Wednesday 22 November 2017

Curragh grounds for optimism

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Curragh manager Paul Hensey was yesterday forced to call a track inspection for 7.0 this morning to ascertain if the first leg of this weekend's two-day Oaks fixture will be able to go ahead tomorrow.

The Kildare venue has been hit hard by rain in recent weeks, with Hensey reporting that 85mm had fallen on the track in July alone.

Following 7.2mm of overnight rain and further showers yesterday, the official going remained heavy and left tomorrow's card in some doubt.

However, Hensey was optimistic that the programme, which is headlined by the Group Three Minstrel Stakes that could feature the return of Coolmore's former top-class sprinter Starspangledbanner after two years off, would go ahead.

With drier weather forecast over the next couple of days, Sunday's Darley Irish Oaks schedule doesn't appear to be in danger.

"If the forecast is accurate, I foresee no difficulties," Hensey said. "However, in the event that we can't race Saturday, the Minstrel Stakes will be moved to Sunday's card at the expense of the 10-furlong handicap."

Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey yesterday appeared among a stellar 10-strong final line-up for tomorrow's English showpiece, the King George VI Stakes at Ascot.

The dual Coronation Cup and Breeders' Cup Turf hero has been friendless in the market for the Group One in recent days, drifting from 2/1 favouritism out to as big as 7/2.

O'Brien also runs likely pacemaker Robin Hood, but St Nicholas Abbey's main threats will include last year's John Gosden-trained winner and current market leader Nathaniel, along with Michael Stoute's Sea Moon.

The Melbourne Cup victor Dunaden will represent France, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victor Danedream will represent Germany, while this year's Japanese Derby winner Deep Brillante will also be in opposition.

Meanwhile, the Turf Club has asked its referrals committee to review the decision of the Roscommon stewards to hand former champion jockey Paul Townend a three-day ban on July 10 for admitting to faking 'air-shots' when taking third place in a maiden hurdle on the fast-finishing Mulleady.

The stewards on duty found Townend guilty of "conduct and behaviour prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing."

Mulleady's trainer Tony Martin was not found guilty of any offence, but the Turf Club has now asked the referrals committee to consider if "undue leniency" occurred in the case of Townend's ban.

Irish Independent

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