Wednesday 13 December 2017

Saratoga can keep Whelan in touch

Jockey Ronan Whelan will be on board Saratoga Baby
Jockey Ronan Whelan will be on board Saratoga Baby
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Reigning champion apprentice Ronan Whelan has his work cut out trying to keep tabs on Connor King, but Saratoga Baby could help his cause at Down Royal.

After the rivals had a winner each at last night's Leopardstown meeting, Whelan remains eight adrift of King in the young riders' championship. Still, there is a long way to go yet, and Peter Fahey's mare appeals as nap material in the 10-furlong fillies' handicap to help keep Whelan in touch.

The back-to-form Strandfield Lady tops the weights under King in this decent little seven-runner affair, but Saratoga Baby's effort in defeat at the Curragh on Saturday is the smartest piece of current form.

A staying-on second to the highly progressive Pearl Of Africa over a mile, it was the third time in four starts that she filled that berth. Saratoga Baby now returns to this longer trip, and that ought to suit.

In the Magners Irish Cider Maiden, Jamie Piggott has his second ride aboard Tommy Stack's Captain Moonlite. While the son of riding legend Lester has a live chance on the twice-placed juvenile, Harlem Shake's overall profile is more robust. Ger Lyons' son of Moss Vale was placed in three runs over seven furlongs prior to proving one-paced over six at the Curragh on Sunday.

Harlem Shake steps back up in trip again here, so he and Gary Carroll could foil Piggott's quest for a first win. Lyons and Stack horses also look likely to fight it out for the 10-furlong three-year-old handicap, with Lyons again expected to shade that with Minister Of Mayhem. Although still a maiden, Colin Keane's mount was a decent second to Great Explorer off tonight's mark of 76 in a Leopardstown handicap recently. If he builds on that now, he can account for Stack's Cork winner, Overland Express.

In the €20,000 Her Majesty's Plate, promising three-year-olds Dabadiyan and Royal Irish Hussar take on six older rivals that will ask plenty of their younger upstarts. With Royal Irish Hussar's hapless Killarney victim Train Of Thought since winning in a canter at Ballinrobe, the Ballydoyle colt brings eye-catching form to the table.

Nonetheless, Mick Halford's Aga Khan-owned Dabadiyan might have his measure. Readily successful off a mark of 92 last time, the Declan McDonogh-ridden dual Curragh winner has the scope to go on to even better things after this.

At Wexford, Arthur Moore's Drumlister is fancied in the Martinstown Opportunity Hurdle. Unlucky when unseating at the last over fences at the south-eastern venue last time, Gareth Malone's mount previously finished second to John The Soldier over flights at Tramore – form that received a significant boost when Ray Hurley's horse won again at Tipperary on Sunday.

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