Friday 19 January 2018

Martin Scruff can get back on track

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Davy Condon takes over from Paul Carberry at Navan tomorrow when Martin Scruff bids to leave behind what was a controversial defeat under the former champion jockey at Punchestown last month.

Carberry, who came in for extensive criticism for leaving the Gordon Elliott-trained five-year-old with too much to do that day despite seeming to travel best even after the field landed over the last hurdle, partners Empire Theatre in tomorrow's handicap hurdle for his boss Noel Meade.

That one ran well when third at Navan recently and ought to be in the shake-up again, but Martin Scruff remains a horse to keep on side.

Six days prior to the Punchestown drama, Martin Scruff had hosed up under Carberry at Thurles. At the Kildare venue, he was odds-on in a 22-runner handicap to defy a 4lb penalty, and would have obliged but for Carberry's faux pas.

He is 14lbs higher tomorrow in a better race, but that might not be enough to stall his progress.

Hidden Cyclone's presence on the Co Meath track's card will be another huge draw for punters. John 'Shark' Hanlon's high-class six-year-old faces just three rivals in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Hurdle, none of which should trouble him. Despite not pleasing his handler with his hurdling technique at Thurles last time, Hidden Cyclone did little wrong when accounting for a number of useful opponents that day.

He steps up to two miles and seven furlongs for a first time tomorrow, and the longer distance should benefit this fine big chasing sort.

Ruby Walsh is also in action at Navan. The Kildare native was lucky to escape serious injury in a bone-crunching fall at Naas on Wednesday, and he takes just one ride here on Willie Mullins' Rattan.


The Royal Anthem gelding failed to inspire much confidence in two tries over flights already, but this isn't a great race and average improvement should see him thereabouts.

If he is to score, he will have to reverse placings with Great Value. Dessie Hughes' representative was 10 lengths to the good in second when they met at Naas, but he is more exposed with five hurdling starts to his name already.

They also race at Limerick tomorrow, where an excellent card gets under way at 2.25. Among the stars on show are two of Presenting's classier offspring, For Bill and Lovethehigherlaw.

Kanturk-based Mick Winters has done a tremendous job with For Bill, the mare's wins-to-runs ratio now standing at 11-14.

She must concede weight to each of her six opponents in the Dawn Run Mares' Chase, but you'd struggle to nominate one of the six that will give her a run for the €27,625 winner's pot.

Lovethehigherlaw's task is unlikely to be any more complicated in the Kevin Frost Memorial Bumper.

With his owner Michael O'Leary not so keen on the Champion Bumper, it was decided to give Cheltenham a miss with the former Bandon point-to-point winner, so taking him on tomorrow wouldn't seem advisable.

Mullins might also collect with Dare To Doubt in a fine renewal of the Kerry Group EBF Mares' Novice Hurdle, a race that he won with Morning Supreme last year. At least half of the 12-strong field are good enough to win this on their day, but Dare To Doubt may be a bit special, and she is taken to score at Definite Class's expense.

Paul Nolan, who has Golden Sunbird in the mares' hurdle, could land a brace courtesy of Zagman and Politeo. If they produce their best form, the Gigginstown-owned duo will be hard to beat in the maiden hurdle and beginners' chase, respectively.

Irish Independent

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