Tuesday 24 April 2018

Zafayan can get back in groove for Weld

Pat Smullen can steer Dermot Weld's Zafayan to victory in the Ulster Derby. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Pat Smullen can steer Dermot Weld's Zafayan to victory in the Ulster Derby. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

The grandeur of elite Flat racing might be all-pervading across the water right now, but there is little doubt that jumping remains inherently more appealing to the grass roots of the game here.

At Down Royal's Magners Ulster Derby fixture today, there is €185,000 in prize money to be had, yet just 48 horses will contest the Maze venue's seven races. Over sticks at Gowran Park, the same number of races offer an aggregate of €100,000 less, but there will be a total of 105 horses on duty.

Jump racing's enduring popularity here is reassuringly unchanging, a point that inevitably also translates in the respective disciplines' attendances. As a course frequently lauded for its efforts in that regard, Down Royal will doubtless make a good fist of confounding the contradiction this afternoon, and its €100,000 11-furlong feature is a competitive affair comprising nine runners.

Urban Moon, Azurite, Abushamah and Abby Cadabby are among those that boast bundles of recent form, while raiding handler Mark Johnston will try to improve on Scatter Dice's third last year with Notarised and Blue Atlantic.

It really is an open edition of the three-year-old handicap, but preference is for Dermot Weld's lightly-raced Aga Khan-owned Acclamation colt, Zafayan.

Successful in a decent 10-furlong Naas maiden on its track bow in May, Zafayan got outpaced when dropped to a mile on his return to the Kildare venue when just eighth behind Table Rock. He wasn't given a hard time by Pat Smullen, and there might have been no disgrace in his display, as the form has held up well since, not least with the fourth home Pit Stop collecting at Leopardstown.

Mick Halford's charge won off 90 on Thursday, which doesn't necessarily suggest that Zafayan is well treated off 93 here. Nonetheless, the suspicion is that he is much better than he showed at Naas three weeks ago, and the step back up in trip is expected to prove key on this occasion.

In the Coolmore-sponsored Oaks, Jim Bolger's Upper Silesian can make the most of a drop in class under Rory Cleary, while course specialist Patrickswell is interesting in the opening Louis Roederer Handicap.

Marcus Callaghan's 10-year-old speedball won this three times on the spin prior to his third last year, and he has since plummeted in the handicap to a mark of 54, a rating that is seven pounds lower than his 2013 figure, which was also a mark that he won off at Bellewstown last July.

When you factor in Leigh Roche's three-pound claim, there must be a chance that he will bounce back to form. At Gowran, Henry de Bromhead's Kilbeggan bumper victor Gold Platinum has nap appeal in the opening maiden hurdle, while Adrian Maguire's versatile Mm Dazzler appeals on its first start for JP McManus in the shorter KCLR 96FM edition over two miles.

Gordon Elliott and Paul Carberry combine for Raajih in the Ladbrokes Jack Duggan Memorial Handicap Hurdle. This €23,500 contest is competitive, but Raajih gets in off a 12lb lower mark than he won off over fences last month, so he could be a bit of a handicap snip on his return to flights.

Irish Independent

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