Thursday 22 February 2018

Burn The Boats can steam home for Lyons in Victoria Cup

Burn The Boats, no.23
Burn The Boats, no.23
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Rising star Oisin Murphy is aboard Andrew Balding's hat-trick-seeking favourite Purcell in a 29-runner Victoria Cup that will take some winning at Ascot this afternoon.

Having scored just twice in its first 13 outings, the Co Kerry native's mount improved to win twice at Lingfield in March.

However, Purcell got things very much its own way out in front on the second occasion, so it's debatable whether he warranted a 7lb ratings' hike.

He won't enjoy such a charmed time in this deeply competitive seven-furlong handicap, though odds of 11/1 the field at least reflect the open nature of the £100,000 race.

Excellent Guest and Bertiewhittle, first and second 12 months ago, are both on duty again, with Excellent Guest maybe the most likely to figure prominently this time.

After a few indifferent turns, George Margarson's seven-year-old has dropped back to a mark just 2lbs higher than when successful last year, and has won on two of its last three reappearances. At odds of as big as 20/1, he has serious place claims under Tom Queally.

Of the remainder, there are few more interesting than the sole Irish raider, Ger Lyons' still unexposed five-year-old, Burn The Boats.

Readily successful on its seasonal debut last term in poor company, the Big Bad Bob gelding gradually progressed thereafter, leading late to plunder the valuable Paddy Power Sprint at the Curragh in June.

On stepping up to seven furlongs in Newmarket's Bunbury Cup two weeks later, he ran well to be a one-paced ninth, beaten five lengths.

That display did nothing to suggest that he wouldn't be effective at this trip, likewise his final outing back at headquarters, when he kept on to be beaten less than five lengths behind Balmont Mast in a decent Listed race over six.

This is obviously a daunting assignment, but Lyons' cross-channel raids tend to be selective, so it is significant that he deems Burn The Boats worthy of such a test at this early stage in the campaign.

Colin Keane's partner is a pound lower than he was going to Newmarket for 9st 1lb here, with the crack apprentice's valuable 3lb claim not to be underestimated.

On slow ground that shouldn't be a problem and from a middle draw that will give Keane options, Burn The Boats is fancied to go very close at odds of around 20/1.

The other horse of interest at the royal venue is Nicky Henderson's Area Fifty One running in the Buckhounds Stakes.

This is a decent 12-furlong Listed affair, with Pether's Moon, Harris Tweed and Cap O'Rushes among five of the 10 runners rated higher than Area Fifty One.

However, this is just the selection's second Flat start for Henderson, and the manner in which he fended off the re-opposing Gatewood at Doncaster in March suggested there would be more to come.

If Area Fifty One does step up again for Jamie Spencer, he won't have much to find with most of his rivals.

With the Swinton and Long Distance Hurdles at Haydock looking particularly tricky, the Derby trial at Lingfield is worth a second glance.

Godolphin's Sudden Wonder heads the betting, but it is possibly of note that Seagull Star, which was less than four lengths behind him at Newmarket, was hammered by Ballydoyle's Orchestra at Chester.

That will have given Aidan O'Brien some handle on what he is up against with Blue Hussar and the blinkered Mekong River, which Joseph O'Brien favours.

Having worn headgear since landing the second of four wins at Killarney, Mekong River doesn't strike as a potential Derby horse, a point emphasised by his comprehensive Group One defeat in France last November.

We know less about Blue Hussar, other than that he showed potent acceleration to come from behind on his Leopardstown debut that month.

Regardless of the quality of the maiden, it was impressive for a son of Montjeu to show such pace over seven furlongs. If he were to stay this longer trip, 11/2 would surely be far too big.

Best Bet: Area Fifty One

Irish Independent

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