Wednesday 21 February 2018

Hawkeyethenoo to hold off challenge of Irish sprint aces

Graham Lee partners Hawkeyethenoo
Graham Lee partners Hawkeyethenoo
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek, two wonderful servants for their respective modest Co Tipperary-based handlers, vie for a further share of the limelight at York today.

The prolific sprinters face-off in the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, though Nenagh's Tom Hogan and Fethard's David Nagle would both welcome a drop of rain.

Showers are forecast to hit the Knavesmire, but Nagle may yet feel compelled to withdraw Maarek if they don't, as he scratched his game six-year-old from Longchamp on Sunday after deeming ground officially given as good to be too quick.

The York going has been described as good to firm, which wouldn't really bring out the best in either of the raiders. Of their aggregate 16 career wins, none has come with the word 'firm' in the description, though Gordon Lord Byron was second in the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock last year on firm.

Hogan's five-year-old subsequently gained a deserved top-level victory on heavy in the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs. While that emphasises what sort of conditions suit him best, he would cope better than Maarek if it remains quick.

However, Gordon Lord Byron also has to concede weight to everything bar his Sprint Cup conqueror Society Rock, so this will be tough for him under Ryan Moore.

A winner at this level at Ascot in October, Maarek must give weight to the 15 others.

As such, without knowing what way the ground is going to be, it's not easy to be too confident about the chances of either horse.

The fillies Mince and Tickled Pink will be among the most popular in the betting, but Mince doesn't always excel first time out and Tickled Pink got the run of the race when winning at Newmarket last month.

Behind her that day was the prolific handicapper Hawkeyethenoo, which kept on keenly for fourth. Ground versatile, Jim Goldie's charge was ultimately beaten by just over five lengths, but he showed enough to warrant keeping on side for now.

Significantly, Graham Lee's mount is always at his very best when weaving through big fields, so this Group Two might tee up nicely for him to score at long odds.

In the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, Michael Stoute's Liber Nauticus, owned and bred by Co Meath's Ballymacoll Stud, will be long odds-on to set herself up for an Oaks tilt.

However, the Jamie Spencer-ridden Indigo Lady might be worth a punt. When third in a Chantilly Group Three in the autumn, the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained filly had none other than Sunday's French 1,000 Guineas heroine Flotilla behind her in fifth.

On a difficult card, Mark Johnston's Galician is the only other that appeals in the Whixley Handicap. Campaigned over further of late, the four-year-old Darley-bred filly will be suited by this drop back to six furlongs under Silvestre De Souza.

Irish Independent

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