Sunday 17 December 2017

Killarney feature looks ripe for steinbeck success

THE Vincent O'Brien Ruby Stakes, the only Stakes event staged on the Flat in Kerry, forms the centrepiece of this evening's opening session of Killarney's four-day August Festival during which all the races are fully sponsored, WRITES DAMIEN McELROY.

The scenic course has 11 race days this year carrying a total prize fund of €1 m -- helped greatly by the input of local businesses -- and general manager Micheal Lucey must be pleased with the quality of runners in tonight's highlight.

A year ago, subsequent Group victor Poet defeated the Queen's Four Winds for this Listed prize and Aidan O'Brien, who succeeded the late Vincent O'Brien at Ballydoyle, now saddles Steinbeck in search of a hat-trick after Mystical Lady's 2008 win.

Highest-rated of the 10 runners on an official mark of 114, the Footstepsinthesand colt, which is overdue a return to the winner's enclosure, needs to bounce back from a below-par effort in America late last month.

A somewhat troubled passage early on saw Steinbeck finish only sixth to A Little Warm over nine furlongs at Saratoga, having previously chased home Dermot Weld's course specialist Famous Name in the Group Three Meld Stakes at Leopardstown.

Unless the American trip has taken its toll, Seamus Heffernan's mount should manage to complete the champion trainer's Ruby Stakes treble, although the unbeaten Wade Giles, ultra-consistent Shintoh and a revitalised Finicius won't be easily contained.

Two years ago, this fixture was abandoned, yet watering was required in recent days to ensure safe ground for the meeting and indeed there's a distinct risk of rain overnight that could impact further on conditions underfoot.

As well as the €42,500 Listed feature, the €20,000 Irish Stallion Farms Nursery over the same extended mile looks competitive too as Ballydoyle's Jackaroo attempts to defy top weight with Joseph O'Brien's very useful 5lb claim helping the colt's cause.

However, the son of Galileo failed to land the odds recently at Tipperary and may have to settle for place money again, with preference for Tommy Stack's course-and-distance maiden winner Cambina over both Jackaroo and Gowran Park victor Hanginthebalance.

In between, Jim Bolger's American import Saoi, a surprise debut scorer at the Kilkenny venue, is a sporting nap selection for the Easy Clean Handicap that opens the Jackpot, despite Kims Dream's breakthrough over this route last month on an easy surface.

An 8lb hike from the official assessor following his facile win at Sligo may not be sufficient to prevent Quench The Flame going in again in the Jackpot finale, before which Headford Lady can capture the Disneyland Handicap.

Irish Independent

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