Wednesday 11 December 2019

Hogan can reap the rewards of Califante's Chester raid

Jockey Pat Shanahan
Jockey Pat Shanahan

Richard Forristal

On a cross-channel programme that lacks a contest of real heavyweight merit, Pat Shanahan and Tom Hogan are responsible for two live Irish-trained contenders.

Hogan, whose only winner to date this year was Gordon Lord Byron's famous Australian Group One triumph in the George Ryder Stakes in March, sends Califante to Chester.

The Nenagh-based handler has had just one runner in these parts since the turf campaign began, but Califante showed up well in its first four starts for him at Dundalk in the winter.

The Kyllachy four-year-old finished second, third twice and fourth off a mark of 75. She gets in here off the same rating for 8st 7lb, with the sensational Killarney-born teenager Oisin Murphy booked to take a valuable three pounds off her back.

From a favourable draw in stall two on the quaint, turning urban venue, Califante must have a chance of outrunning odds of around 10/1 in what is a modest six-furlong handicap.

The main concern is how she will handle potentially slow ground, but she has bits of form in similar conditions before, so it is worth trusting Hogan's judgment in opting to send her over.

Chester has proved a happy hunting ground for Shanahan in the past, but this time he is York-bound with Ralston Road for a Listed race over 14 furlongs.


This is a decent contest, with established stayers like Cap O Rushes, First Mohican and Rawaki among the 13-strong field.

However, Shanahan, whose nine winners from 36 British runners over the past two seasons constitutes a 25pc strike-rate, may have identified a fine opening for his four-year-old.

A two-time winner last year, Ralston Road has some serious form in defeat to his name.

On his first stab at two miles at Royal Ascot, he was beaten around seven lengths by Leading Light in the Queen's Vase, and he subsequently improved on that when beaten just over six lengths behind the current Gold Cup favourite in the St Leger.

He then won on his Dubai debut in December, before signing off there with another cracking turn to be fifth, beaten by less than four lengths, in a two-mile Group Two behind Mick Halford's Certerach.

On that occasion, Ralston Road (12/1) served it up to higher-rated horses for a long way, so he is entitled to his current rating of 107.

Granted, he still has a bit to prove in terms of delivering fully on his potential, but this is a good opportunity for him to do so.

Moreover, it would be a timely boost for his jockey Ronan Whelan, who has stepped into the breach left by Tadhg O'Shea's recent split from Shanahan. The 2012 champion apprentice is an excellent rider who has simply lacked opportunities of late.

Also at York, the 19-runner Betbright Trophy has been nominated as the bonus race for last week's Scoop6 winners.

It is a suitably tough five-furlong handicap, but Hayley Turner's mount Long Awaited is worth a venture for the wily sprint specialist David Barron.

The Pivotal six-year-old has been punished by the handicapper for his consistency over the years, remaining above 90 ever since winning at Epsom in 2012.

After running respectably in defeat to be seventh behind today's top-weight Monsieur Joe on the Knavesmire last time, Long Awaited has dropped two pounds to 89, just three pounds above his Epsom rating.

That gives him a chance, and he is a horse that handles slow ground. Odds of 14/1 look big.

Best bet: Califante

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