Brendan Duke: Maverick worth a punt to do it his way at the Curragh on Friday

The revamped Curragh and Saturday's Haydock card have caught Brendan's eye as he hunts out the value.


The Derby festival was one for those who enjoy keenly-fought contests. We all do of course, but with races at the top level the potential to see a superstar separate themselves is always there. Those who revel in the achievements of a Frankel, Ed Moses, or Stephen Hendry will likely have left Epsom somewhat underwhelmed. Those who enjoy sporting socialism will have enjoyed the high drama, and the potential for rematches between evenly-matched contemporaries. All three Group 1’s hung in the balance as the winning line loomed.

The Oaks was a very rough race. Mehdaayih was particularly compromised. Frankie Dettori delivered a masterclass on Anapurna. For my money she was probably the third best filly on the day. Dettori saved every inch on the way around, and managed to negotiate an uninterrupted passage between two tiring opponents. Pink Dogwood had a wider trip. She travelled supremely well, but a combination of the extra distance covered, her run being slightly mis-timed, and possibly ebbing stamina, left her vulnerable to the dour resilience of the winner.

Fleeting looked unlucky. Ridden like a non-stayer, she was a long way out of her ground. She didn’t really get a proper run at the leaders until it was too late. I would take her to come out on top if the first three met again. Unfortunately Anapurna won’t be going to the Curragh. Pink Dogwood, and Fleeting will though. We can probably throw the fourth, and fifth into the Irish Oaks mix too. Delphinia ran well. She still seems to be mentally slow, and should continue to improve.

Any ease in the ground at the Curragh would only strengthen her claims.


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The Derby was a thriller. The build up was frustrating. Telecaster had his ear plugs. I had my stress ball. Unfortunately neither of these aids were enough to keep us from boiling over. He ran too free in the race. Still a horse of massive potential, it can only be hoped that this experience doesn’t leave a mark. The first five were covered by less that a length. Anthony Van Dyck (AVD) is a warrior of the turf.

The experience gathered at the coalface of top-level juvenile competition may have been the difference between winning and losing. He ran seven times, in three different countries, last season. The first five are set to renew rivalry in the Irish Derby. It should be a fascinating betting heat. Needless to say there isn’t much between them. I thought Madhmoon was a touch unlucky at Epsom. It was a race of fine margins.

Madhmoon clipped the heels of the eventual winner turning for home. Whether it was the resulting shot of adrenalin, or his rider’s response, the horse made a big move earlier than ideal. This did enable him to, Indiana Jones style, poke through a rapidly-closing gap. Unfortunately, it meant he lacked the resources to repel a rallying AVD. Paddy make Madhmoon 5/1 for the Irish Derby.

At that price I will take him to turn the tables.


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We’re in the post Epsom, pre Royal Ascot doldrums at the moment. The racing isn’t great, and the weather is another wrinkle. There are winners to be backed though. After last weekend, I’m hoping necessity is the mother of invention.

The Curragh holds a decent card on Friday evening. There is a bit of rain about. We’re probably looking at ground on the soft side of yielding. The Silver Stakes 19.40 sees the return of Riven Light. He’s very talented on his day, and can go well fresh. I’ll take him on with Old Glory though. This son of Frankel showed promise last season. He didn’t pull up any trees on comeback. That was in the Irish 2000 Guineas though. He’s back in calmer waters here. Plenty of his sire’s stock improve for a trip, and some cut in the ground. He wouldn’t need to step up much here, and we should get a fair price.

Just the 25 go to post in 6f sprint that closes the card. The winner will be rewarding odds though and Paddy’s paying the first 5 home. I’ll take a chance on Handsome Maverick. This horse seems to like the Curragh. He was a good winner on penultimate start in Navan. He was in front plenty soon that day, and the form is working out. A 7lb rise in the weights doesn’t look excessive. His latest effort can be marked up. He was drawn on the wrong side of the track and with his unfortunate habit of missing the break, he raced with no cover.

Despite all of this, he was only narrowly beaten on his side. He’s drawn a low numbered stall again in box eight and there are a couple of solid pace angles on his side. He should enjoy a better trip. We’re likely to get double-digits.

The Maverick makes plenty of appeal at that kind of a price.

Haydock-Park Flat

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Haydock stages the best card of the weekend on Saturday. Well, hopefully it does. With 25 mm’s of rain predicted, abandonment wouldn’t be a massive price. It does make narrowing the fields down a bit easier. Horses proven in these conditions are readily preferred.

Paddy make Stake Acclaim 5/2 favourite for the Achilles Stakes 15:00. That’s an appealing price. Having missed last season, Stake Acclaim returned in April, was 25/1 but bolted up. He has been given plenty of time to recover from that. His last run on heavy Haydock ground, narrowly beaten by Donjuan Triumphant, was a sterling effort. A repeat of that performance should suffice on Saturday.

Paddy make Safe Voyage their joint-favourite in the John Of Gaunt Stakes (15.35). That’s no surprise. This improving gelding is unbeaten in three starts at the track. While he has never run on heavy ground, it’s hard to shake the impression that he will relish it. There is credible opposition, but the Voyage looks a play.

*Prices correct at time of publishing on Thursday

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What do you think?