On Saturday there’s racing at Gowran Park, while the flat season re-opens in earnest at The Curragh on Sunday, whereas others will be travelling to Cork that day as well.
At Gowran Park, the Willie Mullins-trained Apt Approach cannot be realistically opposed in the Come On Ireland Novice Hurdle. A former leading bumper horse, Apt Approach wasn’t extended to win a two-mile maiden hurdle with Ruby Walsh by 11 lengths at Fairyhouse on March 4th. This race is also over the minimum trip and Apt Approach should continue on his upward trajectory by getting the better of Inagh Valley.
Colls Corner is on a relatively lenient mark in the Evening Racing At Gowran Park Handicap Hurdle. Colls Corner recorded two facile victories for Fermoy-based owner/trainer ‘Trixie’ Barry before finishing a still more than commendable third to Halfback in a two and a half mile Navan handicap hurdle in late February. Colls Corner was still raised five lbs for that effort to a new mark of 108 and the son of Beneficial should regain the winning thread here by disposing of Watchurhouse.
Viking Splash looks the part in the closing Kilkenny (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race. The ‘Shark’ Hanlon-trained son of Stowaway made a hugely pleasing return to action following a 14-month absence by finishing a most commendable third with his owner Barry Connell in a bumper at this same venue on ‘Thyestes’ day in January.
Whilst Viking Splash could then only dead-heat for fourth place behind the admittedly top-class Lead The Parade at Navan on February 16th, he should still possess too many aces for Rossdara here.
At The Curragh, Mad About You will be the star attraction in the Group 3 Lodge Park European Breeders Fund Park Express Stakes.
The Dermot Weld-trained of Indian Ridge was placed second behind Halfway To Heaven in last season’s Irish 1000 Guineas whilst she signed off the season with a comprehensive listed race victory in the Castlemartin Stud European Breeders Fund Garnet Stakes over a mile at The Curragh in October. Mad About You is likely to be plenty forward for this assignment and she should have little difficulty in casting aside the attentions of Beach Bunny.
Much interest will also be centred on the Keatley Groundcare Irish Lincolnshire. Deauville Vision has consistently shown her best form on soft underfoot conditions and indeed, she finished a fine third in the Group 3 Lodge Park Stakes at this same meeting last year. She has however been dropped seven lbs since then and is now racing off a mark of 100. If conditions are indeed on the easy side on Sunday, then Deauville Vision could spring a mild surprise by beating Designated Decoy.
Smart Miler should put his previous experience of this course to good use by making a triumphant return in the closing Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden for three-year-olds’.
By Smart Strike, the Jim Bolger-trained Smart Miler was the subject of some market support when finishing third to Beauty O’Gwaun on his solitary juvenile outing in a seven-furlong maiden here last October. Smart Miler, in all probability, should have most to fear from Final Approach on this occasion.
Bolger should actually complete a double as his newcomer O’Graolaigh, who held some Group 1 entries last season, will take all the beating in the newmarketracecourse.co.uk maiden over six furlongs.
At Cork, the Michael O’Brien-trained Essex should benefit from a step down in class by landing the featured Easter Festival Hurdle.
On his most recent start, Essex more than acquitted himself when beaten a little over 11 lengths into third spot by former Cheltenham festival winner Ebaziyan off level weights in a two and a quarter mile conditions hurdle at Leopardstown on March 1st.
Essex will hardly encounter anything of Ebaziyan’s calibre here and is therefore taken to outpoint Jessies Dream.
Cnoc An Einn will surely give a positive account of himself in the Newmarket Handicap Hurdle. Liam Burke’s 10-year-old has won his two most recent starts and last time, he dug deep for Ian McCarthy to beat Oscar’s Emerald in a two-mile opportunity handicap hurdle at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. The step up to three miles shouldn’t prose a problem for Cnoc An Einn and he’s duly recommended to claim the scalp of Kylebeg Krystle.
Robert Tyner’s outstanding mare Square Sphere is a confident choice to beat Glenquest in the Navigation Road Novice Handicap Hurdle. The Book Thief, trained by Eoghan O’Grady, should attain due reward for his consistency by dismissing fellow point-to-point winner Glenda King in the concluding Mitchelstown (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
The lead-up to the start of the British turf flat racing season is fast approaching and this Saturday, the Group 3 Sportingbet.com Winter Derby occupies centre stage at Lingfield’s all-weather fixture.
Kandidate has already won and been placed fourth on the all-weather for trainer Clive Brittain this winter and, whilst advancing in years at seven, the Kabool-sired entire is still recommended to see off the hat-trick seeking Premio Loco.
Competition will also be intense in the Sportingbet.com Spring Cup, a listed race over seven furlongs, and Elnawin should supplement his recent all-weather success for trainer Richard Hannon by getting the better of Tobond.
Arganil is another with recent winning all-weather form and Kevin Ryan’s four-year-old should prove marginally superior to German challenger Mood Music in the Springbet.com Hever Sprint Stakes over five furlongs.
The Channel 4 cameras will also be positioned at the jumps fixtures in both Newbury and Haydock. At Newbury, the featured event is the EBF/Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Chase Final and Rate Of Knots could go close here off an ideal racing weight of just 10-4.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Rate Of Knots has won her two most recent starts and the daughter of Saddlers’ Hall should complete a hat-trick here at the expense of Tastes Like More.
Alan King’s Dancingwithbubbles can provide jockey ‘Choc’ Thornton with a consolation of sorts for failing to ride a winner at last week’s Cheltenham festival by beating Carole’s Legacy in the EBF Byrne Bros Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Final.
One Sniff should justify the lengthy trek southwards from Nicky Richards’ Greystoke stables by dismissing Cava Bien in the Ladbrokes Supports Greatwood Handicap Chase.
Meanwhile, Eleazar should continue handler Lucy Wadham’s fine run by dispensing with Theatre Diva in the Business Doctors ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. Never So Blue and From Dawn To Dusk are a likely pair in the Eagle And child Handicap Chase with narrow preference for the former, trained by the in-form Venetia Williams.