Inside Track: Brightly can shine some light as funding impasse continues
Down Royal hosts its showpiece Flat fixture this afternoon under a worrying cloud after it emerged recently that racing there and at Downpatrick could be in jeopardy.
Although both northern venues race under the regulatory auspices of the Turf Club, they are not funded by Horse Racing Ireland in the same way as the 24 tracks in the Republic.
A dispute between the tracks and bookmakers, who had been contributing an agreed sum per shop of £2,000 since 2010, led to a reduced historic fee of just £1,123 being paid for 2015, plunging track revenues into crisis.
That prompted HRI to advance an emergency contribution of €150,000 to maintain minimum levels of prize money and integrity for 2015. Negotiations appear to be at something of an impasse and a perception exists of there being little political will to tackle the issue in the Northern Ireland Executive, with bookmakers' unsurprising and understandable demand for online operators to also be compelled to contribute a major stumbling block.
Given what the racing fraternity south of the border has learned of the difficulty creating and implementing such a model and HRI's stated reluctance to subsidise the two northern tracks indefinitely, their future is precariously uncertain.
Naturally, the hope is that a degree of compromise will eventually prevail, as racing is a thriving industry in the region right now in many aspects.
In today's flagship €100,000 Magners Ulster Derby, 10 runners vie for the winner's 60pc share of the spoils.
Aidan and Joseph O'Brien combine for the top-weighted impressive Dundalk winner Fields Of Athenry, and most of the field have claims. However, it is Jim Bolger's Brightly Shining that is fancied to collect under Rory Cleary.
A Teofilo colt that wasn't disgraced in maidens behind Hans Holbein and Bantry Bay this year having been a well beaten favourite on his only juvenile start at the Curragh early in 2014, Brightly Shining is three pounds out of the handicap here off 8st 4lb.
He is trusted to defy that inequity, as he showed up well on his handicap bow at Fairyhouse earlier in the month. In a competitive all-aged event, he raced close to the pace and kept going to the line to be second to Waydownsouth.
It constituted a fine start in this sphere, so he has the scope to build on it now off a mark that might yet prove quite favourable. Indeed, given that Brightly Shining receives a bundle of weight from many of his rivals, he appeals as nap material to score.
Bolger and Kevin Manning might also prevail with Thursday's Leopardstown winner Selskar Abbey, which has just a five-pound penalty to carry in a five-runner, 10-furlong handicap that lacks depth. They will be represented by Ringside Humour in the €40,000 Coolmore Stud Ulster Oaks, but preferred in that is Back On Top.
David Wachman's JP McManus-owned three-year-old had some choice form in maidens, including when third to Found and Together Forever at the Curragh last year.
While she didn't quite live up to expectations when seventh on her handicap bow at Limerick, she will be sharper for the experience and is two pounds lower under Fran Berry here.
Over jumps at Gowran Park, Gordon Elliott could be the man to keep on side. Amongst others, he has a serious chance in the bumper with the first-time-blinkered Nina Carberry-ridden Touch A Million, while Bryan Cooper gets the nod to do the business for the stable over flights aboard the improvers Cecil Corbett and Vercingetorix.
Aidan O'Brien's team hit full tilt at Royal Ascot.
With the Irish Derby looming next week, that is significant. The Ballydoyle maestro has won the Curragh Group One 11 times and saddled the first three home on five occasions.
His elite middle distance horses have yet to soar this year, but his masterful strokes with Waterloo Bridge and War Envoy were a reminder of how the tide can quickly turn.
John Gosden's Epsom runner-up Jack Hobbs is odds on for the Irish Classic and probably justifiably so. However, O'Brien's first string is likely to be the Derby fourth Giovanni Canaletto, which had its previous Curragh defeat franked by Curvy's Ascot win.
After a rushed preparation for Epsom, Giovanni Canaletto ran well on a track that wasn't expected to suit. All in all, he emerged with credit when keeping on after hitting a flat spot, so he is a fair each-way bet at up to 8/1. Suffice to say, he'll start much shorter on Saturday.
It will be fascinating to see how Moviesta fares on his debut for Eddie Lynam in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
During a three-year spell with Brian Smart, the five-year-old, which is partly owned by Harry Redknapp, never ran at the track.
However, he competed really well in decent sprints elsewhere last year, getting beaten a length by Lynam's Sole Power in the Nunthorpe and only half-a-length by Move In Time in the Prix de l'Abbaye.
Moviesta may be better over five furlongs than today's six, but it is significant that Lynam, who excels with sprinters, has opted to start him off in this.
Lay Of The Day
Newera looks ripe for opposing at odds of around 7/4 in the concluding 10-furlong handicap at Haydock tonight
Tom Dascombe's Makfi three-year-old is on a hat-trick after doubling up here in grand style last month. He is nine pounds higher now, albeit his apprentice rider Patrick Vaughan takes seven pounds off his back. Nonetheless, he is stepping up in grade in a competitive contest.
A Little Each-Way
Given that Mahsoob is as low as 7/4 for the Wolferton, Godolphin's First Flight looks vastly overpriced at around 9/1.
The Saeed Bin Suroor-trained four-year-old was beaten less than a length by the favourite at York, yet he is five pounds better off with him here. James Doyle's mount is brilliantly consistent and loves fast ground, so it wouldn't be in the least bit surprising to see him pay on an each-way wager.