Tuesday 21 November 2017

Anthem Alexander ready to call Naas tune for Smullen

Jockey Pat Smullen is trusted with delivering the nap vote when he partners Valac in the concluding maiden for Dermot Weld
Jockey Pat Smullen is trusted with delivering the nap vote when he partners Valac in the concluding maiden for Dermot Weld
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Eddie Lynam's high-class juvenile Anthem Alexander is among a cracking 10-runner line-up poised to do battle over five furlongs in the Woodlands Stakes at Naas tonight.

Jamie Spencer flies in to partner Evanna McCutcheon's Maarek, which must shoulder 10st in a €45,000 Listed race that he won in 2013 and finished second in last year. With the ground drying all the while, it looks a pretty formidable task for the mud-loving eight-year-old.

Richard Hannon, whose Kool Kompany won at the Kildare venue last summer, sends over his first Irish runner of the year in the shape of the Queen's Pat Dobbs-ridden Musical Comedy, which scored in a similar affair at Newbury last May before regressing a little.

Domestic speedsters such as Great Minds, Jamesie and Ainippe and Ballydoyle's unexposed Cork maiden winner Eisenhower are all interesting, but it's hard to get away from Anthem Alexander at the weights.

Pat Smullen's mount is top-rated on a mark of 114 following a juvenile campaign that saw her deny Tiggy Wiggy in the Queen Mary Stakes over this trip at Royal Ascot.

Tiggy Wiggy subsequently turned the form around in the Lowther and Cheveley Park Stakes over six, and we saw at Newbury last week how she struggled to make the transition from precocious two-year-old to a Classic generation contender.

This is arguably an even more daunting assignment for Anthem Alexander as she is taking on older horses in what is a real specialist discipline. Given the race conditions, though, she is fancied to announce herself a sprinter of real merit.

As a three-year-old filly, she must carry just 8st 13lb, whereas most of her main rivals bar Ainippe will carry 9st 9lb or more. That must give this pacey sort a serious chance.

Smullen is also trusted with delivering the nap vote when he partners Valac in the concluding maiden for Dermot Weld. This 14-strong heat is potentially quite open, but Valac is the one that has already shown that he has the scope to be quite smart.

A Dark Angel brother to Free Eagle and Custom Cut, he travelled smoothly on his Leopardstown debut over 10 furlongs, before failing to pick up sufficiently on the soft ground to reel in the more experienced Hans Holbein. It was an encouraging turn, but you'd imagine that his sire's influence would lead to him being more suited by this shorter trip.

If that is the case, Valac ought to be very hard to beat. In between, Lean And Keen gets the nod to go one better than he did 12 months ago in the mile handicap.

On its seasonal bow, Sean Byrne's five-year-old was carried out on its shield over seven furlongs at Leopardstown when second to Princess Aloof - a winner again since - after making all the early running.

He has gone up three pounds for that, but, back over a more suitable mile trip, he is expected to make the required progression to collect for Wayne Lordan.

Earlier, Lordan is on JP McManus' Hidden Oasis for David Wachman in the six-furlong handicap. Wachman also saddles Fit For The Job for McManus, and he might be the one to keep on side in this under Fran Berry.

Placed on its first two starts last year before winning at Galway and Tipperary, Fit For The Job floundered in deep ground on its Curragh return.

A pound drop in the ratings for that leaves him just five pounds higher than when he won at Limerick Junction, so he has plenty appeal on better ground here on just his sixth career start.

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