Week 8 – Week ending 23 November 2014 (four fixtures)
From the glens of Antrim to Tipperary’s Golden Vale.
Toomebridge (Co. Antrim)
Naming a horse Kilcullen Flem (86) is enough to turn me off my early morning cornflakes reminding as it does about..........well, never mind! The Donnchadh Doyle-trained son of Flemensfirth was a very lucky winner here and came into this race on the back of modest form so I can’t have him on my mind at the moment. It hasn’t been a bad little contest over the years with four of its seven previous winners having scored under Rules with the best of the lot being last year’s 130-rated winner Katachenko, trained by Donald McCain. I will introduce you to the significant performer in this race at a later stage.
Infrontofthejudge (86) was scoring at his sixth attempt in maidens and he appeared to beat a fairly modest bunch of opponents and I cannot find a reason to recommend following his subsequent exploits given a very weak pedigree and a little-known sire in Clerkenwell.
Glenbane, Co. Tipperary
The recent history of this race has been unremarkable and it looks as if this year’s winner, the Ted Walsh-trained Salsa Sensation (85), does not have obvious claims to reverse this trend. It’s a race open to both five and six-year-olds and this fact alone suggests a lack of quality. Salsa Sensation is by Luso who at one stage threatened to be the “next big thing” but his expensive purchases have generally disappointed and the horse now stands at an obscure stallion farm in the UK.
At last something to note from last weekend and another maiden that produced one of my “top ten” horses to follow over the last seven years in the Pat Doyle-trained Famousandfearless. Unfortunately he took a while to learn the winning habit for his new trainer David Pipe having been bought privately by David Johnson and an acquaintance of mine banked a very healthy sterling cheque in the following weeks.
This has been a race populated by some classy track performers over the years and includes such notables as Royal Reveille (Ted Walsh), Moonlight Drive (Sean Quinn) and Nicky Henderson’s River Maigue. In fact when this race was a three-way divide in 2012 that included Famousandfearless, David Pipe also bought Sail By The Sea for £85,000 at public auction and this lightly-raced, injury-prone sort has scored a very impressive novices hurdle victory on only his second (and latest start). The irony wasn’t lost on me!
This year’s winner, Indy Five (a son of Vertical Speed trained by Pat Doyle and rated 90), was a very unlucky last fence faller at Rathcannon in late October and he started at a remarkably generous 7/2 here as the market was all over an unraced son of Presenting also trained locally by Sam Curling. He won in “fine style” off a fast pace and cost his US-based owner Roger O’Byrne (brother of John who buys JP McManus’s stores and Demi who is a major cog in the Coolmore machine) a modest €10,000. His unraced dam is a half-sister to bumper/useful 2m1f-2m4f hurdle/chase winner Father Matt (trained by Noel Meade) out of half-sister to good hurdlers Carobee and Winter Squall.
His sire Vertical Speed probably accounted for his low-ish purchase cost as he has been a modest jumps sire and transferred to a small stud in Ireland from France in 2006. None of his pointing winners (from just 7 winners) ever managed to win on the track and in fact the best two, Fight Away Boys (won on this weekend as a 5yo last season) and Moores Road, have shown signs of temperament issues. On the positive side he is capable of producing a decent winner in the shape of Philip Hobbs Horizontal Speed who numbered a bumper amongst five victories so far but the good horses are few and far between. It’s interesting to read all the rave reviews about Indy Five’s performance (“future bumper winner” etc.) without any reference to his sire and coming from these heavyweight quarters the sales result will be very interesting indeed.
Lingstown, Co. Wexford
Roadie Joe (g by Golan trained by Brian Jordan)
In 2012 Mac’s Return (91) won a division of this maiden and joined Paul Nicholls for £165,000-it’s been money badly spent. Similarly, Brian Jordan’s most high-profile point winner to date was the 2012 5yo maiden winner, Outlawed Tunes, who subsequently joined Noel Meade (for Michael O’Leary) at a cost of £140,000 and, that too, looks not to have been the wisest investment. Jordan’s horses have tended not to be up to performing on the track with distinction. These two tales of woe are enough to make me wary of Roadie Joe (a modest RPR of 86) and he’s likely to be sold now. Like most pointers that head for the sales, if he finds a new home in the UK he will probably be capable of success at a modest level but he’s not for me.
The afore-mentioned Brian Jordan won a division of this race with Ravastree in 2010 and he went on to achieve a single modest handicap chase win for Charlie Longsdon. I would say that, in general, it is a race worth paying some attention as it has seen the likes of Alfa Beat (won a Kerry National), Sea Of Thunder (rated 144) and Desertmore Stream (four-time winner for Gigginstown and controversial trainer Philip Fenton) on its roll of honour in recent years. Philip Fenton, who is about to start a two-year suspension shortly for steroid abuse, trained this year’s winner, Highway Storm (by Stowaway), and it looks like it was his last throw of the dice for some time. It seems to be his own horse so he may get a decent payday to help his finances now that he has been put out of business. Fenton explained that Highway Storm loved the soft ground and has a bright future. A rating of 90 gives him plenty of respect too. The dam side of the pedigree is very weak but the sire ticks all the right boxes for the sales agents. At least the trainer hasn’t lost his sense of humour as he remarked: “Great stuff! Now let’s get a photograph as it may be the last one for some time!”
Boulta, Co. Waterford
Dr Waluigi (g by Shirocco trained by Eoin Doyle)
Of the last eleven winners of this race only three have failed to score under Rules: two of these had injury problems and the third managed a good second in a Limerick maiden hurdle. A good race rather than a great race (as one of Ireland’s most popular soccer pundit is prone to say) but it has produced winners of the calibre of Ballyalton (five-time winner and second to Faugheen at this year’s Festival), Oscar Fortune (hat-trick winner for Jonjo)
and Native Gallery (consistent four-time winner for Ben De Haan) so the winner has to be noted every year.
This year’s winner provides something of a puzzle as Dr Waluigi receives a rating of just 85 – the lowest rating for a 4yo this autumn season. This rating was based on what seemed a very average renewal (he had been a well-beaten 5th on his reappearance three weeks earlier following two poor bumper runs earlier in the year) but I can think of a few reasons why he might be seriously under-rated at this mark.
Firstly, he has a fantastic pedigree being by Annie Power’s sire out of a 12f winning mare and from a very immediate Aga Khan family that is full of winners and whose stoutness ensure they are hardy recruits to jumping. Secondly, he beat an unraced Stowaway trained by one of the game’s shrewdest operators Thomond O’Mara and thirdly the third home, Robin Of Locksley, is trained by Jack Steel’s trainer, Martin Hassett and he thinks quite highly of his horse even if he left him a little disappointed here – he looked a winner turning in. Next, Eoin Doyle is in tremendous form and produced Jetstream Jack to win impressively a week previously and, finally, Dr Waluigi was strongly fancied for his first start in a Limerick bumper last March so had been showing all the right signs at home presumably.
A horse I will be keeping a close eye on from now on and he’s likely to be selling at Brightwells in a fortnight’s time.
This race hasn’t shone in recent times although I think it can produce one of the handicapping certainties of the season based on my researches of past seasons! As the Danny De Vito character famously says in “L.A. Confidential”: Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.............
This year’s winners were
Welcome Bach (g by Bach trained by Alan Tobin) and Mai Fitzs Jack (g by Acambaro trained by Mary Louise Hallahan).
The latter (rated 88) had been a nice second last season to Westend Star who joined Donald McCain for £125,000 and has yet to reappear so he had already given a clear indication of ability. He subsequently disappointed when sent off an odds-on favourite when falling at Bandon last March and this was his first run since then so the trainer has done a fine job getting him back to his best. Hallahan’s previous exploits in points don’t offer many clues about this fellow’s future prospects but my educated guess, based on her eight winners under Rules over the past five seasons is that this horse can potentially win a hurdle race or two for her.
It’s clear from her previous victories that although her horses have mostly won handicap hurdles they are doing their best also in maiden hurdles and 25% of her wins have come in this category. My hope is that this horse will continue to campaign for Hallahan and this may even include an abortive attempt to sell him over the coming weeks. Mai Fitzs Jack would be my idea of a handicapping plot if I were in control.
I discussed the winning Bach 4yo Baby Bach a number of weeks ago and, unsurprisingly, he was let out unsold at Brightwells recently. He received an upbeat commentary from his trainer Stuart Crawford in a recent stable tour – going for a bumper and “jumps well” – but it’s probably significant he has failed to change hands Post sale or privately) in the interim. This winning 5yo gelded son of Bach, Welcome Bach, is an unknown quantity as he is trained by a very low-key handler in Alan Tobin and my guess would be that he may stay pointing in an effort to win a winners’ event. My research data tells me 5yo winners-ofone require a very specific increased rating before they are of interest on the track so I will not be following this horse in the foreseeable future. A delve into his pedigree doesn’t offer much encouragement to change my mind.
Horses To Follow:
Mai Fitzs Jack