Saturday 20 January 2018

Course form to count for Pires

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

TONY MARTIN, who currently shares the lead with Dessie Hughes at the top of the jumps trainers' championship on 14 winners, can record a belated first success of the Flat season in the final event on tonight's busy Bellewstown card.

The eight-race programme is an all-Flat affair, as the qualified riders' heat brings proceedings to a close. With just seven runners set to line out, it comprises the smallest field of the day, and Martin (right) should score with Pires under Nina Carberry.

Third at Dundalk on Sunday off 89, the seven-year-old is the highest of the three runners that have an official mark, yet receives 5lbs from each of the other two, Duc De Savoie and Born To Excel.

Of the remaining four, Catch The Moment and Paddy The Celeb, first and second respectively in a Galway maiden last time, ought to be thereabouts again, but may not be good enough to handle the selection.

Placed in last season's Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, Pires has not won since scoring here over hurdles a year ago, but has continued in decent form.

Having kept on gamely to the line over 10 furlongs on Sunday, he reverts to a more suitable mile and a half here, and should collect if those exertions haven't taken too much of a toll.

Queen Grace is also strongly fancied to finally get her head in front in the Lougher Stables Handicap. In her debut campaign, Michael Browne's four-year-old has not been out of the first four in six starts since going handicapping.

She never went closer than when run out of it by a mere head at Down Royal last time, and has gone up another 2lbs for that.

Pat Smullen's mount is now 13lbs higher than when she started, but she is a real improver in a 15-runner five-furlong dash that lacks any real strength in depth.

In the 14-furlong Handicap, Quaintly gets the nod to follow up her recent Tipperary win for David Wachman and Wayne Lordan. As the only three-year-old on duty, she is 12lbs well in with her seven rivals on official figures, and remains massively unexposed.

Earlier, Grainne Whale catches the eye in the first part of the Handicap. While this might be the stronger of the two divisions of the one-mile contest, John McConnell's lightly raced filly's two recent placed finished promised plenty.

Irish Independent

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