Brendan Duke: Unlike football, fixture congestion in racing is a good thing

The manic, upcoming sporting week has our man giddy for the action to come…


Greetings from a rainy and nippy Fairyhouse. A day for the purists this. My ante post bet on Pairofbrowneyes has kept me warm for a couple of weeks now.

It should sustain the spirits for another couple of hours anyway. After today this week’s racing has a distinctly workaday feel to it. Naas on Sunday has the potential to provide some clues for the coming season.

Despite the racing being of the ordinary variety this week, I’m looking at some serious fixture congestion.

The three days of Fairyhouse are followed by student day in Leopardstown with both Navan and Naas at the weekend likely destinations.

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I’ll be expecting a t-shirt at the end of it all. By far the most daunting of all the trips is Wednesday. Student race days, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, can be hard work.

They’re the future of course, but in my experience are also one of the slowest moving species known to man. They also like a drink. For the regular racegoer trying to navigate between the parade and betting rings can sometimes feel like being lost in a forest of swaying trees.

There also seems to be a lot of flotsam and jetsam associated with these days. Last year I noted one of the more impressive displays of management at this fixture.

Pat Keogh, the Leopardstown head honcho, was going around picking up the stray empty glasses.

I’ve never been a manager, the life of a soldier is a simpler existence and suits me, but this is definitely the kind of thing that would inspire.

The real highlight this week is the Masters, of course. Always one of the jewels in the sporting calendar and it looks particularly mouth-watering this year. It’s possible to make a good case for about 15 players.

This season has seen the renaissance of Phil Mickelson and Tiger looking in rude health post spinal-fusion surgery. A win for either would be a thing of beauty.

Tiger winning would almost certainly lead to tears of joy at my end. The young guns won’t be as sentimental and Rory, Jordan, DJ and JT to name but four will be looking to put their stamp on the tournament.

With the extra place terms on offer I’m bound to have a bet, however I’m also a truly abysmal golf judge so won’t inflict those selections on you.

The bookies are about as excited about the coming weekend as me and there will be no races priced up early in the week. Not a big deal and perhaps offers an opportunity for us to think about a wager on another crown jewel.

Aidan O’Brien has trained six Derby winners and to look at the ante post book on this year’s race a seventh is a fairly short price. Trying to work out the best of his charges isn’t easy, but I’m quite confident I’ve managed it.

The Racing Post Trophy is often one of the best guides to the following years Derby. Last season’s renewal looks strong form and I expect both the first and second, Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion to go close in the 2000 Guineas. Neither strikes me as a likely stayer at Epsom however.

The Derby is a savage stamina test for immature three year olds. One horse who is certain to relish the trip is The Pentagon. He is from a dam line cultivated by the Aga Khan.

It produces strong stayers who improve more than most with time. For The Pentagon to have the speed to win over seven furlongs at age 2 was remarkable. He had an interrupted prep for the RP trophy and was also probably disadvantaged by track position in that race.

It was a fine run in the circumstances. I can almost feel him growing stronger by the day and he will likely win a trial on the road to Epsom. I expect him to start favourite for his June date with destiny and strongly suggest backing him now at 8/1.

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What do you think?