Sunday 18 February 2018

Venalmar can upset stars at Ballybrit

Damien McElroy

Local trainer Paul Gilligan's Cheltenham Festival hero Berties Dream and Noel Meade's money-spinner Donnas Palm, of which Taoiseach Brian Cowen is one of the gelding's beneficial owners, are the high-profile performers on view at Galway this afternoon.

The final fixture of the year at Ballybrit, where their summer festival managed to defy the worst excesses of the recession, promises to be quite an informative affair particularly where an ultra-competitive W. B. Gavin & Co EBF Beginners' Chase is concerned.

Berties Dream, which missed the Punchestown Festival three-mile Grade One hurdle in which Jessies Dream was seventh to Quevega due to a mishap in transit, launches over the larger obstacles in opposition to Gordon Elliott's charge which, likewise, is making his seasonal debut.

Now in the colours of Britain's former champion owner David Johnson, Jessies Dream gained valuable experience over fences at Leopardstown last winter but needs to brush up on his technique to fulfil his potential and might be best watched today.

Unless the heavy showers forecast for later this evening materialise earlier, Berties Dream may not be fully effective, although he's won over hurdles here before and on reasonable going Andrew Lynch's mount could struggle somewhat to keep tabs on the Mouse Morris-trained Venalmar, which made quite an encouraging comeback from injury at Navan last month when taking third behind yesterday's costly casualty Realt Dubh.

Mouse Morris has always held Venalmar in the highest regard and it's surely no coincidence that the Galway native has chosen this particular event for the eight-year-old as he took the prize a year ago with recent dual scorer China Rock.

The latter's new partner Ruby Walsh is another positive element for followers of the Morris runner and the champion jockey, whose Wexford exertions were cut short yesterday by that card's early abandonment, can also hit the target on the double over hurdles.

Runner-up both at Tipperary on her jumping debut and in a bumper here to Natural High on her debut, Apt Manor stands out for the Willie Mullins yard in the Mocha Beans Maiden for mares, and Walsh's mount Prosperity Square could defy a 10lb hike in the ratings for their Clonmel success last month in the John Mulholland Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle, which the Kildare rider collected on a well-backed Beroni for Mullins a year ago.

Despite the presence of top-weight Natural High and Quartetto, third to Fosters Cross at Navan recently, Donnas Palm is napped to revert successfully to the level with Nina Carberry's assistance in the amateur Flat race and stable companion Prima Vista appeals too in the opening maiden hurdle.

Irish Independent

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