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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday's Irish Independent article

IT'S not very often I’d put a monkey (€500) on a horse so when it happens, the event gets deeply engraved into the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory. When looking at the entries for Leopardstown this weekend, I had a flashback to the 2002 Irish Champion Stakes; a race I remember vividly for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the first time my Canadian girlfriend (now wife) had gone to watch horseracing and I was eager to impress. It was also the first time I had put a large amount of dough on a horse in the 'new' euro currency. I figured Mick Kinane and Hawk Wing wouldn't let me down so I confidently swaggered up to the bookmaker and handed over ten crispy fifties. It was all the money I had in the world but I was certain the bookie would be only be minding it momentarily. To my surprise, he barely batted an eyelid taking the bet; but the horse was 8/11 after all and I soon realised that I wasn't the only one having fairly hefty wagers. Internet betting was an infant back then so the betting rings of Ireland were buzzing; it was the early days of the Celtic Tiger and people like me couldn’t hold on to a bob for five minutes. We went up to the stands to watch the action unfold but two minutes and four seconds later, this red-faced fool had to get the Nokia 3210 out to call the brother and ask him for a lend of the taxi fare home. Looking back, it was actually a cracking race and Hawk Wing was pipped on the line by Grandera, with a certain Lanfranco Dettori doing the steering on the latter. Ten years have passed but we will be back up again for the 2012 renewal and as it happens, Frankie is also back in town riding SNOW FAIRY (5.45). Grandera was the last raider to win the race and while I cursed Dettori a decade ago, I'll be cheering him on today with Ed Dunlop’s mare likely to go off in the region of 2/1. Today's favourite, Nathanial, is being trained with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in mind so connections won't want him to have too hard a time in Ireland. John Gosden has suggested that the colt may not be at his peak although the market isn't buying it and the four-year-old still remains strong in the betting. He's consistently performed well at the top this year and it's hard to find faults; but at 5/4, his price is simply too short in what's likely to be an extremely competitive affair. Snow Fairy is equally as consistent and it's ages since we've seen her race in anything lower than a group one. In her latest eleven races at that level, she's almost always won or placed and her victory at Deauville last time proved that she's over and injury which kept her away from the racetrack for the previous nine months. Throw St Nicholas Abbey into the mix and we have the makings of a great race. Both William Buick and Frankie Dettori will have to do a helicopter dash across the Irish sea to get to Dublin as both have assignments in the Betfred Sprint Cup (3.25 Haydock) with Buick’s mount ORTENSIA is a worthy favourite at 9/4. A prolific winner in Australia, the seven-year-old has proved equally impressive in the UK; most recently when flying home to victory in the Nunthorpe Stakes having been behind the pace for most of the race. She's improved with age and experience and I suspect we’ll witness another huge performance this afternoon.

A son of Galileo, MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT caught the eye when second to the useful Kirthill in a class two handicap at York last time. He tends to get distracted, but a visor helped his cause on that occasion and is fitted again today. Take him each-way at 12/1.
* Last week's each-way selection was placed at 20/1.

Hurling: At 11/4, it's got to be worth taking a chance on Galway to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Kilkenny were not at full strength when hammered in the Leinster final, but the tribesmen won it fair and square and have since taken the scalp of Cork along the way. Don't rule out another historic performance tomorrow afternoon.
Horseracing: Enery is likely to go off as favourite for the Betfred Mobile Casino Handicap (4.45 Kempton) but I rekcon an 8lb penalty for his Epsom win last time will be enough to hold him back. LYSSIO makes more appeal at 6/1 - he was back to his best when taking a minor event Epsom last time but at 87, the handicapper has left some room for manoeuvre.
3.25 Haydock: Ortensia
4.45 Kempton: Lyssio
5.45 Leopardstown: Snow Fairy
4.15 Ascot: Martin Chuzzlewit (e/w)

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