Sunday 25 March 2018

Semi colon to make her mark for McCoy

How was it for you? The earth certainly moved for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who seized the honours at Cheltenham. Their combined talents were appropriately showcased by the Champion Hurdle victory of Hurricane Fly. Having been an ardent supporter of the horse throughout his career, it was folly in the extreme to desert him on the big day. And that, in a nutshell, summed it up for yours truly.

I suspect I was far from alone. Despite a record haul for Ireland, its press-room contingent didn't seem to know whether to celebrate the deluge or cry from the hearts of their wallets.

Perhaps you, too, are still trying to work out how the avalanche of Irish winners failed to translate into a healthy profit. Then again, perhaps you made good by backing Ireland to end England's Grand Slam dream at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Cheltenham may have passed in the blink of an eye, but the show goes on. Today is Ladies' Day at Newbury, where mares take centre stage in the pair of EBF finals. Given the need to encourage the training of more mares, it's unfathomable that the hurdles final is worth more than its equivalent over fences.

Go figure.

Nicky Henderson, for one, will breathe more easily for the fact that Ireland has no runner in either race.


Henderson trains for a spate of owner/ breeders, so it's not surprising to see him strongly represented.

He saddles four in the EBF Hurdle Final (2.50), and the assumption must be that Line Freedom, the mount of Barry Geraghty, is his preferred candidate.

Geraghty has the knack of getting it right when obliged to choose between multiple stable runners, but on this occasion Line Freedom is overlooked.

Her sketchy jumping is offputting in a race that has attracted several pace-forcing types -- among them Annimation, Definitely Lovely, Empress Orchid and the ultra-consistent Alverstone, which may consequently be too high in the handicap.

Walsh will be hoping to supplement his Cheltenham gains aboard Violin Davis, but this one is virtually inseparable from Mizzurka on their recent Hereford running. Violin Davis has subsequently obliged from Kells Belle, which is among Henderson's team today, although riding arrangements suggest Kells Belle's should defer to Henderson's Semi Colon.

Tony McCoy's mount is among the most lightly raced in the field and therefore has scope to make the improvement required for victory. She rebounded from a pair of ordinary efforts to score with ease at Exeter, where ground similar to what she encounters today certainly aided her cause.

She is preferred to improvers Wistow and Molly Round, both of which have excelled over longer trips.

Asturienne can turn tables on kerada

NICKY Henderson has prospects of initiating a quick double when he saddles Kerada for the EBF Chase Final (2.15). The progressive seven-year-old, a fine third in the hurdle final 12 months ago, has thrived since graduating to fences over this course in January.

On that occasion Kerada accounted for today's rivals Asturienne and Sway en route to two more bloodless victories, but Asturienne, beaten six lengths then, has excellent prospects of turning the tables on 14lbs better terms.

Asturienne has since posted two victories of her own -- among them a decisive Plumpton defeat of prolific winner Evella -- which has little chance of revenge with a 3lbs pull. Several of these have issues with their jumping and with Easter Legend hailing from a stable presently struggling for winners, Asturienne makes plenty of appeal.

The opening Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (1.45) sees in-form Pullyourfingerout attempt to defy the welter burden of 12st 5lbs as a result of the penalty he incurred for winning earlier this week.

Jeremiah McGrath takes 7lbs off his back, but it's arguable that Pullyourfingerout's stablemate Two Kisses holds stronger claims.

Moose Moran, which flopped badly here three weeks ago, inspires little confidence and while Comedy Act will enjoy this sounder surface, the same applies to Kahfre. The selection got bogged down in the mud after a promising start to his hurdling career, and has since run well on the Flat at Lingfield's all-weather track.

Indeed, Kahfre won there four weeks ago and can repeat the feat on his resumption over timber.

Staying with Newbury, Ogee has sound claims in the Memorial Handicap Chase (3.25) after his solid effort at Doncaster three weeks ago.

That came after a near four-month absence and the eight-year-old, which thrives on good ground, can be expected to strip fitter this time.

Golden Sword has

the cutting edge

Today's Channel 4 diet is supplemented by three all-weather Flat races from Lingfield. However, Flat afficionados are better served by the spate of top-class races this afternoon at Meydan, where the feature race, the Emirates Dubai World Cup (5.35), is live on Channel 4.

The horse to beat here is undoubtedly Henry Cecil's Twice Over, which accounted for Musir with authority over the course and distance three weeks ago.

Musir has little prospects of turning the tables, but Twice Over's prospects are compromised by a wide draw in stall 12. That detail alone makes him worth opposing; he struggled to overcome a similar impost in this race 12 months ago.

Japan's three-pronged attack demands respect -- in particular the in-form Victoire Pisa, yet with none having raced on the Tapeta surface, it's impossible to know how they will fare.

Cape Blanco represents Aidan O'Brien, but with the horse lacking 'previous' on the surface, preference is for a former O'Brien inmate in Golden Sword, now trained by South African Mike de Kock.

Although Golden Sword showed little throughout last year, he has been a revelation since De Kock switched him to Tapeta. He followed a barnstorming run over an inadequate mile by bolting up in a pair of high-class handicaps at the recent Dubai racing carnival.

He broke the track record on the second of them, and his draw in stall 14 is rendered academic by his come-from-behind style. At 16/1 with Corals, he is vastly overpriced. On the same card, De Kock can also strike with River Jetez in the Dubai Duty Free (3.45).

Irish Independent

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