Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 25 March 2018

Coast is clear for Star Links

Damien McElroy

Today's journey to Laytown strand for the once-a-year fixture on the beach -- unique to flat racing in Europe -- will hopefully see weather more favourable than yesterday's gusting wind and heavy showers on the east coast.

Clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan has a short window of opportunity to mark out the seven-furlong track when the tide recedes and then restore the area to its natural state before the sea reclaims the venue.

Despite the safety limit being reduced now to a maximum of 10 starters for each of the six races, the meeting continues to prove quite popular and a year ago more than 5,600 people -- betting over €370,000 -- turned up at the Meath location.

Many of the top jockeys under both codes will be competing, with Pat Smullen, Johnny Murtagh and Fran Berry continuing their quest for the senior title and in-form apprentice Joseph O'Brien also out to make his presence felt on his Laytown debut.

Amateur riders are also well catered for here in the Ladbrokes Handicap and the Hibernia Steel Race.

Group One winners this year Seamie Heffernan and Smullen could kick off the session with a winner each, as Cavan-based Shane Donohoe's Star Links should have his consistency rewarded in the Balmarino Handicap, before Northern Rocked opens his account for Dermot Weld's yard in the Gilna's Cottage Inn Maiden.

The unrelated Dick Donohoe's Mt Weather, which won here two years ago, and Tom Hogan's less exposed Naas scorer Lovestoned could give Star Links most to do.

Drogheda firm Anglo Printers back the Claiming Race that opens the Jackpot and features Gordon Elliott's Grand Opera attempting to repeat his 2008 course-and-distance victory, as last season's winning trainer Ger Lyons saddles both Romeo's On Fire and Cosmic Breeze.

While this trio are bound to command support, Pat Martin's Like Magic is yet another contender from a Meath stable that may have their measure under Andrew Thornton.

Bansha's David Marnane is enjoying another lucrative campaign and his trek today from south Tipperary should prove worthwhile, as Roscommon victor He's Got Rhythm can give weight and a beating to stable companion Qadar in the Ladbrokes Handicap.

The Hamptons, which has already done the business here in the JP McManus colours, made a timely return to form recently at Bellewstown and is taken to follow up for Fran Berry in the O'Neill Sports Handicap against the local Casey family's older sprinter Desert Ben.

Still smiling after his Group One breakthrough with Sole Power in York, Eddie Lynam saddles Dahindar in the famous Purcell colours when bidding to capture the Hibernia Steel race for the third successive year. Although this Invincible Spirit gelding has the valued assistance of Katie Walsh, preference is for the Lyons-trained Dunne Grand in the hands of Andrew Duff, who won this in 2009 with Solid Air.

Irish Independent

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