Tuesday 20 March 2018

Stonemaster looks rock solid

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On a Punchestown programme that the Michael O'Leary-owned Gigginstown House Stud representatives look sure to play a big part in today, Stonemaster warrants the nap selection in the beginners' chase.

During his second season over hurdles last term, the Dessie Hughes-trained six-year-old always had the cut of a chaser in-the-making about him, though his hurdling record was also impressive.

Twice a winner, including when beating Won In The Dark, Catch Me and Psycho at Cork in March, he competed well in graded company, so his official rating of 149 is entirely deserved.

If Stonemaster runs to that level under Davy Russell now, he should win.

Fists Of Fury, another Gigginstown contender, warrants respect but is the second string on jockey bookings, while the 134-rated On The Way Out is another with a chance.

Russell, who is four clear of the in-form Paul Carberry at the top of the riders' table, might get his and O'Leary's afternoon off on the right foot in the opening maiden hurdles. He is fancied to collect on Sword Of Destiny for Carberry's boss Noel Meade in the two-and-a-half-miler, and on His Excellency in the opening juvenile heat.

If Jessica Harrington's Why But Why leaves behind a poor Listowel turn on heavy going in the latter 18-runner heat, he should put it up to His Excellency.

Nonetheless, Gordon Elliott's charge won with a bit in hand off a mark of 70 on his most recent Flat start at Leopardstown in June, whereas Why But Why struggled above 60. Granted, His Excellency is making his jumping debut, but Elliott is well versed on readying one in such circumstances.

Russell partners John O'Callaghan's smart mare Dazzling Susie in the card's most valuable event, a €16,250 mares' Listed hurdle.

Preferred in what is a cracking contest though, is Shadow Eile, which has the advantage of race-fitness over Dazzling Susie. Jacksons Lady and Chaperoned are others to consider, but Shadow Eile, unbeaten in two over flights, has struck as a classy sort of horse ever since she chased home Samain at The Curragh in April.

Irish Independent

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