Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

Murtagh has eyes on main prize, but Weld the man to follow again

Galloping grey Vastonea, under Decland MCDonogh, edges out Pintura (left) in last year's Topaz Mile - the pair renew rivalry in this evening's feature
Galloping grey Vastonea, under Decland MCDonogh, edges out Pintura (left) in last year's Topaz Mile - the pair renew rivalry in this evening's feature
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Vastonea and Pintura, first and second after an epic tussle in last year's Topaz Galway Mile, are once again among a highly competitive 18-strong line-up for this year's day two showpiece at the Ballybrit venue.

Having been overhauled by Kevin Prendergast's charge after doing all the donkey work 12 months ago, Pintura went on to make amends for his Yorkshire-based, Tipperary-born trainer Kevin Ryan later in the week.

He was the sole cross-channel winner here in 2012, and Ryan, a native of Golden, employs the high-flying apprentice Connor King in his bid to go one better in tonight's €115,000 event.

Prestigious

It is an absolutely tip-top renewal of the prestigious handicap that features live contenders from the stables of Dermot Weld (Tandem), Aidan O'Brien (Fortify), Jim Bolger (Beyond Thankful) and Johnny Murtagh (Campanology), with Pintura one of three raiders on duty.

The only other to make the journey from across the water is Woolcombe Folly in the Latin Quarter Chase, a cracking little heat that wouldn't look out of place in the depths of winter with Rathlin and Hidden Cyclone in attendance.

Paul Nicholls' sole runner here this week, Woolcombe Folly will be the first horse from the famous Ditcheat stable to be steered by Ruby Walsh since the imperious rider announced the end of his formal link with Nicholls in May. While victory for the partnership that teamed up with Oslot for Plate success in 2008 would hardly constitute a return to the glory days, it would still be an apt nod to their stellar legacy.

However, don't be surprised if this is another good night for Weld, with the 'King of Ballybrit' faniced to land himself a hat-trick.

5.05 Topaz Novice Hurdle 2M

Diplomat would obviously contend if he turns out, though there must be a doubt about that as he ran here yesterday. Shamar will doubtless be popular under Walsh.

He won in style for a second time on the spin at Killarney, but he is a speedy sort that looks as though he needs fast ground to show his best. Bob Le Beau, Cracking Man and Que Pasa have all won over flights, as has Elegant Statesman.

A Cork bumper winner in the autumn, he made a smooth hurdling bow for his new connections at Limerick in May and won't mind getting his toe in here.

VERDICT

JP McManus' Elegant Statesman appeals as nap material.

5.40 Latin Quarter Chase 2M 6F

Woolcombe Folly ran well to be second under a big weight in Market Rasen's valuable summer chase. As the top-rated runner, he comes out well at the weights here. Canaly and Dantes King have a bit to find on figures but may yet have more to give. However, this could be played out between Rathlin and Hidden Cyclone.

Both are smart operators, though Hidden Cyclone hasn't run since falling on the last of three sub-standard turns at Navan in February. Rathlin, on the other hand, has been rejuvenated of late, posting two resounding wins at Killarney and Punchestown.

Verdict

Rathlin can stamp his authority on this for Davy Russell.

6.10 Topaz EBF  Fillies' Maiden 7F

Ballybacka Queen and Calorie would take plenty beating in an average maiden, but they could meet a filly of immense potential in Tarfasha. Dermot Weld's filly is a three-parts sister to Saddler's Rock and Galileo Rock.

She was handled really tenderly when failing by just a quarter of a length to pass Geoffrey Chaucer in a Leopardstown maiden 12 days ago, and is certain to improve.

Verdict

It will be one of the shocks of the week if Tarfasha gets beaten.

6.45 Topaz Mile Handicap 1M

Last year's winner Vastonea has a less favourable draw this time and hasn't been running as well as he was 12 months ago, though he doesn't mind a bit of cut.

Pintura, second in this last year before winning later in the week, is of slightly more interest despite not running well on fast ground the last time out.

Unlike those two, Ansgar – which had Fortify behind when scoring at the Curragh at the end of June – might not be well suited by the easy underfoot conditions.

Fortify eventually brought a run of four seconds to an end when cruising home in a Naas conditions race. The Ballydoyle inmate is still progressive but has a lot of weight for a three-year-old.

Tandem consigned Fortify to the runner-up berth at Leopardstown two weeks ago. A maiden winner here last year, he is ground versatile and could yet prove a class act.

Campanology is another to consider. An eye-catcher when staying on at the Curragh in May, seven furlongs on fast ground at Ascot wasn't testing enough last time, so this terrain will be more up his street.

Verdict

Campanology can prove a notable winner for Murtagh from a decent draw.

7.15 Caulfied Industrial.com EBF MAIDEN 7F

This is about as bad a race as will be run at this festival. Our Max, Fulminata, Tax Reform and Sister Slew have showed a modicum of ability, with any market move for the Dermot Weld newcomer Pirate Cove likely to be the main topic of significance.

Verdict

Pirate Cove gets a tentative nod to make a successful debut.

7.45 Caulfield Industrial Athlone Handicap 7F

A full nine years after his first victory here, Fit The Cove vies for Galway win number six on his seasonal bow. At 13, he is probably up against it.

The ground may not suit the in-form Knights Templar, though the likes of him, September Lily, Almadaa, Sophies Echo and Lily Of Kenmare usually run their race.

Indian Landing has the plum inside draw. He scored here two years ago, and was just denied by yesterday's winner Target Acquired on his turf return at Cork in June.

Verdict

Indian Landing is trusted to defy his big burden under Pat Smullen.

8.15 Caulfield Handicap 2M

Beau Michael made light of top-weight to prevail at the Curragh, so couldn't be discounted under a top-class apprentice. Face Value ran well in Bellewstown and won here over hurdles in 2012, while Dancers Dilemma makes its handicap bow. The former bumper winner could have a favourable mark.

Verdict

Dancers Dilemma looks another ideal candidate from the Weld yard.

Irish Independent

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