Tuesday 20 February 2018

Rising stars Elliott and Flynn can challenge master of Rosewell House

Damien McElroy

The closest Irish racing comes to emulating the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin is watching the posse that invariably gathers when Dermot Weld has issued his instructions and sent his huge variety of fancied runners to the start during the summer Festival.

Galway would not be the familiar week-long session that's evolved in modern-day Ballybrit without the master of Rosewell House's every word and/or nod of encouragement being gratefully received by anyone in earshot or who catches his eye.

The one certainty that will materialise in Galway is that the Weld team will tog out in peak condition and make their presence felt, to such an extent that his legion of fans must be hopeful of sharing in yet another bonanza.

Anything less than a haul approaching, or more often into, double figures for the Kildare wizard would be categorised as an ordinary enough return for his stable as he's raised the bar so high over the years at one of his traditional favourite fixtures.

Ever since partnering his late father Charlie's Ticonderoga to success in his mid-teens in the big amateur handicap, staged for many years as the Monday night feature, the venue has held a special place in his affections and his enviable record, whether with classy performers in the main highlights or lesser lights in the handicaps, bears the closest inspection.

The one factor that would impact negatively on the Weld operation, and which is out of his control, is a change in the weather and the effect a sudden wet spell might have on the going.

History has taught us that Weld's charges tend to prosper when underfoot conditions are no worse than yielding and preferably the ground rides a bit livelier.

Following the stable's runners blindly, however, can be somewhat counter-productive as competition is invariably razor-keen and the bookmakers have learnt to chalk up his horses at odds that don't always reflect their chances on the bare form. Watch out particularly for their representatives in maiden and conditions races on the flat and over hurdles.

That remarkably durable warrior Ansar, now in retirement, fed and watered the Weld camp followers regally with a Guinness Hurdle win and successive Galway Plate triumphs among his numerous strikes around Ballybrit. The likes of New Rules and New Phase might be worth watching out for this time and don't forget, the stable successfully introduced Rite Of Passage in a bumper here a couple of years ago.

Who will be challenging this formidable outfit closest for the rich pickings available throughout the week is anyone's guess, although we can expect a fair few of Ballydoyle's juveniles to turn up, and you can never rule out John Oxx and Jim Bolger making an impact either.

Curragh colleague Kevin Prendergast, Michael Halford, Jessica Harrington and David Marnane seldom fail to hit the target on the Flat, but it remains to be seen how well National Hunt supremo Willie Mullins will fare here after his Punchestown Festival tour de force.


There are a couple of newer faces hitting the high spots over jumps in particular as the decent weather persists, none more so than Trim-based Gordon Elliott, whose customary summer winning streak on British soil -- he's been the top trainer at Perth for the past three seasons -- has been replicated on the home front with the help of former champion jockey Paul Carberry.

Based at former Meath footballer Barry Callaghan's Capranny Stables, Elliott was responsible for 10 winners in a fortnight in late June-early July, six of them at Perth, and yet another treble for the squad was completed at Bellewstown by the classy Grey Soldier.

Running in Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud colours, this French import is expected to have a crack at the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, which is the main race on the Thursday at Galway, and Dirar is another of his rising stars.

"We tend to do well at Perth and thankfully the horses came back fine and healthy from there. We've had a great season so far and, with a bit of luck, it will continue into Galway," Elliott remarked as he planned to expand his Capranny operation to 60 boxes.

Elliott clearly benefited greatly from his time spent riding and working for Martin Pipe and another youthful handler making waves after learning his trade, on and off horses, with fellow Somerset practitioner Philip Hobbs is Paul Flynn, even if he's confined to a much smaller yard in Longford.

Drunken Sailor, which was later sold on to Luca Cumani and won for him during the Dubai Carnival last winter, was Flynn's standard-bearer on the Flat at Galway and indeed elsewhere last summer, while Pallasmore is his latest significant improver over jumps.

Elliott and Flynn may have cut their teeth in the jumping arena, but they are no back numbers when it comes to racing on the level either and you could do worse than speculating a little on their Ballybrit contenders in general.

Operating from south Kilkenny, Eoin Doyle and Eoin Griffin are other names to take heed of during the week, with the former's splendidly versatile The Fonze having pushed his career total of successes well into double figures and Mojito Royale back in form too.

Galway has proved a happy hunting ground over the years for former multiple champion jump jockey Charlie Swan, who likewise has ammunition to go to war with as a trainer under both rules, with his JP McManus-owned runners worthy of scrutiny.

Charlie's older Tipperary colleague Edward O'Grady has his jumpers in flying form, with both stable jockey Andrew McNamara and teenage claimer Pat Mangan consequently making hay while the sun has been shining.

Long-term injuries to Ruby Walsh, in particular, and Davy Russell have allowed Limerick native McNamara steal a march on them, numerically at least, in the early stages of the senior title race.

Mention of Co Limerick brings the formidable Charles Byrnes yard into sharp focus and the Ballingarry handler could tee up a couple more of his 'bookie-basher specials' with the likes of Cyborg, Classic Frontier and a rejuvenated Alpha Beat springing to mind.

On the Flat, it's been hammer and tongs from the outset in the senior title race between Ballybrit specialist Pat Smullen, Fran Berry and Johnny Murtagh.

From that ace trio you would anticipate Smullen, backed by the Weld crew, to fare best here, while in the junior ranks champion Gary Carroll has been up against it this term with Ben Curtis, Padraig Beggy and Shane Foley pushing him hard.

Irish Independent

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