Saturday 24 February 2018

War can aid O'Brien's title bid

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Just five days after opening his Irish account at the Curragh, Declaration Of War is fancied to do a bit more for Joseph O'Brien's jockeys' championship bid when he tackles the featured Diamond Stakes at Dundalk tonight.

O'Brien will endeavour to steal a march on Pat Smullen, whom he currently shares the lead with on 75, by also participating in the first part of this afternoon's mixed card at Gowran Park.

The Diamond Stakes, however, is the pick of the day's action, a highly competitive €57,500 Group Three over 10 furlongs.

Of the 13 runners, Black Spirit and Prince Alzain represent the cross-channel raiders, while David Wachman's consistent Aloof, successful at this level at Gowran recently, appeals as a live threat. If Sunday's efforts have taken a toll on Declaration Of War, Aloof is progressive enough to make the most of her weight allowance; if the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt is none the worse, this ought to be within his capabilities.

Twice a ready winner in France at the end of last year, Declaration Of War showed his potential with an encouraging fourth to Famous Name on his belated debut at the Curragh last month. He improved for that to record a routine win against some useful opposition in testing ground on Sunday so, back on the sort of artificial surface that he was so effective on in France, he is expected to prove a formidable rival now.

Smullen's best prospects are in the earlier juvenile races. Dermot Weld's Cocktail Hour, placed in all three starts to date, is going to take all the beating in the fillies' edition, while he can land the nap on Polished Rock in the preceding heat over a mile.

Ger Lyons' Abbey Vale, second here last week, is respected, but Polished Rock's form stands up well.

On his second start for Jessica Harrington at Leopardstown in July, he improved to be fifth behind Nevis, before then finishing in front of Battle Of Marengo at the Foxrock venue when second to Dont Bother Me in August.

Given that Battle Of Marengo has since been mightily impressive in winning three on the spin, including the Beresford Stakes on Sunday, that is a fine recommendation.

At Gowran, Andrew Lynch can make a successful return from injury on Sizing Rio in the maiden hurdle, though the Bennettsbridge Hurdle is the highlight of the card.

On figures, Distant Memories and Burn And Turn come out best, but Michael Hourigan's Whats Happening cut a dash when losing his maiden status at Listowel. He can build on that now under the peerless Barry Geraghty.

Irish Independent

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