Tuesday 20 February 2018

Walsh can land double for O'Hare

Damien McElroy

There's little evidence of the ongoing decline in the number of horses in training here -- revealed in the half-yearly Horse Racing Ireland report -- when you see the fields for the National Hunt cards at Kilbeggan this evening and tomorrow in Downpatrick.

The jumping sphere appears to be bucking the established trend of shrinking stable strengths on the Flat despite the high concentration of summer fixtures, with the slump in the trade from British interests no doubt a major contributory factor.

Thus it's probably a case, in many instances, of running them and hoping for the best. A much better level of prize money here compared to our neighbouring island, gives some reassurance to owners and breeders who cannot sell on, even for modest sums.

Finding winners from the plethora of ordinary performers engaged at the Westmeath and Down venues won't be a straightforward exercise this weekend, when the threat of rain tomorrow evening may not arrive in time to materially change the advance going.

Good ground was reported from Kilbeggan at yesterday's declaration deadline, with the hillier Downpatrick surface said to be riding quicker for a more interesting session expanded to seven races as a result of the division of the Keeping It Country Handicap Hurdle.

This modest event over almost three miles may benefit the McNiff brothers and former champion Noel Meade, as High Talk can follow up his course success in May before owner-trainer Meade's Randoon Hill is nominated to reverse last month's placings here with McSwynes Bay on 5lb better terms.

The honours of the session could go, however, to the O'Hare family in association with leading amateur Katie Walsh, as the hitherto luckless Turner Brown and progressive Henro Boy attempt to improve on their creditable performances at the Galway festival.

Turner Brown rose to a mark of 103 after beating all except the revitalised Kalellshan in handicap company at Ballybrit. It should have the measure of Gordon Elliott's jumping debutant Traffic Article as well as Excellent As Usual, in the Country & Western Raceday Maiden Hurdle. Henro Boy's staying-on fourth to Fort Defiance a fortnight ago suggests Walsh's mount could have the edge over Sainte Careigne in the finale.

Top weight might not anchor Benefit Of Porter, from Pat Sinnott's Wexford yard, in the opening mares maiden hurdle. Sean Thornton's admirably tough and consistent City Hustler could defy a mandatory 6lb penalty for Thursday evening's Sligo success in the Nashville Handicap Hurdle.

It will be interesting also at Kilbeggan this evening to see whether Jim Dreaper's runaway Perth scorer Retrievethelegend or Thomond O'Mara's year-younger Galway hero Bann Man will cope successfully with rises in the ratings for the featured Hackett's Bookmakers Handicap Chase.

The extra three furlongs Bann Man attempts on this occasion may not be ideal, whereas Retrievethelegend, which jumped well to dominate at the Scottish venue, and last month's course victor Ah Ya Boy Ya appear to hold stronger claims stamina-wise.

The latter's stablemate Streets Of Gold would appear to represent banker material for Jackpot investors in the Kieran Kelly Memorial Beginners Chase in which Paddy Curry would be an appropriate winner for connections the young Kildare rider served so well before his tragic, fatal fall at this track.

Tom Taaffe's Ixora was already in the wars at Sligo last month before a loose horse ran her off the track when challenging Mighty Whitey heading to the straight. Compensation surely awaits for David Casey's mount in the Cancer Support Centre Mares Maiden Hurdle.

Other races here over the unforgiving Easyfix obstacles are best left to Jessica Harrington's Tango Knight, which ran Millrock Lady close here last time out and the Pat Martin-trained Lucky At Last despite giving weight to his eight rivals for the Westmeath Hurdle.

Irish Independent

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