Richard Forristal: Sunday service
Outsider to note
Flemensford, which gets in off 10st in the Newton Abbot Handicap Hurdle at Limerick tomorrow, isn't without a chance of making the frame at big odds. Eric McNamara's gelding reverts to hurdles on his reappearance, and the local handler has certainly found a very winnable race to start off in.
Despite taking time to find his feet over the bigger obstacles last season, Flemensford eventually won a handicap off a mark of 90 at Navan in January, before finishing with a reasonable effort off 101 at the same track in March.
With that in mind, and having finished a good second on his penultimate hurdling start off 93, there are grounds for believing that tomorrow's rating of 95 is one off which he could well be capable of winning. When you factor in the useful 5lb claim of Pat Mangan, Flemensford's forecast odds of 12/1 look too generous to ignore.
Navan 1.55 -- Hidden Cyclone
Navan 3.35 -- Lucky William
Limerick 1.35 -- Start Me Up
Limerick 2.40 -- Flemensford
Monday: Limerick, Carlisle, Southwell, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Exeter, Lingfield, Sedgefield
Wednesday: Naas, Bangor, Huntingdon, Kempton* (AW), Southwell (AW)
Thursday: Clonmel, Ludlow, Southwell (AW), Taunton, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Cheltenham, Lingfield (AW), Newcastle, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Punchestown, Cheltenham, Lingfield (AW), Uttoxeter, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Sunday: Cork, Punchestown, Cheltenham, Fontwell, Market Rasen
Quote of the week
"We're friendly and we've chatted about our sleepless nights; it would be great if I could win, but I'd hate to see him lose." -- Kildare man Richard Hughes, who has been busy chasing down the long-time British jockeys' championship leader Paul Hanagan, sounds almost apologetic after temporarily closing the gap to just one on Thursday.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Doubts about the Turf Club's ability to properly manage racing on its reduced budget continue to surface. Over the past 18 months, serious race-day issues have arisen as a result of undermanned or insufficiently skilled staff, while friction between the governing body and its employees is due to be played out in the Labour Court. When Wexford had to be abandoned after the third race because of an issue with new drains two weeks ago, the inference was that unsatisfactory staffing procedures were to blame. The loss of Fairyhouse on Wednesday after the fourth race was less contentious, but any day paying customers are sent home without a refund is a bad day for racing. It's one thing having disgruntled staff, quite another to be short-changing customers and bringing the game's integrity into question.
2 Paul Nicholls will continue to push his best horses' limits. Nicholls has rewritten the history books because of his open mind, bold campaigning and fluidity of plans, the most recent example of which has seen him enter Kauto Star in the Hennessy Gold Cup. It's hard to imagine anything carrying weight in such a competitive handicap more impressively than Denman has, but maybe we're about to find out.
3 You can't keep your eyes off the race for the British Flat jockeys' crown. It has been a drama-filled week, with Richard Hughes defying a grounded helicopter to get within one of Paul Hanagan on Thursday, before Hanagan managed to increase his lead to two by last night. With just seven races left today, it should be a grand finale.