Monday 18 December 2017

Rock Critic can call tune to keep Weld juggernaut in cruise control

Successful at Galway on
Thursday, Rock Critic and Pat
Smullen can strike again in
today’s feature at Ballybrit
Successful at Galway on Thursday, Rock Critic and Pat Smullen can strike again in today’s feature at Ballybrit

A hectic week in Ballybrit begins to wind down with a busy card this afternoon, the feature of which is the seven-furlong handicap, running for a first time under the sponsorship of Ladbrokes.

If recent history is anything to go by, the €42,000 contest should provide the bookmaking firm with a generous dividend; in the last eight years, not a single favourite has obliged.

Ask Jack, runner-up in 2010 for a second time in a row, headed the market 12 months ago on the back of his win earlier in the week. He carries top weight once again today, though a disappointing effort on Tuesday means that he is unlikely to have to shoulder the burden of favouritism as well.

That distinction looks sure to fall the way of Thursday's devastating winner Rock Critic -- a typical Dermot Weld representative that saves its very best for around here.

Pat Smullen's mount, bidding for a third successive Galway Festival triumph, is campaigned increasingly sparingly.

Given that he was only making his seasonal bow on Thursday and that Weld described him as an at times difficult individual following his facile win, you wouldn't bank on seeing him again before this time next year.

Still, if he lands the odds under his 5lb penalty, you won't hear too many people complaining about that. A well-supported favourite on both of his previous wins here, Rock Critic would be doing punters another good turn if he can end the market leaders' rotten record in the race.

Beyond that, little else matters right now.

2.25 Jockeys Association Maiden Hurdle

Despite having won a bumper here on his debut in 2009, this is a first hurdling start for Natural High. He has since been placed three times at Galway and, while he was a never dangerous seventh on Monday, he could take plenty of beating now.

His stable-mate Duc De Savoie finished fourth on his jumping debut at Cork in January. With Paul Townend up, that one must enter calculations again here.

There's little to choose between the rest. Carbon Credit has been placed on his last two starts, and that is probably the best recent jumping form on offer.

Verdict -- Natural High looks a potent proposition.

2.55 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle

Sebadee got his act together in breathtaking fashion at Killarney last time but this is a much hotter contest. He will find life tough off a 10lb higher mark. Eagle's Pass has finished second in a Galway Hurdle before and didn't run badly when fourth to Fosters Cross on Monday, so he could figure prominently.

London Bridge was second to Princeton Plains on Tuesday, and his overall form reads well. Off just 10st 3lb, he should again go close.

There are plenty others with chances. Leblon has been in good nick of late, while Alfa Beat also catches the eye in first-time blinkers.

Verdict -- London Bridge may not be badly treated.

3.30 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Nursery Handicap

Dermot Weld hasn't won this for eight years but Blue White Fire has strong claims. He won a fair maiden at Gowran Park in May, and could be up to carrying top weight.

Dark Passion, nearly eight lengths behind that day, is 10lbs better off here. A winner at Bellewstown since, he should at least get much closer to Blue White Fire. Vault could also run well. The Curragh victor was simply outclassed in a Group Two last time, and his rider is value for his three-pound claim.

Verdict -- Blue White Fire is fancied to concede the weight.

4.0 Ladbrokes 'Best Prices' Handicap

Given his superiority on Thursday, Rock Critic has strong claims under a penalty. From a low draw, he has lots in his favour around a course at which he excels.

The negatives are that he hasn't won over as short as today's seven furlongs, and that he could 'bounce', having not run since September before Thursday.

Jamesie steps up in trip having won his last two starts over five and six furlongs. He has been in excellent heart all season but he is up another seven pounds now. Northern Rocked, Sean Og Coulston and Castle Bar Sling are others with chances.

On just his third start this year, the last named may be the pick of those.

Verdict -- Rock Critic is the nap selection.

4.30 EBF Maiden

Hit The Jackpot, sporting first-time blinkers, will surely be popular in this. However, the more solid form belongs to Mannheim.

On his only previous start, Mannheim was third to two useful colts, Triumphant and Secretary Of State. Coming from Ballydoyle, you would expect him to improve now.

All Approved has ability but has already had four chances, while John Oxx's newcomer Shareni would be one to monitor in the market.

Verdict -- Mannheim's form looks solid.

5.0 Handicap

Formal Bid has really found his groove lately. While both of his wins this month have come over a mile and a half, he has also previously scored over this two-mile trip.

Reach The Stars, wearing blinkers on its first try at the trip, cannot be discounted, and neither can Pozyc. That one, which ran nicely to be fourth on Wednesday, could improve for the longer journey. Striking Force is another to consider -- he did well to be second to Rainforest Magic in what was a better race over the same distance on Tuesday.

Verdict -- Striking Force's run on Tuesday sets a fair standard.

5.30 Get To Ladbrokes INH Flat Race

Having raced keenly before finishing second on its debut at Ballinrobe, Robin Angevin can be expected to settle better now that he has the benefit of that experience. He could be hard to beat.

On a line through Robin Angevin's conqueror Oscar Wings, Moscow Mannon, which had Oscar Wings behind when third on its only outing at Down Royal, could be the main danger.

That one also hails from a yard that knows how to train bumper winners.

Verdict -- Robin Angevin gets the nod to build on its debut.

Irish Independent

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