Monday 23 April 2018

Improving Melanna ready to defy rise in class for Barrett

James Barrett Picture: Sportsfile
James Barrett Picture: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

With €55,000 on offer to horses rated up to 100, it is difficult to comprehend why today's feature of the fifth day of the Listowel Harvest Festival is so shorn of quality and quantity.

Just seven partake and it is not much of a race for the grade, with all but one rated 85 or under. This is a situation which will not bother James Barrett.

The Barker-trained Melanna is no star but she has won her last couple and is a filly in form. She has gone up a relatively minor 10lb for those victories and seemed on top of her game when powering away at Galway, a ride by Robbie Downey that earned considerable praise from Barrett.

This is tougher, but it could be so much more demanding given the rise in class. Repeater has the ability, yet whether the small field will suit this quirky sort remains to be seen. Zafayan, with the Dermot Weld stable firing in a double yesterday, is feared.

The opening juvenile auction maiden is also winnable and Itsalonglongroad can overcome a high draw. His Galway debut gives him a clear edge over the Aga Khan's Simafar; perhaps Richard Strauss will be more threatening for Group One-winning trainer Joseph O'Brien.

The seven-furlong handicap could go the way of infrequent winner Canary Row. It was encouraging that he ended an exhausting sequence of defeats earlier this season and the eye is taken by his neck second to Cash Or Casualty on heavy going over this terrain off a much higher mark, albeit three years ago.

There is a generous prize on offer in the Southampton Goodwill Steeplechase in which The Game Changer appeals as lay material at likely short odds.

He should win on form but, on testing ground over two and a half miles, he is certainly vulnerable, especially as dual course-and-distance winner Kylecrue looks likely to have an easy lead. John Ryan's charge can out-stay the likely hotpot and arrives here on a high after a cracking pot was snared in a handicap on Sunday.

Nap vote goes to Blackthorn Prince in the John Francis Handicap Hurdle. A recent Ballinrobe winner, he stays convincingly and should be following up in a relatively uncompetitive heat.

The son of Black Sam Bellamy was favourite at the County Mayo venue. A rise of 9lb gives him some scope to win another race or two before presumably embarking on a chasing career, given he is an ex-pointer.

Jim Culloty's steeds are in good shape and the Killarney native can strike in an ordinary John J Galvin Maiden Hurdle with Electric Concorde.

Irish Independent

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