THIS time next week we should know a lot more about the English and Irish Flat Classics as a host of significant English trials are taking place following on from our own trials at Leopardstown last Sunday.
The most significant trial saw Battle Of Marengo stay on well under Joseph O’Brien to keep his Derby dreams alive with a one and three-quarter length victory over Sugar Boy in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes.
We chose to leave the winner unchanged at 12-1 for the English Derby after the race as really he only did what he was supposed to do with himself and the runner-up running almost exactly to their handicap ratings.
At the moment the victor is still Aidan O’Brien’s third choice on paper for the Derby behind stable companions Mars and Kingsbarns, although the latter might not get to Epsom in time, but I shall reserve further judgment until I see Battle Of Marengo again in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial back at Leopardstown next month on better ground.
This Sunday Navan hosts the Listed Salsabil Stakes and I’m hoping that Tommy Stack runs Alive Alive Oh who I was very taken with when she won her maiden at Cork last month by four and a half lengths.
This filly made a cracking debut last year when third behind Magician at The Curragh but to my eye in the paddock at Cork she looked to have really wintered well and strengthened up accordingly.
That Cork maiden has a bit of history as Stack also won it with former stable star Lolly For Dolly and she went on to Royal Ascot glory so let’s just hope that this one has some of that ability and connections seem to think she might as they’ve entered her in the Darley Irish Oaks.
My selection is stepping up a furlong and a half in the Salsabil but I don’t really have any stamina fears as his dad Duke Of Marmalade won the King George over 12 furlongs, while his mum Higher Love was narrowly beaten in the Cheshire Oaks over an extended 11 furlongs.
Looking forward to Punchestown I really hope we see Cheltenham sale topper Moyle Park, who was bought for £250,000 to go into training with Willie Mullins, take up an engagement in Tuesday’s hugely competitive Land Rover bumper.
Mullins was very keen to get his hands on this fellow after an eye catching winning debut in a Leopardstown bumper on St Stephen’s Day for former trainer David Kelly.
The winner appeared to have plenty of gears as he was sent into the lead in the home straight and stayed on powerfully inside the final furlong to master Blackmail by an authoritative four lengths under his amateur rider.
He had been talked of as a Cheltenham Festival bumper horse after that display but Mullins was keen to aim for Punchestown instead as the race is worth a great deal more and I think he’ll take a lot of beating.
Reading’s stay in the Premier League looks finished but they will still be fighting for their lives at Norwich, who themselves will be desperate for the points, on Saturday and I think the draw at 12-5 is quite good value.
In reality this is a match between two dreadful sides with Norwich having only picked up one win in their last 16 league matches, while Reading managed to secure a draw at home to Liverpool on Saturday having lost their previous eight games.
Taking the odds-on on Norwich would appear to be an extremely risky proposition but equally you couldn’t really be confident of the away side returning to winning ways so the draw to my mind is the best option.
Saturday 3pm Norwich to draw with Reading
Sunday Navan 4.20pm Alive Alive Oh
Tuesday Punchestown 6.05pm Moyle Park