Saturday 17 March 2018

Halla San's turn to strike it right

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Charlie Swan saddles the only two Irish-trained runners in the John Smith's Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, a race won in thrilling fashion by Tony Martin's Arc Bleu in 2008. Rajik and Zaralabad are Swan's representatives this afternoon, and both are available at double-figure odds.

They are not without each-way chances. Rajik proved that two miles on good ground suits him ideally when winning at Gowran Park last year, while he may have been ridden from too far back when beaten 10 lengths at Ascot last week.

Zaralabad also won over the extended trip on fast ground at Limerick 12 months ago, and travels to England somewhat under the radar. Neither can be lightly discounted.


Tim Easterby's Deauville Flyer looks certain to go off favourite, but, at 7/2, is a crazy price for such a prestigious and competitive handicap.

An improving four-year-old stepping up in class, he gets in off 8st 3lb as he goes in search of a hat-trick. While he might still to be ahead of the handicapper, he represents no value at those odds.

There are few more interesting candidates than Donald McCain's Overturn, a three-time winner over hurdles at Ayr in the spring before finishing second in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.

The six-year-old's last Flat outing resulted in a win over a mile and six furlongs in October, and he has place claims at up to 11/1.

Preferred, however, is Halla San, a veteran of these races that hasn't won on the Flat for three years.

Despite the barren spell, Richard Fahey's horse is thoroughly game, rarely runs a bad race and is overdue a bit of luck.

In 2008, it was Halla San that Arc Bleu edged out by a head.

The eight-year-old has continued to knock on the door since, finishing third three times already this term.

Most recently, Halla San ran brilliantly in the Chester Cup to go down by just a length to Mamlook. Paul Hanagan's mount filled the same spot at Chester last year off a two-pound lower mark, so he certainly isn't getting any slower, and is two pounds better off with the re-opposing Mamlook now.

With the latter as low as 7/1 and Halla San as big as 20/1, it's worth speculating that the tables can be turned.

The Fahey-Hanagan partnership could get the day off to a bright start with another eight-year-old, Knot In Wood, in the opening Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs.

Himalya, Jeremy Noseda's Danehill Dancer gelding that was just run out of it in the Buckingham Palace Handicap at Ascot, will probably start favourite.

That was over seven furlongs, though, and today's six-furlong trip is expected to suit the selection better.

Knot In Wood, which won the corresponding event 12 months ago, ran a blinder when fourth to Noseda's impressive Laddies Poker Two in the Wokingham last Saturday. If he can reproduce that, he is the one to beat.

Closer to home, Remember When ought to be better for the drop to 10 furlongs in the Audi Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, with Zarinava another mare to consider in the concluding O'Leary Insurances EBF Handicap.

Jessica Harrington's grey, previously a dual bumper and course and distance winner, will appreciate the return to two miles.


Tomorrow's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is not an easy race to decipher. The fact that so much uncertainty surrounds the Ballydoyle quintet is the main source of confusion.

Cape Blanco didn't look the most robust of sorts when easily beaten in France, and Jan Vermeer might not have fully got the Derby trip at Epsom.

Midas Touch is a tentative selection at 7/1. Reported not have been suited by Epsom's undulations, the Derrinstown Trial winner kept going right to the line that day, only just failing to pass Jan Vermeer for fourth.

He looks relatively uncomplicated, so the Curragh's even expanse might bring about improvement.

Best bet: Remember When

Irish Independent

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