Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 21 September 2019

Balko can help Blackmore add another string to her bow with Grade One win while 'Field' can flourish

Big hopes: Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Sportsfile
Big hopes: Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Grade one success has still managed to elude Rachael Blackmore despite her remarkable rise to the top and she'll be out to put that right aboard Balko Des Flos in tomorrow's John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.

The Tipperary jockey heads the Irish jump jockeys' championship with 62 winners but top-tier success with last year's Ryanair Chase winner - trained by Henry de Bromhead - would be another significant feather in her cap.

Balko Des Flos lowered the colours of the brilliant Un De Sceaux in scintillating fashion at Cheltenham in March but was out of sorts on his seasonal debut at Down Royal last month.

Gigginstown's seven-year-old should shape much better for that tune-up but faces stiff opposition in a small but select field of five led by Willie Mullins' Min - the mount of Ruby Walsh - as the champion trainer bids for a fourth triumph in six years.

The Rich Ricci-owned chaser found only the mighty Altior too good in last year's Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival but failed to back that up, with disappointing defeats at Aintree and Punchestown.

Odds of around even money represent little or no value given his Grade One record and the competitiveness of his challengers, with last year's JLT Chase winner Shattered Love another of interest.

Gordon Elliott has made no bones about the fact that he thinks the mare - in receipt of 7lbs from her four rivals - is a potential for the Gold Cup, such is the esteem he holds her in, while she is proven at this shorter 2m4f trip.

This is a big step-up in grade on just her second run out of novice company, however, with Joseph O'Brien's Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf and Elliott's second string The Storyteller no slouches either.

Balko Des Flos is the one to side with though and if he bounces back to his best, he can be the one to finally scratch Blackmore's Grade One itch in fine style.

Tomorrow also sees the hurdling debut of last year's Punchestown Festival Champion Bumper winner Tornado Flyer, but the Punchestown Racecourse Of The Year Maiden Hurdle (12.55) is anything but a penalty kick.

There are a lot of variables to note when taking short odds, with 21 runners going to post and Jessica Harrington's Press Conference is a decent each-way alternative at double-figure odds.

Mullins' much-touted Getabird also takes to fences for the first time in the GAIN Support Laois GAA Beginners Chase (2.30) while there's lots to get stuck into at the same time on a brilliant Cork card.

Mullins has won nine of the last ten renewals of the Grade Two Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase (1.45) with the likes of Douvan and Un De Sceaux, and Great Field may be another special type.

Undefeated in five chases, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old should continue his upward curve under Jody McGarvey, with Elliott's Doctor Phoenix chasing him home in second.

It may pay to side with Peter Fahey's The Big Dog in a competitive Grade Three Stayers Novice Hurdle (1.10) while Dawn Shadow - an early faller in last week's Drinmore - can make amends for Dot Love in the Grade Three Mares Novice Chase (2.15).

Today's Navan card is headed by the Grade Three Klairon Davis Novice Chase (1.35) where all five runners have a chance but Elliott's Hardline should continue his promising chasing career.

The €50,000 Foxrock Handicap Steeplechase may go the way of Troytown second Mr Diablo for Philip Dempsey, while Irish trainers make a three-pronged Irish attack on the €2.1million Hong Kong Vase (6.0) at Sha Tin tomorrow with Dermot Weld's Eziyra, Joseph O'Brien's Latrobe and Aidan O'Brien's Rostropovich all taking their chance.

Irish Independent

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