Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

Castle has quality to banish winter blues

Wayne Bailey

THE American actor/ director Carl Reiner once said: "A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water".

I'm starting to agree with Reiner, as each passing day sees more good race meetings get cancelled. Having snow is just like having the in-laws around: one or two weekends per year is enough, and I think we'd all be happy if we could just have our regular cold and rainy December days back.

This kind of weather is very problematic for those of us who study the cards each evening and my green wheelie bin is now stuffed with papers and notes on meetings that never went ahead.

We were all looking forward to watching Master Minded in action again in the Tingle Creek, but Sandown had to abandon today's meeting, which is disappointing for all involved, although it has since been rescheduled and the big race should now be taking place at Cheltenham next week, weather permitting of course.


Bing Crosby may have dreamt of a white Christmas, but this punter is having nightmares about this month's Leopardstown Festival being cancelled, so here's hoping the temperatures pick up over the next three weeks.

With fixtures suffering left, right and centre, I've decided to concentrate on Southwell for today and although the quality of racing there isn't great, I think I've found a decent bet in the guise of Harlech Castle, which seems greatly over-priced around 12/1 in the Totepool A Better Way To Bet Handicap (2.55).

The inflated odds are partly down to a poor show at Kempton last month when trailing in last, but he showed signs of recovery in a claimer at Lingfield last time, despite going off at 25/1.

It's well worth noting, however, that Kempton and Lingfield are Polytrack courses, as Harlech Castle seems to have a preference for the Fibresand at Southwell, where his record reads 201110.

He's back down in the ratings following his recent spell of poor form and connections are hopeful that he'll collect some place money at the very least today.

The big danger is Imprimis Tagula, another Fibresand specialist. Eight of his 12 wins have come at this venue and I just hope he's not the one breathing down the selection's neck when they hit the final 100 yards.


Hidden Glory will probably go off around 14/1 in the Handicap (3.25) as punters are sure to be put off by his 10th place out of 10 in a Class 4 handicap at Dunstall Park last time out.

That was his first race since moving from Pat Eddery's yard and while it doesn't look great, he's been given a chance at these weights and may just spring a surprise. His new trainer James Given is taking a chance by stepping the gelding up to 1m 3f, but he's a useful sort deep down and I'm hoping he'll show some improvement today.

Numbers game

28Trainer Mark Johnston's percentage rate at Southwell in the past five years. He has had 64 winners from 232 runners on the Fibresand and had you stuck a tenner on each, you'd be almost €500 richer. He has seven entries on today's card.


12.20 Southwell: Verus Decorus

2.55 Southwell: Harlech Castle

3.25 Southwell: Hidden Glory (e/w)

Irish Independent

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