Saturday 16 December 2017

'Beach' looks a shore thing for Murtagh in feature

Windsor Beach is evidence of Murtagh’s ability to improve. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / Sportsfile
Windsor Beach is evidence of Murtagh’s ability to improve. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

John Murtagh enjoyed many winners at Leopardstown as a rider and can show his training prowess there this evening by snaring the feature Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Nasrullah' Handicap, worth a cool €100,000.

Windsor Beach is evidence of Murtagh's ability to improve one. The son of Starspangledbanner, a talented sire with a poor fertility rate, ran the race of his life when touched off in a 20-runner handicap at the Curragh in late May.

A rise of a 1lb in the weights is no issue. The bonus is the distance of ten furlongs, perhaps the horse's optimum yardage. Murtagh's one-time Ballydoyle buddy Seamus Heffernan has the steer.

Easter Lily had the distinction of being sent off favourite in the course maiden in which stable ally September blitzed her foes here over a month ago. Perhaps the experience gained there can stand to the Ballydoyle runner in the opener, though Dream Malfunction is a worthy danger.

Likely the older horses' maiden will prove a good deal less informative, with Joe Murphy's Bay Of Skaill a tentative selection now.

Paddy Twomey has few runners in his Golden base but he does a fine job. Ruler Of France, with a nice berth in two, is taken to snare the Hothouse Flowers Handicap with Billy Lee taking the ride on a steed which has prevailed before off a higher rating.

Aidan O'Brien has been in great form despite some setbacks and Auckland can continue this in the Clayton Hotel Leopardstown Handicap.

The son of the speedy Airwave might just be best back at a mile now under likely champion apprentice this year, daughter Ana.

In contrast, Tony Martin has endured a worryingly lean run with Galway approaching, so victory in the penultimate heat for Creeping Ivy would be timely, while Sandymount Duke looks a safer play in the nightcap, even if Jessica Harrington is also having a dry run relative to her sensational year generally.

Racing at Downpatrick is of the modest jumping nature, though the opening A J C Group Hurdle is not a bad race. Noel Meade can take it with Mr Showtime, which can stay on dourly and is nicely weighed.

Course form counts for plenty here and keep an eye on Aurora's Dream at likely odds in the North Down Marquees Handicap Hurdle.

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