the cards today, that tactic could play to the strengths of Harriers Call.

John Hayden's charge, which has won here before, will have the assistance once more of champion Johnny Murtagh and put in a strong late run at the Curragh to finish second in last month's Irish Lincoln.

The Hayden yard, which enjoyed an enviable strike rate last year, could collect too in the earlier Derrinstown Stud Apprentice Handicap courtesy of Joe Keeling's Fairyhouse winner Champion Boy.

Irish Independent

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