ALPHA Ridge can finally end his status as a maiden over fences in Naas' Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Club Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase this afternoon.
Though he ultimately failed to land a considerable gamble in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran last time, the son of Glacial Storm still performed creditably and it is arguable that he is better than the bare form. He also has pretty much everything in his favour today.
Alpha Ridge developed into a smart staying hurdler a couple of seasons ago. Winner of a Cork Grade Three Novice by 25 lengths, he went on to land the Grade Two Galmoy Hurdle and was rated 154 by the UK Handicapper by the time he was sent to Cheltenham.
In light of such achievements, it is perplexing that he has yet to win a contest of any design over fences but his general consistency is difficult to fault. Forgiving an Irish National disappointment last year, the Paul Nolan-trained nine-year-old has finished second five times since he went chasing.
Sent off 9/2 in the Thyestes, he was arguably ridden with excessive aggression by Barry Geraghty and finished a tired horse. After the third-last, he was backed into 1/6 in-running on Betfair, a price that hardly deferred to how much energy he had expended to that point.
The first three home all came from off the searching gallop and it is to Alpha Ridge's credit that he could hold onto fourth place off a mark of 135. At Gowran, he betrayed an old tendency to jump to the left and Naas will offset that minor negative.
Moreover, four of his five career wins came on heavy terrain, the other on soft-to-heavy. It will be one or the other this afternoon and it was over this distance of two-and-a-half miles that he finished second to Pandorama in the Grade One Drinmore last term.
Alpha Ridge makes some appeal at his tissue price of 4/1. Roi Du Mee -- which holds Bob Lingo and Healys Bar on Punchestown running -- must be considered the most likely winner, yet he will be priced accordingly. While he impressed that day, there are holes in the form.
Alpha Ridge to win at Naas, 1pt at best morning odds
IT could hardly happen in football but Ed Joyce's decision to switch from Ireland to England and back again was, perhaps, a victory for pragmatism over patriotism -- something that should be championed.
The Dubliner qualified to play for England due to residency in 2005, but the switch proved a general failure and now the 32-year-old is back wearing green and bolstering our World Cup hopes.
The 3/1 available about Joyce finishing top Irish batsman in India is too big. William Porterfield and Paul Stirling look the only credible threats but they are not in the same class as Joyce.
Ed Joyce to finish top Irish batsman, 1pt at 3/1 (Bluesquare)
THE Setanta Sports Cup's image has suffered somewhat this year. Sporting Fingal's demise saw them exit the tournament, while doubts prevailed previously about whether or not Bohemians -- one of the true giants of the game here -- could even field a team in the competition.
Since its inception, the superiority of southern clubs over their northern rivals has been pronounced. The standard in the League of Ireland is declining but St Patrick's Athletic should have another solid campaign.
Lay Cliftonville to beat the Saints at Solitude tomorrow evening at around 7/4. Pete Mahon has assembled a tough and functional team in Inchicore and they should probably be favourites. Linfield, who are unquestionably superior to Cliftonville, were beaten 5-3 at home by a Dundalk side that is perhaps of similar quality to the one which Mahon has at Pat's.
Lay Cliftonville to beat St Pat's, 1pt at 2.74 approx (1.74pt liability, Betfair)
YEAR TO DATE
Profit/loss to €10 stake: €-21.95
Still running: €145
Sunday Indo Sport