Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 24 February 2018

Lehbab can continue Halford's resurgence

Shane Foley: partners Lehbab
Shane Foley: partners Lehbab
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Mick Halford is enjoying a welcome change in fortune and Lehbab is fancied to continue his resurgence at Bellewstown this evening.

Generally so consistently efficient, the Kildare handler endured a slow start to the turf campaign, clocking just three wins in the first two months, only two of which came on grass.

His lot was typified by his results at the Curragh on the weekend of the Irish Guineas, when he did enjoy a valuable handicap triumph with Hasanour but also saw five of his other eight runners make the frame.

While it was no more than a frustrating spell, Halford really has his runners sticking now, netting eight wins in June alone.

Moreover, in contrast to Guineas weekend, his assault on the Irish Derby Festival last weekend proved a resounding success, with Hasanour plundering yet another big purse on Saturday to spearhead a two-day treble for the stable.

Lehbab has to improve on his Ballinrobe debut to add to Halford's yield, but the Fast Company three-year-old surely has the scope to do so.

Over most of 10 furlongs on that outing 10 days ago, the penny dropped for Lehbab quite late in the day. When it did, though, he flew home.

Tonight, he is in over a mile in the three-year-olds' maiden, which is a slight concern.

However, he should have learned plenty from that initial experience, so he is trusted to have a big say under Shane Foley in a race that lacks any real depth.

Another expected to break its duck on the middle leg of the three-day July fixture is David Wachman's Billy Lee-ridden Nova.

A Galileo brother to a Group One-winning juvenile, Nova kept on honestly to be fourth on its debut at Down Royal recently. If he steps up on that now, he should be thereabouts against largely more exposed opposition.

Pincode, Crossandra and Creative Talent all possess handicap marks in the mid-70s, but they are nil from an aggregate 15 outings, so they will again be vulnerable to something with the selection's profile.

The qualified riders' conditions race over 12 furlongs is an interesting little eight-runner affair.

Willie Mullins' dual bumper winner Rio Treasure is doubtless the horse to beat, having also been placed in Listed company at Ascot last winter.

Still, Hisaabaat is no forlorn hope. Rated as high as 87 last year, Dermot Weld's Grade One-winning 2012 Triumph Hurdle runner-up didn't inspire on his return to the level at Clonmel. He isn't one to write off just yet, and if he reproduces anything like his best here under his 7lb-claiming rider he could give the likely favourite plenty to think about.

Over jumps at Wexford, Court Challenge has nap appeal in the opening mares' maiden hurdle.

In three starts for her Tara-based restricted handler and owner-breeder Shane Crawley, the Court Cave six-year-old has twice run really well to be placed.

At Sligo in May, she finished a fine second to Mollyanna, and a similar display here under Keith Donoghue could be good enough.

Bryan Cooper has two decent mounts on the card aboard Is Love Alive and The Game Changer. The latter Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old has been a revelation over fences and should stretch his unbeaten record to three in the two-mile chase.

Irish Independent

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