Halpin looks good for Bellewstown double
This evening's penultimate meeting of the year at Bellewstown has been expanded to an eight-race session because of a division of the modest Liam O'Donohoe Memorial Handicap for which there were 63 confirmations before yesterday's declaration deadline.
Confined to the many flat racers currently in the 47-60 ratings band, these twin races, which now comprise the second half of the Jackpot, could end up principally benefiting local trainer James Halpin with his five-year-old pair Boynagh Joy and Headford Lady.
Successful under Seamie Heffernan on the all-weather at Dundalk last November, Boynagh Joy was withdrawn at Leopardstown recently for refusing to load, but, if on her best behaviour this time, would have a leading chance of getting the better of these rivals as Pat Flynn's top weight Inishtearaght has been raised a total of 10lb as a consequence of her short-head successes at Wexford and Naas.
Boynagh Joy, coincidentally, was fourth last time out at Wexford on July 23 in a similar handicap for which stable companion Headford Lady and Fran Berry failed by a length to justify favouritism when overhauled late by Cloud Fire on somewhat rain-softened ground.
While that scenario weather-wise will probably be repeated later today with further showers forecast in the Leinster area overnight, Headford Lady won't be inconvenienced as she coped well with ease underfoot at Killarney when short-headed previously by Pat Flynn's Edmondstown Lass, which boosted the form when winning at Sligo last night.
Berry needs to maintain his good strike rate to keep tabs on Pat Smullen in the title race and owner-trainer Andrew Heffernan's often-placed Slade is napped to become the middle leg of an anticipated treble for the Kildare rider by belatedly getting off the mark in the older maiden.
The preceding auction maiden for juveniles is likewise best left to Berry's mount Back Burner after their decent initial outing from the in-form Jessica Harrington yard, when staying on resolutely to be a close third to Truly Genius on the all-weather at Dundalk.
West Cork-based John Murphy is a trainer enjoying a welcome change of fortune and his wife's fillies Proper Madam and As You Like It could make the long journey to the Meath venue worthwhile, with Danny Grant's assistance, in the opening sprint contests.
The emphasis switches to stamina for the final races of the session and these may go in turn to Edward Harty's Curragh victor Siege Of Ennis and the Charlie Swan-trained, previous course and distance winner Zaralabad, despite his luckless outings at Galway and Killarney.
Meanwhile, Lil Ella made a triumphant comeback from a protracted absence to win the feature race at Sligo last evening.
Christy Roche's filly had not been sighted since last November, but looked the essence of peak fitness when taking the Supermac's Castlebaldwin Handicap.
Roche said: "For a change, I'm hoping the handicapper might give her a few pounds and that she might get into a big fillies' handicap at Leopardstown on Champion Stakes day."
Deorai defied racecourse naivety to win the Steeplechasing Returns September 29 At Sligo Auction Race. Jim Bolger's chestnut was extremely green on only his second career outing, overcoming waywardness inside the final furlong to collect by half a length.
Bolger was denied a double 30 minutes later when Whip Mark was edged out by Like Magic, the uneasy 11/4 favourite. It was to prove a red-letter success for capable jumps pilot Andrew Martin, who was securing his first success on the level.
Sailors Warn impressed later on the card with a snug victory under Billy Lee for the Tim Doyle operation in the 10-furlong maiden.