Article Date: 16-April-2012
A weekly blog by Kevin Blake
Last Sunday’s card at Leopardstown has a history of producing subsequent Group 1/classic winners and for that reason, it is always worth making the trip to Foxrock to get a close look at what could well be stars of the future.
As it turned out, the trial races and the two-year-old maiden didn’t provide nearly as big a talking point as the Listed Heritage Stakes.
Billed as a clash between the returning veteran Famous Name and the race fit up-and-comer Sharestan, it duly panned out like that, but the result was the subject of much debate. In what was a painful race to watch for supporters of Sharestan.
Johnny Murtagh found himself in all sorts of trouble on the four-year-old prior to flashing home and failing by just a head to peg back Famous Name. Unsurprisingly, Murtagh came in for plenty of stick, but when one examines the ride closely, it is hard not to sympathise with Murtagh and indeed, admire Pat Smullen for what was an exemplary piece of race riding.
This is a game of opinions and it is well worth watching the race on the At The Races website and drawing your own conclusion before finishing this blog.
Murtagh had a problem to solve even before the stalls opened with him being poorly drawn, but he soon managed to get cover on Sharestan. However, his situation was made much more difficult by the wily Pat Smullen manoeuvring Famous Name up on Sharestan’s outer at halfway, allowing Smullen to hem in and control Murtagh.
Sharestan had shown in his two previous starts over a mile on the comparatively open expanses of the Curragh that he is not the strongest traveller in his races, with Murtagh having to niggle him along from a long way out on both occasions. At a turning track such as Leopardstown, the ability to travel and take gaps when they appear is paramount, but at this early stage of his career, Sharestan was found lacking.
Murtagh attempted to squeeze into the clear three furlongs out, but Smullen gently shut the door on him with the strong-travelling Famous Name and once Murtagh switched back into traffic towards the inner in search of room, Smullen pressed the button on Famous Name and his trademark acceleration soon took him four lengths in front of his rival with a furlong to race.
Sharestan didn’t quite have the tactical speed to get himself out of trouble and had to check just under 2f out, but once he found open road with a furlong to run, he powered home under hands and heels riding to fail by just a rapidly-diminishing head to get up.
While Famous Name was thought to be in need of the run, Sharestan’s performance was certainly one of a group horse in the making. Many will be looking for him to be stepped up in trip in the near future and his pedigree suggests he should stay 10 furlongs, but he appeals as having enough speed for a mile if he can travel better in the middle section of his races as he matures and gains in experience.
While it is a shade early to make a firm judgement, his running style at this stage is typical of a horse that could well be aided by headgear to help him concentrate in the middle part of his races and interestingly, his dam improved for the application of blinkers. It is worth mentioning that good-to-firm ground will be a question mark for him as he is notably heavy topped. Provided the ground is good, a rematch with Famous Name (who will be 5 lb better off with Sharestan) in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes on May 13th would be an excellent race in prospect.
To round up the remainder of the action on the card, Furner’s Green vanquished the slight doubts about his resolution with a classy display in the 2000 Guineas Trial Stakes, with him shaking off not one but two slaps across the nose from the whip of Akeed Wafi’s rider.
While some will have noticed him propping his tail slightly once in front, he did the same thing when hitting the front on his debut at Tipperary and it doesn’t look to be anything to worry about. His potent turn of foot and likely preference for a slight ease in the ground (suggested by his action as much as his form) mark him down as a candidate for the French 2,000 Guineas rather than the Newmarket 2000 Guineas.
The 1000 Guineas Trial Stakes is a race best viewed with caution, as Colm O’Donoghue rode the field to sleep from the front on the game Homecoming Queen (pictured below). In behind, the Group 1-placed juvenile Fire Lily did not look the most resolute in the finish and Up raised her stock by finishing well from a poor position over what was very much an inadequate trip.
The Ballysax Stakes produced a solid winning performance from Light Heavy, with the son of the fast-rising Teofilo looking very much like an Irish Derby horse in the making in victory. In behind, it was hard to make excuses for the favourite David Livingston and Call To Battle shaped as though in need of at least 12 furlongs already.
In terms of the off-track action in the last week, without question the most interesting development on the Irish racing scene was the trialling of 48-hour declarations for Wednesday’s card at Dundalk.
48-hour decs for Irish Flat racing have been called for from this corner and many others for years, but it was somewhat out of the blue that the announcement was made. For those unfamiliar with the significance of 48-hour declarations, the primary perk of having them is that they make it much easier for foreign countries to encourage their punters to bet into the Irish Tote pools on Irish racing.
The Irish Tote pools swell notably whenever French punters bet into them and not only will 48-hour declarations make our racing more appealing to them, but also to punters based in the colossal betting markets in the Far East.
With the Irish Tote tending to be held back as a serious betting option due to a lack of liquidity, anything that helps swell the pools needs to be heavily encouraged. After all, if the Irish Tote is doing well, Irish racing reaps the profits from their success. While this is just a one-off trial, one would hope that they will be implemented in full for the 2012/3 winter season at Dundalk and eventually all Flat racing in Ireland.
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