Brendan Duke: My top trio of tips for the Listowel festival

Dukey’s got his eye on an outsider tomorrow.


Ireland’s other seven-day festival begins on Sunday in Listowel. As with Galway, it’s hard to believe that any meeting can hog the schedule for a week.

As with Galway, there will be the hardcore who will go racing every day and in all likelihood, they’re mostly the same people. Racing’s equivalent of ultra-marathon runners.

Listowel is billed as the Harvest Festival. An evocative title, conjuring images of ploughs, brawny men, buxom women, and the produce that will keep them brawny and buxom through the long winter.

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Technology has made the harvest less arduous, and more efficient. I got an insight into this during a visit to Coolmore Stud during the week.

In an attempt to mitigate against the vagaries of the Irish Summer, they get their hay from the field to the storage sheds in just two days – a remarkable effort. Two Day Hay would be a catchy name for a horse should Mrs Magnier run short of composers, writers etc.

The time saved gives the reapers more leeway to enjoy the racing. Very encouraging for those of us who still hope that scientific innovation will continue to mean more leisure time for the masses.

The weather looks set relatively fair. A bit of rain on Sunday evening is all that’s forecast. This bodes well as really soft ground in Listowel makes for neither a great spectacle, nor punting medium.

We start with a tricky card. Fans of Willie Mullins hotpots will be salivating. For what it’s worth I thought all three would win. I don’t have the nerve to back any of them mind.

Mullins will likely supply the favourite in the Kerry Group Handicap Chase (16:40). Ask Susan has to be respected, but a chance should be taken on a likely outsider. Gwencily Berbas makes his debut for the Eric McNamara yard. It’s understandable why previous connections decided to sell.

The horse isn’t particularly physically robust, and he did check out very tamely on his latest start at Fairyhouse. It’s also understandable why current connections might take a chance on him.

He’s only an eight-year-old, with relatively few miles on the clock. Shaking up Ucello Conti back in January suggests plenty of ability remains. He actually travelled very well before that Fairyhouse surrender.

If his new yard can sweeten him up, a mark of 126 looks exploitable. He has a mixed record, but this valuable prize looks worth targeting. We should get a double figure price. There are enough reasons to take a chance at those odds.

The EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle at 15:05 looks competitive and Dragon Houdini looks sure to run well. She went up eight pounds for winning in Fairyhouse earlier in the year.

Two subsequent runs mean the handicapper is probably happy with where he has her. I’m not so sure. She’s only five, and the form of her latest third in Down Royal looks solid.

That was a better race than the one she tackles tomorrow. That run also came after a 10-week break. It’s reasonable to expect her to come on a bit. The drop back in trip isn’t an obvious concern.

There are 18 declared at the moment but a couple of them have alternative entries. In the hope that we get 16 runners, she looks a knocking e/w bet. If not I’d be quite happy to play win only.

Wednesday’s Kerry National is the highlight of the week. It’s a difficult race to preview as I’m inclined to think Ballyoisin won’t run. He’s keeping a number of these out of the handicap.

Ravenhill seems to be really coming to himself of late. He ran better than the bare result when fifth in the Galway Plate.

I expect him to jump a bit better over this longer trip, on a more conventional track. Needless to say, Gordon Elliot has plenty of entries.

There is no reason why he won’t run this fella. He looks overpriced at 14/1.

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* All prices correct at time of posting. 

What do you think?