Richard Forristal: Sunday service
Outsider to note
In a massively competitive Helicentre Liverpool Handicap Hurdle at Aintree tomorrow, Peter Bowen's Markington can make the frame at a big price.
Sent off at odds of 12/1 before pulling up quickly after the first hurdle at Cheltenham last week, the 10-time winner is obviously none the worse for that disappointing knock. In another open race, he is expected to trade at similar odds.
On his three most recent hurdling outings prior to Cheltenham, Markington improved for the step up to three miles.
He twice finished second before producing an excellent turn when winning easily over course and distance in June.
Tom O'Brien's mount is 15lbs higher for this test, but having exited early at Cheltenham, he deserves the benefit of the doubt now that he returns to the scene of his finest hour on suitably dry ground.
Galway 3.10 -- Vivaldi
Galway 3.40 -- The Shepherd King
Galway 4.45 -- Realt Dubh
Aintree 3.20 -- Markington
Monday: Galway, Leopardstown, Kempton (AW), Leicester, Southwell (AW).
Tuesday: Punchestown, Catterick, Taunton, Yarmouth.
Wednesday: Punchestown, Haydock, Kempton* (AW), Musselburgh, Nottingham.
Thursday: Clonmel, Fontwell, Lingfield (AW), Stratford, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Newmarket, Uttoxeter, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Saturday: Naas, Ascot, Ayr, Newmarket, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Sunday: Cork, Leopardstown, Carlisle, Huntingdon, Lingfield (AW).
Quote of the week
"I am not going to do the usual thing for a trainer or tell the jockey to say he is the best horse they have ever ridden. That's all right for three-year-olds when they are going to stud. We have a long way to go." -- Henry Cecil attempts to play down the hype following Frankel's latest triumph.
Three things we
learned this week
1 The National Stud could do with a reality check. After a year of controversy, the semi-State company did little to enhance its image by increasing the fee for its best stallion, Invincible Spirit, to €65,000 for 2011.
Up 44pc from €45,000, seemingly on the back of producing one juvenile Group One winner, Hooray, the policy is spectacularly out of sync with the rest of the industry.
Just days later, Rathbarry Stud in Cork, whose Tagula (€4,000) and Acclamation (€15,000) this year saw their respective sons Canford Cliffs and Equiano win four more Group Ones, and whose Presenting was champion NH sire for a fourth time, announced a price freeze for 2011.
Right now, with breeders struggling all over the country, it is studs like Rathbarry that are showing the way.
2 For the first time since 1997, Aidan O'Brien is on the verge of not training a two-year-old winner in England.
Initially renowned on the Flat for producing precocious two-year-olds, O'Brien's debut winner in England was Harbour Master in the 1997 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, a couple of months before Saratoga Springs won the Acomb at York en route to scraping home in the Racing Post Trophy.
That was O'Brien's first English Group One, and today's 2010 renewal offers a last chance to maintain the record. It looks a big ask, but you wouldn't put it past him.
3 Frankel really is all that. Having looked invincible in lesser company, the Galileo colt comprehensively won last week's Dewhurst despite making things difficult for himself.
Clearly immensely talented, there is no one you could trust more than Henry Cecil to get the best out of him again next year. Something to look forward to.