Now aged seven, Mick Halford’s mare shows no signs of slowing down
THERE’S a myth about the Galway racecourse that I must admit I’d bought into for a long time myself; it’s that previous course form is of huge importance.
A tight track with a stiff finish, it’s definitely unique, and it has produced plenty of course specialists that come back and win numerous times – but the multiple winners tend to be memorable and there are lots that return and lose too.
Everyone loves a good Galway gamble or comeback, but if you become a killjoy and look at the stats, as is my wont, you’ll see that Galway is actually down near the bottom of the list of Irish racecourses where a previous win is advantageous.
Horses that won at Galway before have a strike-rate of 11pc at the course, whereas previous course winners at places like Naas, Punchestown, Thurles and Tramore all have a strike-rate of around 14pc.
Those are very crude figures, and they can be broken down in any number of ways such as race code, distance, going and race grade – but they are interesting nonetheless and have made me rethink how much weight I give to previous course form, not just at Galway, but elsewhere too.
Playing down the significance of previous winning course form might not be the best way to introduce my main bet today, Surrounding, considering she won the Colm Quinn BMW Irish EBF Corrib Fillies Stakes (5.45) last year and returns for another tilt but it’s certainly no hindrance either!
I’m surprised to see her as high as 3/1 in the early markets, although I’m guessing some punters are put off by the thoughts of backing a mare aged seven, with not too many older female horses about.
She’s showing no signs of slowing down however, and following a win at Dundalk after Galway, she spent the winter in Dubai, running reasonably well in some Group contests.
Third of six in a Group Two back home at the Curragh recently, Mick Halford’s charge is taking a step back down to Listed level here, and while she’d possibly prefer the ground a bit better, she has handled today’s conditions reasonably well in the past.
The one negative is that she has a penalty but she’s already beaten a couple of these before and I was sure she’d be shorter in the betting.
The one I’m most worried about is Jessica Harrington’s Celestial Object, a promising three-year-old which has been placed in Listed and Group Three company this summer.
In the opening Irish EBF Fillies Maiden (4.45), consider backing Jim Bolger’s Meala, which I’m hoping to get at 3/1 or higher. She’s raced in three maidens, coming fourth, third and second in those contests and I reckon she’s been a little unlucky, bumping into some good horses, particularly Joseph O’Brien’s Vafortino at Leopardstown last time out.
It’s only a matter of time before she gets off the mark and race conditions look in her favour here, although Dermot Weld’s Umneyaat raced reasonably well on soft ground last time, if a little greenly.
Of course we’ve great racing across the water at Goodwood today.
All eyes will be on Stradivarius in the Group One Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup Stakes (3.15) as he attempts to win this race for a record fourth time, with Frankie Dettori booked to do the steering.
He proved as good as ever when winning the Ascot Gold Cup, and while he’s as tough as nails and will surely win again, at a price of 4/7 I’m going to enjoy this race without the stress of a bet.
One horse I am keen to back at Goodwood is Devious Company, which is a nice price around 7/2 for the Group Two Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes (2,15).
Trained by Tom Dascombe, the colt won his first two races before shaping well at this level when runner-up in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket last time. Aidan O’Brien’s Listed winner Battleground is likely to be favourite around 5/4 and is obviously the big threat to the bet.
Finally, a chance is taken on Space Blues in the Group Two Qatar Lennox Stakes (2.45), which was available at 5/2 in the early betting yesterday.
Race-by-race guide to Day 2
Jim Bolger’s Meala can get the day off to a good start around 3/1. Having raced three times, she’s one of the more experienced fillies in this maiden, and she shaped well when second in a similar race at Leopardstown last time.
The Dermot Weld-trained Mostaqqer catches the eye having raced well on softer ground when runner-up in a maiden at Roscommon back in June. He traded below 1/5 in-running on Betfair on that occasion but he met trouble in the closing stages and ran out of room.
A winner of this race last year, Surrounding can do the double, priced around 3/1. A consistent sort, she’s now aged seven but she’s been keeping good company and spent the winter in Dubai. She steps down in class from Group level and should be hard to beat, although a good case could also be made for Celestial Object.
A tricky handicap, it’s probably best to take a watching brief here. The in-form Ger Lyons saddles Frank Arthur which ran well in a Curragh handicap recently and should go close but Meaningful Vote, Mythologic and Layfayette have claims too and it’s hard to cross any off the list.
Tauran Shaman gets a tentative vote here around 11/2 in another difficult puzzle. A festival winner last year, Jessica Harrington’s colt ran a few poor races since but he looked like he’s getting back on track when a nice third in a handicap at Cork.
Starlite Dancer, Landing Zone and New Vocation are all contenders here but Out On Friday can finally win a race in his 17th attempt with Colin Keane booked to ride. He nearly got there last time out at Leopardstown on Thursday but was chinned on the line, and a quick return to racing might do the trick.
Another race that’s best watched without a bet. Mulzamm is the early favourite but could be a little short at 5/1 in a competitive contest, while Plum Perfect, Dani’s Boy and Scorpion Black are also worth a mention.
Willie Mullins’ Eight And Bob can finish the day off nicely with a handicap win with Rachael Blackmore on board, priced around 4/1. A dual-purpose gelding, he was runner-up in this last year and while his latest hurdle efforts have been questionable, he goes quite well on the level.