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Saint Roque can add to blossoming reputation

Tomorrow's novice hurdle at Hereford promises to be a cracking little contest.

There are a bundle of well-bred contenders among the 13-strong field, many of which began life on the Irish point-to-point circuit.

AP McCoy rides the Nicky Henderson-trained Ballybough Gorta, a half-brother to the 2006 Kevin McManus Novice Chase winner Openide, that is making its first start since sluicing up at Oldcastle in April.

Noel Fehily partners the Dromahane winner Western King for his boss Charlie Mann, while the March Lingstown scorer Presented represents the up-and-coming handler Graeme McPherson.

Paul Nicholls saddles two runners, and it is his Saint Roque that is surely the most interesting runner in the race.

A half-brother to Colm Murphy's classy chaser Quito De La Roque, this one followed Nicholls' tried and tested practice of spending its early days in the care of Liam Burke in Cork.

On its debut at Dromahane in March, the son of Lavirco was a well-backed favourite, and made no mistake under Derek O'Connor to score an emphatic victory.

His reputation has only grown since, with the second, third and fourth home -- all of which trailed hopelessly in his wake -- winning next time. Given his profile, it's hard to see beyond Saint Roque here, even allowing for the decent quality of opposition.

Ironically, in the subsequent novice hurdle, David Pipe saddles another brother of Quito De La Roque's, the slightly less prodigious Wings Of Icarus. Again, this one started out with Burke, though it only barely survived a last-fence stumble to share the spoils on its Ballindenisk debut in May.

The form of that race hasn't worked out especially well, but the four-year-old again did just enough to collect on its first outing for Pipe in a Plumpton bumper, despite looking all at sea without anything to jump when the pressure came on.

Tomorrow, Wings Of Icarus gets to cross a bunch of hurdles when he steps up in trip to two and a half miles and it would be no surprise if he were to find enough to collect once more.

Outsider to note

Constant Cupid

Constant Cupid has a chance to leave behind a couple of fairly tame efforts to play a significant hand in the concluding handicap hurdle at tomorrow's Hereford meeting.

Graeme McPherson's seven-year-old brought the curtain down on the last campaign with a hopeless effort at Chepstow, before never getting into contention on its reappearance at Exeter recently.

However, Hereford is a track that he won easily at prior to Chepstow, and the step up to three and a quarter miles should be in his favour.

More than that, the handicapper has dropped Constant Cupid five pounds for his last two outings, so when you factor in Killian Moore's 10lb claim, he runs off a rating tomorrow that is just a pound higher than when he won here in January.

He should trade at decent odds, but is far from a no-hoper now that he has a run under his belt.

Sunday Yankee

Herefrod 12.45 -- Saint Roque

Hereford 1.15 -- Wings Of Icarus

Hereford 3.45 -- Constant Cupid

Cork 2.50 -- Tellherimnothere

Numbers game

70,000 What the prolific race-mare For Bill sold for at Goffs on Wednesday.

45 Millions of euro that Horse Racing Ireland has to fund racing in 2012. A 2pc drop on this year, the figure represents 80pc of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund's government grant of €56.2m.

2 The number of Irish-trained winners at Wolverhampton last night. Cri Na Mara obliged for Mark McNiff, while Orpens Peach did the business for Seamus Fahey. Both were ridden by the Donegal-born champion apprentice Martin Harley.

Quote of the week

"It's a relatively small injury and if he was a younger horse he'd definitely be back next season. But it's better it happens at home than blow a tendon on a racecourse. He owes nobody anything, he's been a fantastic horse and he'll have the best of everything now" -- Paul Nicholls pays tribute to the mighty Denman after announcing his retirement yesterday.

Three things we

learned this week

1 The Cheltenham stewards erred yesterday in banning Adrian Heskin for 12 days for taking the wrong course in the cross-country race.

Having led the field, amateur rider Jacqueline Coward was clearly in the wrong and had to be sanctioned, but the decision to then single out Heskin -- when six other riders were equally culpable of being led the wrong side of a rail -- stunned this observer.

Richard Johnson, who was lying second down the inner with daylight in front of him, was not found guilty, claiming to have tried to go the right way.

His indecision led to his horse falling and bringing down Heskin on A New Story, so how Michael Hourigan's young rider was deemed to have done anything unique that warranted a ban over the others is mind-boggling.

He should appeal, and not leave London until he gets the ban overturned. Either that or the BHA will have to retrospectively sanction the others.

2 The career of one of racing's finest modern-day chasers came to an end with Denman's retirement yesterday. Alongside his great rival and stable-mate Kauto Star, Denman's brave performances, both in victory and defeat, defined an era that will long be cherished. He gave everything he could every time -- and he had lots to give.

3 Reports that legislation will be implemented to tax online betting in the first quarter of 2012 should be taken lightly. This is a can that has been kicked down the road for 18 months and here's one correspondent that doesn't think its done being kicked yet.

Racing Diary

Monday: Fakenham, Wolverhampton (AW)

Tuesday: Catterick, Folkestone, Southwell (AW)

Wednesday: Bangor, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Newbury

Thursday: Gowran Park, Exeter, Kempton* (AW), Southwell (AW), Towcester

Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Ascot, Southwell (AW), Uttoxeter, Wolverhampton* (AW)

Saturday: Fairyhouse, Ascot, Haydock, Lingfield (AW), Newcastle

Sunday: Navan, Carlisle, Kempton (AW)

Irish Independent