McCain raider can Overturn long home rule
DONALD McCAIN'S Northumberland Plate hero Overturn heads a team of five British raiders bidding this afternoon to become the first winner of the Guinness Handicap Hurdle from our neighbouring island since Sagaman sprang a 25/1 surprise in 1991.
Unusually at this level, Overturn -- which is Cheshire-based McCain's first runner at Ballybrit and earlier landed the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr -- meets his year-older half-brother Fisher Bridge, whose trainer Noel Meade saddled Pinch Hitter to win successive Guinness promotions in 1982 and '83.
Meade's Galway specialist of that era was a 7/2 chance when completing the double and Overturn seems set to head the market for today's renewal, even though Dirar and Lethal Weapon have plenty of admirers as well.
Last year's victor Bahrain Storm, which warmed up for his attempt to emulate Pinch Hitter with a clear-cut success over 2006 Guinness winner Cuan Na Grai at Tipperary, will be the choice of many others to prove best of the home defence.
Shark Hanlon's multiple scorer Luska Lad, which heads the maximum field of 20, looks to have plenty on his plate off a mark of 149 on ground that may not play to the strengths of Davy Russell's mount but will be ideal for many others such as Overturn, Dirar and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Bahrain Storm. Indeed it came as no surprise yesterday when it was decided to water both the Flat and National Hunt courses.
Invariably up with the pace, Overturn -- with Galway's Graham Lee deputising for the injured Jason Maguire -- might attempt to make all the running, just as Cuan Na Grai managed four years ago on similar terrain.
Whatever their ploy with the McCain runner, this promises to be a fast-run race and hold-up horses such as Dirar and Bahrain Storm could require luck in-running if they're to get truly competitive in company with the less experienced New Phase and Jigalo.
Welsh-based Evan Williams has been making a name for himself across the water with all sorts of jumpers and saddles both Tiger O'Toole and Dantari with his regular Irish riders Paul Moloney and Donie Fahy on duty, although their trip to the Festival might be better rewarded earlier in the afternoon as Moloney's mount Blacktoft could outpace the St James's Gate Novice Chase opposition.
Guinness Handicap Hurdle (4.50)
Few of the 20 runners can readily be ruled out as likely scorers for what's an intriguing contest. It attracts several of the leading handicappers here and around Britain, with the multiple bumper and novice hurdle winner Luska Lad topping the scale by 2lb from last year's hero Bahrain Storm, closely attended weight-wise by Overturn, which reverted to the flat at Newcastle a month ago to land the Pitmen's Derby.
The ante-post betting has been dominated by Overturn and Dirar, a typically versatile horse from the Gordon Elliott yard which relishes a fast surface, with late money materialising as well for Bahrain Storm, New Phase and now Lethal Weapon, which has been prepped on the flat lately.
Tactics will be important, and as it often pays to follow a horse close to, or up with, the gallop on this ground the percentage call is Overturn to stake his claim promptly and thus foil the likes of Dirar and Jigalo.
Verdict -- Overturn for the prize.
Perfect Pint Beginners Chase (1.50)
Bronte Bay sets the standard on form this summer and his 123 rating makes him a serious contender, with Ball Of Blue likely to make the frame as well. However, the outcome may revolve around how Prince Erik fares on his latest run over fences, as there's no doubting the ability of this runner-up to Buena Vista for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March, where his abundant stamina was in evidence.
Verdict -- Prince Erik the class act.
St James's Gate Novice Chase (2.25)
Adajal, whose winning streak ended at Wexford, and Tribes And Banner give the Charlie Swan stable a strong hand. Cruising Katie seems to excel over a longer trip at Limerick and the versatile Beau Michael won't be short of admirers either, but it could be more profitable to row in with the easy Newton Abbot victor Blacktoft.
Verdict -- Blacktoft is worth an interest.
Guinness Time Handicap (3.00)
Sprinting exponent Mountain Coral tops the scale in an effort to get his career back on the rails and it looks a daunting task, even allowing for his decent draw. Final Flashback, far from disgraced behind Ask Jack in Tuesday's feature, makes a quick return and should make his presence felt as he's a past course and distance scorer.
Luttrell Lady, which like Final Flashback might prefer an extra furlong or so, should prosper if there's a proper pace and her 7lb Curragh penalty might not spoil the party for her connections as she's drawn towards the favoured rail.
Verdict -- Luttrell Lady should go well.
Guinness Fillies Handicap (3.35)
Lots of winning form to sort out in a very open-looking affair as Miss Eze, which got up in the dying strides to win on Tuesday, tries to defy her mandatory penalty and last week's easy Ballinrobe scorer The Silver Crown steps up in grade too despite a massive 22lb ratings hike.
A posse of their rivals likewise come very much into the mix, with the plum draw favouring Smart Striking, and previous course and distance form pointing strongly to Miranda's Girl.
Verdict -- Smart Striking may deliver again.
Signature Novice Hurdle (4.10)
This preceding conditions hurdle could be dominated by Elliott's hat-trick seeker Bacher Boy, which is rated 121, and Sabrina Harty's equally progressive mare Cooper's Crest, fresh from a bloodless Limerick victory and now on a mark of 125 after her Tipperary third to Bahrain Storm and Cuan Na Grai.
Vivaldi and Persian Gayle bring enviable current form into the event, while Dreadnot and Bootlegger in particular should not be dismissed lightly either.
Verdict -- Bacher Boy loves this trip.
Guinness Storehouse Flat Race (6.05)
The pair to concentrate on form-wise are Cork runner-up Summertime Solo and Total Pleasure, which went close to making a winning debut at Wexford when just outpaced close home by Maggie Connolly over this trip. Johny's Lantern is probably the pick of the newcomers.
Verdict -- Total Pleasure to open his account.