Richard Forristal: Sunday service
Outsider to note
In a wide-open Greatwood Handicap Hurdle that could be run on soft ground at Cheltenham tomorrow, St Devote looks far too big at up to 25/1 with a number of firms.
Eoin Griffin's charge was consistent in a handful of novice events during the summer, but the Kilkenny-based handler always insisted that he would be a different proposition on slower ground.
That theory was confirmed when St Devote won cosily under Barry Geraghty at Listowel in September, and Griffin subsequently stated that he would train his five-year-old for tomorrow's two-miler.
Having won in Kerry off 118, St Devote's British rating of 133 looks steep, but he has also been put up to 126 by the Irish assessor. With the leading claimer Eddie O'Connell taking five pounds off St Devote's back, it may be worth speculating that the handicappers are justified in their opinions.
Punchestown 1.05 -- Realt Dubh
Punchestown 1.40 -- Sam Adams
Punchestown 2.15 -- Solwhit
Cheltenham 2.20 -- St Devote
3,400 -- What the fourth, and last, horse home will earn in Euros in tomorrow's Grade One Hurdle at Punchestown.
38 --The number of Group One winners Johnny Murtagh rode on Aidan O'Brien-trained horses since his appointment as first jockey at Ballydoyle in 2008.
6 -- Noel Fehily's tally from just 10 rides for Paul Nicholls before the Open meeting got under way yesterday.
Quote of the week
"There's no point in doing a job unless you're totally happy and Johnny must have his reasons for taking the action he did. He's a very sensible person" -- Johnny Murtagh receives the backing of Richard Hughes, who, along with Pat Smullen, ruled himself out of the running for the soon-to-be vacant No 1 spot at Ballydoyle from the get-go.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Noel Fehily finally looks like getting the opportunities his talent deserves. The west Cork native signed up for the No 2 position at Jonjo O'Neill's in 2005. However, with Tony McCoy a permanent fixture there, high-profile openings were scarce. This year, Paul Nicholls began using Fehily just weeks before Ruby Walsh got injured at Down Royal. Walsh's misfortune presented a timely opening and Nicholls has belatedly discovered just how dependable the 36-year-old Fehily is with a glut of winners. On Monday, the bookies suspended betting on who would replace Walsh on Kauto Star because of a marked interest in Fehily at 25/1. Don't be surprised if gets the nod.
2 Davy Russell will give the jockeys' championship a rattle yet. Broken up on three occasions this term, Russell could have been forgiven for thinking his search for an elusive first title would have to wait until at least next season. He has been runner-up to Ruby Walsh four times in a row, but the gap of 21 between him and leader Paul Carberry is surmountable. It's only November, Walsh is out until February, while Carberry, also injured, may not have as much firepower to call on as Russell. He's back in the game.
3 Zenyatta's effort in the Breeders' Cup Classic was phenomenal. The American wonder mare was effectively tailed off early on last Saturday, before scything through the field in the straight. She failed by a head, but, somehow, that didn't seem to matter. What a mare.
Monday: Leicester, Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW).
Tuesday: Fakenham, Folkestone, Southwell (AW).
Wednesday: Limerick, Hexham, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Warwick.
Thursday: Thurles, Hereford, Market Rasen, Wincanton, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Ascot, Exeter Musselburgh, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Saturday: Gowran Park, Ascot, Haydock, Huntingdon, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW).
Sunday: Navan, Aintree, Kelso, Towcester.