It’s not easy keeping it real and red carpet but Aintree could be plain sailing

Never one to dodge a freebie, El Dukey mixed business with pleasure mid-week and fancies Catamaran Du Seuil at Aintree on Saturday (3.15pm) ...

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This week, in a freeloader capacity, I attended the HRI awards dinner. It’s easy to be cynical about these things of course. All assiettes of seafood, and self-satisfied back slapping.

Easy that is, until you swing an invitation. As he ate a sumptuous three-course dinner, clapping like a trained seal at appropriate intervals, your intrepid correspondent decided that awards ceremonies were the way forward.

A veritable who’s who of Irish racing gathered in the Clayton Hotel. To be among them, slapping backs and swapping war stories was most enjoyable. The fatigues I wear at the front line of Irish racecourses were happily dispensed with. Turns out, donning a suit and quaffing vino with the generals is more my style. This is a fine line to tread.

Double agents are traditionally the first shot in a revolution.

Rachael-Blackmore-HRI

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Hopefully, I can continue to keep it both real, and red carpet. Of all the worthy winners, Rachael Blackmore probably gave the best interview of the night. After picking up her gong, she admitted her ascent had surprised her more than anyone. Should the progression continue, she will need the obligatory media training in cliche and inoffensive banalities so beloved by most top sportspeople.

In the meantime her honesty, wonder and joy when talking about 2018 was nice to hear. Hopefully, I will be able to write a piece next week. However I may be too busy.

The awards for Ireland’s top locksmiths, panel beaters and digital marketers take place on consecutive nights.

I’ve high hopes of appearing as a ‘plus one’ in at least two, and possibly all three of these events.

Supporting the best and brightest men and women these important industries produce will take all I’ve got.

This weekend’s highlight is undoubtedly the Tingle Creek at Sandown. Un De Sceaux attempts to regain the crown he abdicated last year. Rising stars Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados try to take a further step up the ladder. Looming over all of them is Altior. Winner of his last 14 races and in my opinion the best chaser in training. It’s hard to envisage anything other than a 15th consecutive win.

The rain that’s due to fall over the next two days will aid the chances of UDS and SC, but won’t hurt Altior. SR is one of the quickest jumpers of a fence I’ve ever seen, but Altior is a perfectly good jumper too. This race will be run at a good clip. I’d be surprised if Altior hits a flat spot. My hunch is that the undulating, turning nature of the old course at Cheltenham is what causes him problems there.

I say problems. He still wins.

He’s odds on though, so not a betting proposition for me. I may chance a forecast with Sceau Royal. He’s 9 lbs to find with UDS on official figures. However one is rising 11 years old and the other just seven. I think the market may underestimate just how progressive Alan King’s charge is.

In terms of a bet I will look towards Aintree instead.

They’re are also due plenty of rain over the next couple of days. With the ground already soft, a repeat of last year’s meeting, run on heavy ground, looks likely. Chica Buena looks a really good e/w bet in the Juvenile Fillies Hurdle (2.40 pm). On paper this looks a big step up. However, the top two in the betting would have significant ground worries.

Chica Buena is proven on heavy ground. She’s also a very accurate jumper and displays a willing attitiude. I’ve a feeling that this race could cut up. She’s surely going to take her chance. Not hard to see her going off a fair bit shorter than the 6/1 currently available. I’d back her before declarations on Friday morning.

Another that looks worth backing before declarations in Catamaran Du Seuil. He runs in the Grand Sefton at 3.15 pm.

Dr Newland has booked Brian Hughes for the ride on his progressive six-year-old. Hughes is mustard over these national fences. The horse received a 9 lbs rise for his comeback win. It looks a little severe. However the form of his penultimate win, on heavy ground, at Wetherby looks strong. I suspect he’s still on a reasonable mark. The more rain the better. Paddy are offering four places at the moment. It’s hard to see 16 runners.

I’ll be surprised if the Catamaran sinks without trace.

The entries for the John Durkan at Punchestown on Sunday (2.00 pm) are exciting. It’s usually a hot race. My idea of the winner would be Bellshill. He could be overlooked if the market deems the trip to be on the sharp side. He’s loads of pace. However, I’ve no idea if he’s running. Should he show up – we’ll know by Friday’s declarations – I’d be happy to take a chance.

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