Zabarajad can open account
THIS evening's card at Tipperary, originally scheduled for Fairyhouse, sees the well-backed 2,000 Guineas disappointment Zabarajad bid to lose his maiden status.
The all-Flat meeting was switched from the Meath venue last week as officials felt the ground had not recovered sufficiently after a winter's racing in wet conditions. With a jumps programme also due to take place at Limerick Junction tomorrow night, locals now have two days of activity.
Zabarajad has the potential to light up day one. Third on his second start as a juvenile, John Oxx's charge found only the race-fit Imperial Rome too strong on his reappearance at The Curragh a month ago. He was then a surprise springer in the market for the first domestic Classic. Sixth behind Roderic O'Connor that day, Zabarajad faces a more realistic task in today's seven-furlong maiden.
Oxx has other decent prospects, with Perfect Gemstone also appealing in the Tote Trifecta Rollover Handicap. Gordon Elliott's Bondage, an easy winner at Ballinrobe on Monday, turns out under a five-pound penalty here.
However, a two-furlong drop in trip to a mile and a half may not suit that one. Perfect Gemstone showed real promise in three runs last term. Placed in the first four each time, she finished up with a second to Clearwater Bay at Galway in August. If she has improved since then, a rating of 70 looks fair.
In the preceding nine-furlong handicap, Cave Artist is taken to uphold his smart form. When second to Maal at Limerick in April, he had Northern Rocked and Maarek, which have won three times between them since, just behind.
Aidan O'Brien is also well represented. His maidens After and Long Live The King are the ones to beat in the first and last races respectively, while Dundalk winner Sun Queen is preferred in the sprint handicap.
Meanwhile, A New Story and Nina Carberry will face the world's longest cross-country race tomorrow. Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan has decided to take the veteran chaser to Le Lion-d'Angers, a course in the west of France, for the Prix Anjou-Loire Challenge over an extended four and a half miles.
The event is the fourth race in the Crystal Cup Cross Country Challenge, a series of races across Europe which finishes at Cheltenham in November.
A New Story is well versed at such tasks as a winner of the Cheltenham Festival cross-country event, and he proved he is no back number by finishing fifth in the Irish Grand National on his most recent outing.
"I haven't yet seen the course apart from on tape, but I think there's only 12 or 13 runners and the prize money is very good. It's a long race, but the horse is very well. We've got Nina riding him as my usual jockey (Adrian Heskin) is out of action," said Hourigan.
The race has attracted other Irish and British runners, headed by the Denis Murphy-trained Another Jewel, the winner last year.