Sport Horse Racing

Monday 19 February 2018

Kelly can be a hero by keeping 'Yob' straight

Drying ground to help blinkered gelding see out Haydock trip

Pat Smullen drives the Tracey Collins-trained grey Captain Joy to victory in yesterday's All-Weather Mile Championship at Lingfield (Paul Harding/PA Wire)
Pat Smullen drives the Tracey Collins-trained grey Captain Joy to victory in yesterday's All-Weather Mile Championship at Lingfield (Paul Harding/PA Wire)
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Easter Saturday tends to be one of the least exciting racing days in Britain and this one isn't much different.

Quality is thin on the ground across both codes, with Haydock's jumps spread the most engaging on offer.

There are five £50,000 handicaps on the card and none of them are less than super competitive, with the fields averaging 16 runners.

In the two-mile-three-furlong handicap chase, the facile Catterick winner Raktiman heads the betting. However, as a nine-year-old running off a nine-pound higher mark that peaked off a 13lb lower rating over flights, Raktiman doesn't appeal as the type to prevail in such a well-contested event.

The keen-running Ballybolley might take a bit of stopping for the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies. He will be happy on the decent ground and appreciate the slight drop in trip, after fading into third having set a ferocious gallop at Kempton last week.

Again, though, his tactics could render him vulnerable in a race like this, while the top-weighted Five In A Row hasn't had long to recover from Cheltenham.

The one that might be worth keeping on side is The Italian Yob, which represents Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly, both of whom are enjoying fine seasons. On the basis of his latest defeat at Fakenham, there is a case to be made for The Italian Yob being well named. He ultimately turned what looked like certain victory into defeat, stalling after the final fence before veering across the track to hand the race to Gamain.

Judged on that display alone, the blinkered The Italian Yob is one to swerve, but the handicapper has seen fit to put him up two pounds to 125; that reflects that he is still a progressive animal.

He certainly didn't cover himself in glory at Fakenham and Kelly might have been frustrated for not seizing control of the situation sooner, but she is a decent rider who will be anxious to set the record straight.

In truth, it may well be the case that The Italian Yob's stamina was stretched a little on the slow ground that day. Over two-and-a-half miles, he seems to need genuine good ground to show his best, so this drop in trip on the forecast decent surface might be ideal.

Similar conclusions could be drawn from his previous defeats, following a decisive triumph on good ground at Ffos Las in October. The Italian Yob is an aggregate eight pounds higher now, but he will be a better horse back on this sort of ground, provided it holds up. At odds of around 8/1, he represents each-way value at the very least.

Up at Carlisle, a quartet of Irish raiders are on duty. Baby Bach will be a long odds-on shot, but Captain Hox and Verona Opera are more attractive options. Stuart Crawford's Verona Opera tackles a mares' handicap hurdle under Adam Short.

Beaten by Surprise Vendor on her first venture into handicaps at Ayr recently, when her effort flattened out on soft ground, she is another that will be helped by slightly drier conditions today.

If the daughter of King's Theatre makes average progress, she will have a big say off the same mark. Captain Hox represents the Pat and James Griffin team, with Andrew Lynch booked to steer. In his last four completed starts, this fellow has won, been second twice and been third.

He is a big horse with a touch of quality that is still developing and learning his job. Just edged out here last time, he steps up to two-and-a-half miles now, which may prove absolutely key to his chance.

Watching Brief...

Of the three Irish runners in Meydan tonight, two have won at the meeting before.

Certerach landed the Group Two that he contests in 2014, and Mick Halford’s Dubai regular has his 11th start at the track, having been second there in a recent Group Three. He couldn’t be completely discounted given his track record, but, on ratings, he may face the stiffest of the raiders’ tasks.

Veteran Sole Power is the other former winner. The pride and joy of Eddie Lynam is having his 11th Meydan start, having won the Group One Al Quoz Sprint at the fifth attempt in 2015.

As is now his routine, the nine-year-old had a warm-up race here on March 5, finishing third in a three-way photo. The winner, Fityaan seemingly ran above himself, but judging by the others that finished around Sole Power, it was a solid turn.

While it would be remarkable to win a five-furlong Group One at his age, he isn’t beyond doing so at odds of 13/2 for Chris Hayes.

Aidan O’Brien’s Highland Reel faces Postponed in the Sheema Classic, and on a line through Dariyan, Postponed has an edge.

Still, the Ballydoyle genius has scope to improve Highland Reel, which won a third Group One in Hong Kong in December. At around 4/1 with Ryan Moore up, he is the value option.

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