The final high-profile race of the 2008/09 British jumps season takes place at Sandown this Saturday in the form of the Grade 3 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase, the race formerly known as the Whitbread Gold Cup.
It could well pay to side with Church Island in this extended three mile five furlong event. The Michael Hourigan-trained Church Island bravely tried to make all the running with talented seven-lb claimer Luke McNiff when beaten two lengths into second place by Niche Market in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, April 13th.
That event reflected one of Church Island’s best ever efforts and the Jim Bolger-bred 10-year-old could well spring a mild surprise here by getting the better of Hoo La Baloo.
The main supporting event at Sandown is the Grade 2 bet365 Celebration Chase over two miles. In the probable absence of Master Minded, Kalahari King should face a relatively straightforward assignment here.
The Ferdy Murphy-trained Kalahari King failed by just a short head to beat Forpadydeplasterer in the Arkle Chase at last month’s Cheltenham festival before attaining a degree of consolation by sluicing home in a Grade 1 novice chase over two miles at Aintree on Grand National day earlier this month. Kalahari King should continue on his merry way at the expense of Twist Magic.
Nicky Henderson’s Tashiba should complete a quick hat-trick by excelling from Rear Gunner in the bet 365 Best Odds Guaranteed On Every Race Handicap Hurdle whilst Clive Brittain’s veteran flat-racer Kandidate should regain the winning thread by repelling Dream Eater in the Group 2 bet365 Mile.
The Channel 4 cameras will also be screening two races live from Ripon. Mark Johnston’s Keenes Day should supplement his recent all-weather success by landing the totetentofollow.co.uk Handicap from Downhiller. Perhaps, Caranbolawill spring a mild surprise by disposing of Mullglen in the opening totescoop6 Handicap.
On the home front
There’s also plenty of domestic action over the weekend with a Saturday evening meeting at meeting at Kilbeggan whilst enthusiasts can choose between Gowran Park and Navan on Sunday.
At Kilbeggan, the Jimmy Mangan-trained Ballymac Beauty stands out in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund (Mares) Beginners Chase. Ballymac Beauty has won her two most recent point-to-point starts at Bandon and Ballynoe.
Indeed, she posted an exceptional staying performance to win the coveted Gain Mares’ Final with Richie Rohan at Ballynoe on April 5th hinting that she was well up to track standard in he process. Ballymac Beauty revels on fast ground and she should prove well capable of dispensing with Oscarvail.
Buck Mulligan could well get the afternoon off to the perfect start for punters by landing the opening Kilbeggan Maiden Hurdle.
On his most recent start, the Ted Walsh-trained Buck Mulligan was comparatively unfancied when finishing fourth to No One Tells Me in a two-mile maiden hurdle at Wexford on St Patrick’s Day. Buck Mulligan hinted on that occasion that a step up in trip may suit and the extra three furlongs of this race should suit ideally. Therefore, it will come as a major surprise if Buck Mulligan doesn’t show a clean pair of heels to Lord Multifix.
The Book Thief is definitely the one for the ‘getting-out stakes’ in the Loughnagore (Pro-Am) Irish National Hunt Flat Race.
A son of Deploy, The Book Thief has been placed on all four bumper starts to date and on his most recent foray, Eoghan O’Grady’s charge was beaten eight lengths into third place by Our Musican in a Cork bumper on March 22nd. That appeared a most competitive race and The Book Thief should make his final bumper start a winning one (horses can only run in a maximum of five bumpers) by seeing off Red Star Boy.
At Gowran Park, it may prove profitable to row in behind Smart Miler in the opening annual Golf Membership (C & G) Maiden over a mile.
Jim Bolger’s Smart Miler showed that he was a more than useful colt by finishing third on his only juvenile start in a seven-furlong maiden at The Curragh last October. The American-bred is clearly much better than his seventh-placed return effort at Leopardstown on March 29th would indicate and he’s recommended to oblige from The Rossmeister here.
Bea Bea Three is the clear form choice in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden.
This is so as Kevin Prendergast’s charge was beaten just a half-length into second place on her debut in a seven-furlong fillies’ maiden at Limerick on April 6th. Bea Bea Three was quietly fancied on that occasion and she should go one better here by shrugging off the attentions of Sally Cinnamon.
It will take a smart one to lower the colours of Quel Esprit in the closing Rockview (Q.R.) INH Flat Race.
The French-bred Quel Esprit fared best of Willie Mullins’ eight runners in last month’s Cheltenham festival bumper when finishing an excellent fourth to runaway winner Dunguib – beaten less than 14 lengths altogether. In short, that was an excellent performance from Quel Esprit and the grey is likely to have most to fear here from Blondies Dream.
Flat horses generally don’t command the same following as their national hunt counterparts, but Yeats is without doubt one of the most popular horses in training and Aidan O’Brien’s eight-year-old will be star turn at Navan as he’s scheduled to return in the Vintage Crop Stakes over one mile five furlongs.
Yeats of course has won the three most recent renewals of the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup and his whole campaign will be geared towards attaining an unprecedented fourth consecutive success in the event this June. It also has to be remembered that Yeats has won the two most recent runnings of this same Navan race and realistically, he will surely extended the sequence to three here with Baron De’l the one for the forecast.
Inxile, representing Britain’s most accomplished sprints trainer ‘Dandy’ Nicholls, should supplement last Saturday’s facile Naas success by excelling from Invincible Ash in the Navan Sprint Stakes.
Michael Halford’s Primalova appeals as the most likely winner of the Rotary Club Of Navan Maiden whilst Galileo’s Choice and Trojan War are a likely pair in the Drumbarragh Stud (C & G) Maiden over 10 furlongs.