Friday 18 January 2019

'Rest' can prove best for red-hot Hayes

Chris Hayes. Photo: Sportsfile
Chris Hayes. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

With both Limerick and Naas biting the dust due to a further deluge of rain, a seven-race Flat card at Navan today is the only meeting left standing on these shores this weekend.

No awards will be thrown out for best card of the year but beggars can't be choosers and the Listed Cork Stakes (3.20) is an interesting feature race, despite having just four participants.

Former Kildare footballer turned racehorse trainer Willie McCreery took this contest with Downforce last season - when it was held in Cork - and jockey Billy Lee takes the mount as he bids for his fourth win in this race in six years.

Downforce was stone last of nine runners on his seasonal reappearance in a Naas handicap on the opening day of the season, finishing well behind G Force (fourth) and Son Of Rest (fifth) and it's difficult to see a change in fortunes.

For Adrian Paul Keatley's G Force, this is a far cry from beating the likes of Gordon Lord Byron and Sole Power when taking the Haydock Sprint Cup four years ago - when trained by David O'Meara.

G Force hasn't gotten his head in front in his last 21 runs and hasn't looked like doing so.

Although the seven-year-old's reappearance was about as promising as he has looked in recent seasons, this should go the way of Fozzy Stack's Son of Rest, which enjoys a 13lb swing at the weights.

Stack has an improving four-year-old on his hands and his third behind Caravaggio in the Group Two Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh last September is easily the best recent form of this quartet, with his pilot Chris Hayes also in red-hot form in the saddle with seven winners in recent weeks.

Son Of Rest acts well on heavy ground and should be able to improve on his Listed second at Navan in October to get off the mark at this level.

The opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden (2.10) can go the way of King of Leinster for Thurles trainer James Barrett, with apprentice Willie Byrne taking off a valuable 10lb.

The three-year-old was no match for a smart pair in Iiex Excelsa and Luzum at Cork last week over 7f but showed good early speed, with the step back to the minimum trip of 5f set to play to his strengths on ground which should suit.

Inscribe goes in search of a hat-trick on his seasonal bow in the Bective Restaurant At Navan Racecourse Handicap (4.30) after stepping out of maiden company to take back-to-back handicaps.

Ger Lyons' charge is likely to be little value at the head of the market, however, and may need the run, so preference is for Keep Believing, aptly-named given Brian Nolan's four-year-old failed to land a gamble at Cork last weekend.

He disappointed then but is generally consistent and with Gavin Ryan - who was on board when he scored at Roscommon last September - in the saddle and claiming 7lb, he can return to winning ways this time out.

Elsewhere, Grade One entries for the final three days of the Punchestown Festival later this month feature Cheltenham Festival winners Penhill, Footpad, Samcro and Farclas.

The Willie Mullins-trained Penhill was a superb winner of the Stayers' Hurdle and could attempt to double up in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers' Hurdle, although stable-mate Footpad is unlikely to take in the Ryanair Novice Chase, with Aintree on the exciting novice chaser's agenda instead.

Gordon Elliott's Samcro has a host of entries including the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle along with Gigginstown stable companions Apple's Jade and Mengli Khan but the precocious six-year-old is expected to tackle the Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle, setting up a fascinating duel with Mullins' Laurina.

British representation is strong at the Kildare track with La Bague Au Roi leading their charge in the Stayers' Hurdle for trainer Warren Greatrex.

"She's had a wind op since Cheltenham and she wants three miles. I won the race two years ago and I think that she will win a Grade One, I'm hoping this is the one," he said.

Irish Independent

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