Tuesday 23 July 2019

Hathiq can leave Epsom flop in the past to land Rockingham

Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images
Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

So many questions will be answered at the Curragh during their three-day festival as some of the finest equine talent descends on the newly-refurbished Kildare track.

Can Anthony Van Dyck complete the Irish and English Derby double and provide jockey Ryan Moore with his first victory in the Irish Classic, and Aidan O'Brien's lucky 13th?

Or will 86-year-old Kevin Prendergast spoil the Ballydoyle party with Epsom second Madhmoon to land his first Irish Derby? All will be revealed in the coming days but before then, there's plenty to get stuck into at the home of Irish racing this evening.

While there is no Group action, the lucrative Tote Rockingham Handicap (7.45) takes centre stage where 17 go to post in tonight's €125,000 feature.

Favourites have an appalling record - just one hotpot has obliged in the last decade of this five furlong sprint - and punters are posed with similarly tricky questions this time around as English raiders make up nearly half of the field with eight runners.

The John Quinn pair of El Astronaute and Lord Riddiford, Paul Midgley pair of Orvar and Manshood, David Griffiths' Duke Of Firenze, Scott Dixon's Dark Shot, Grace Harris' Just Glamorous and the David Barron-trained Venturous make up the formidable English challenge.

The home team are no slouches either, however, with course and distance winner Nitro Boost one of the market principles for Noel Meade while the consistent Smash Williams should be in the frame for Jim Bolger.

Denis Hogan's Hathiq is of particular interest, though. The dual purpose Tipperary trainer - who won this big pot two years ago - is carving out quite the career for himself while still riding over jumps. And while the Epsom Dash proved a bridge too far for Hathiq last time out, this should be more to his liking.

The five-year-old was progressing at a rate of knots prior to that with two comprehensive victories - including here on his penultimate start - and will love tonight's ground having won on yielding at Tipperary in April.

The Exceed and Excel colt has shot up the weights but Rory Cleary's mount should be bang there and is taken to put his best foot forward.

Jarlath Fahey's Sea The Lion bids for an unlikely hat-trick in the earlier Ragusa Handicap (6.45) with apprentice Gavin Ryan taking 7lb off the top-weight as regular pilot Ronan Whelan switches to Mick Halford's Massif Central.

Sea The Lion will have to defy a 306-day absence, however, and preference is for Tony Martin's bottom-weight The Mouse Doctor, which looks very well treated under John Egan given his consistent form of late.

Bolger has a healthy strike-rate in the Apprentice Derby (8.15) winning three of the last nine renewals and his pair - recent Limerick scorer Trossachs and Gasta - command serious respect.

Another to note is De Name Escapes Me after Meade's charge scored on his Flat debut earlier this month at Roscommon and it would be a surprise if there isn't more to come in the hands of Oisin Orr.

Meanwhile, Ken Condon's Piano Solo brings Listed form to the table in the Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden (7.15) and should take plenty of beating if reproducing that type of performance under Billy Lee.

Irish Independent

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