Brendan Duke: My stable diet of tips can cook up a storm

Our racing enthusiast grills the cards at Sandown, the Curragh and Haydock ahead of a huge week of action in the racing world…



The past week was more noted for dietary departures than punting pleasure. In fact, the horses I backed ran so poorly that it’s possible I was engaged in comfort eating.

There is a recently opened cafe in Swords that provides fare with a Caledonian flavour. The owners have obviously never seen ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’.

One of the more memorable lines, and there are so many to choose from, is when Charlie states his belief that ‘all Scottish cuisine is based on a dare’. I popped in for breakfast and was persuaded, weak sales resistance has long been a personal flaw, to try some haggis.

I was starving so my review should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. The old maxim that ‘hunger is the best sauce’ will always ring true. Thought it tasted delicious all the same. has all your racing punt

A sunny Saturday evening gave me the chance to indulge my inner caveman and sample some barbecued meats. Damn tasty they were too, particularly the steaks which were brought by a South American guest.

A tip for anybody planning a barbecue would be to invite a Brazilian. The citizens clearly take great pride in their nation’s status as a renowned beef supplier. This guy arrived with enough beef to feed an army.

Alas the combination of the convivial atmosphere, sultry evening, succulent steaks and refreshing ale led to me forgetting my lightweight status.

Be better for the run and am sure my dazzling repartee earlier in the evening will ensure an invitation to the next one. Apologies to anyone following my tips.

There was a time when winners were plentiful. Hopefully that time hasn’t passed. I mean really, of course the big ball goes on turning but the game can’t have altered all that radically in the last 6 months. I anticipate a turning of the worm this week.

The ITV cameras head to Sandown on Thursday evening and they have been rewarded with some talented horses showing up. Both Poets Word and Without Parole should win before going on to fry bigger fish later in the season. The bookies haven’t missed either though.

One favourite who may be a little overpriced is Weekender. He steps up to group company for the first time in the Henry II Stakes. He worked his way through the grades last season culminating in a listed race win at Ascot.

He ultimately lost that race in the stewards room, but connections were unlikely to be despondent given the promise he displayed. He returned in a conditions race at Chelmsford earlier this month.

Backed as though defeat were out of the question, he put a talented all weather campaigner to the sword. This will be his first try at 2 miles, but everything about him suggests the step up in trip will suit. He holds the highest official rating going into Thursday’s contest.

Off the back of only 7 runs further improvement seems likely. His tactical versatility gives Frankie plenty of options in the race. He looks too big a price at 11/4 and rates the nap of the week.

It’s Guineas weekend at the Curragh and Elarqam appeals for the colt’s classic. He ran a perfectly good race in the Newmarket version and his physique suggests he should come on quite a bit from that effort. He was also a bit keen early and a little intimidated late on.

I expect a more mature performance on Saturday and reckon he’ll uphold the form with main market rival Gustav Klimt. It’s far from a two horse race though.

Given the record of A.P. O’Brien in the race, it’s hard to see Elarqam going off much shorter than the current 9/4. I would be happy to take that price on the day.

The 1000 Guineas looks more appealing from an ante post perspective. I’ll be surprised if Chiara Luna goes off at the price currently available. She was well regarded as a two-year old and went off odds on for a Leopardstown maiden.

Whilst she won, that performance was a little underwhelming given her reputation. Her comeback this season in a Leopardstown trial gave a strong hint that she was worth all the fuss.

Held up in last off a pedestrian gallop, she had little chance. These tactical races often become congested towards the finish and the Luna suffered in the predictable scrimmaging.

She flew home after a couple of bumps finishing 2 lengths behind Who’s Steph. She should come on a ton for that experience and I’ll be highly surprised if she doesn’t turn the form around with the winner on Sunday.

Happily is very talented and should improve from her placed effort at Newmarket. She’s 11/8 though and at 10/1 Chiara Luna has plenty of each way charm.

Finally, to the Silver Bowl at Haydock and this looks typically competitive with the progressive Qaysar heading the betting. The horse I like is Crack On Crack On. He was second, beaten a length by Qaysar, on his penultimate start despite running very free.

That was in a Kempton maiden last November. Qaysar has gone in twice since and is respected. Clive Cox’s charge is 12lb better off at the weights though.

He returned this season to win a Lingfield handicap with a withering last to first finish. The horses he beat that day brought some solid form to the party. He should have learned a bit too as his jockey was at pains to settle him.

While he still displayed headstrong tendencies, they were less marked than at Kempton. The prospect of a truly run big field handicap looks just the ticket.

I would make him favourite for Saturday’s test and the 15/2 with Paddy looks more than fair.

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* All odds correct at time of posting.

What do you think?