Arctic Owl retiral boost for Vinnie Roe
WINNER of the race two years ago, Arctic Owl's proposed attempt to recapture Saturday's Smurfit St Leger for the second time has been scuttled by an old injury that has forced the horse's premature retirement.
Trained at Newmarket by James Fanshawe, Arctic Owl suffered a recurrence of a tendon injury sustained in the Millennium Melbourne Cup and his absence will result in last year's scorer, Vinnie Roe, shortening even further in the betting.
Before the Arctic Owl news was announced, Cashman's of Cork had shortened the Weld stable star from 7/4 to 5/4 and pushed out his nearest rival, Millenary to 11/4 from 5/2.
"We have had plenty of interest in Vinnie Roe, including one bet of Stg#4,000 at 7/4 and there has been some money also for Hatha Anna, which is now at 8/1 from 12/1," said Joseph Burke, of Cashman's.
Surprisingly, to those who have been contending with very soft ground at Galway for the past three days, the Curragh escaped virtually all the heavy showers this week, so much so that the going was on the fast side of good.
The Curragh executive, indeed, are considering watering the track, though no immediate decision will be made until there is an up-to-date weather forecast from the Met Office.
Vinnie Roe's constant partner, Pat Smullen, who is closing on long-time leader Michael Kinane in his bid to retain the jockeys championship, moved a fraction closer at Galway yesterday, when dead-heating aboard Blue Corrig with Zaby in the Cantor Fitzgerald Race.
Runner-up on each of his three previous starts, Blue Corrig, trained by Smullen's wife, Frances Crowley, had a tremendous duel with top weight Zabe under young Pat Cosgrave as punters waded in to speculate over ?200,000 with the bookmakers alone on the outcome.
At the finish, the judge, Brendan Sheridan, could not split them visually, called for a print of the photo finish, and then announced a rare dead-heat between the market principals.
Earlier in the session Smullen had to be satisfied with the runner-up berth, however, in the Galway City Vintners Race as Savile's Delight, which had looked a likely victor, was caught on the punishing climb to the post by Be Patient in the hands of Johnny Murtagh.
The tactics adopted by Murtagh on the winner were in keeping with the name and Be Patient's success in the colours of John Muldoon provided his nephew, Patrick Prendergast, with his first winner since taking out a licence last May.
"I was still working for Michael Stoute in Newmarket at the start of the season. But I wanted to train and it's a relief to have your first winner as two of mine have been beaten in photo finishes in the last month," said Patrick, whose late grandfather, PJ Prendergast, was a legend in Irish racing.
Johnny Murtagh's book of rides for the Curragh this weekend includes English trainer Amanda Perrett's unbeaten Polar Way in the Group Three McDonogh Stakes, as well as Vintage Tipple (Loder Race) on which he scored at Tralee for the Paddy Mullins stable.
Local owner-breeder Frank O'Malley's Lord Of The Turf, which had opened his account over fences at Galway last month, made a successful transition to handicap company in the Smirnoff Chase, from which the fences in the dip were omitted due to the state of the rain-soaked ground.
But that did not prevent Barry Geraghty's mount from following up for Ballinasloe trainer John Bleahen, who plans to run his stable star in the McManus Chase at Tipperary in a couple of weeks.
Wayne Lordan took the riding honours of the session with a hard-earned double aboard top weight Senators Alibi in the Trappers Inn Handicap and Sophiyah, which won her first race for Joanna Morgan in the final leg of the Jackpot.
The action switches today to Tipperary, where the surprisingly quick going should be ideal for Macs Valley in the Fry Solicitors Novice Hurdle as he attempts to end the winning sequence of Christy Roche's Wouldn't You Agree.
Pat Smullen could help himself to a double for his boss Dermot Weld aboard Striking Pose in the Raceline Maiden and the newcomer, Beautiful Hill, which goes for the Stars Of Tomorrow Maiden.