Horse racing tips: Brendan Duke’s 6 to watch on Sunday

The Duke casts his eye over the runners at Ayr and Thurles, with the aim of finding value on a day where short-priced favs may reign supreme.

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Certainly earned the tag of Irish racing stalwart this week. There were two industry meetings within what I consider an acceptable travel radius. I bill myself as something of a purist so when it was suggested by my regular racing buddies that we attend I protested on the grounds of quality control. Their retort that there were seven winners on the card, and that you haven’t anything better to do, proved a winning argument though. My peskily weak sales resistance strikes again.

So it was that I was drenched in Fairyhouse, and skinned by a biting wind in Punchestown. Some quality fare in Thurles this Sunday. Well outside the bounds of my travel radius though. One might say that it’s a long way. Don’t know where I think em up. Hopefully manage to back a couple of winners from the comfort of the couch. The ground will probably end up as yielding. Remarkable given recent weather.

Unfortunately, from a tipping point of view, I suspect both graded races will go the way of short priced favourites. Footpad is probably the best horse at 2.45pm, and is definitely favoured by the race conditions. Elimay looks a talented, progressive mare. She jumped with aplomb on chase debut in Cork, and should be able to shrug off a penalty in the 3.20pm. There is also a well contested novice hurdle at 1.35pm. Again I think likely shortie Monkfish will win. He’s learning all the time, and appears to have plenty of latent ability. No points for imagination but perhaps those horses might be useful for the purposes of multis.

Thurles racecourse

Pakens Rock will be more like my kind of price in the handicap hurdle at 2.10pm. This horse has suffered three defeats since winning in Galway last October. That race worked out really well, and suggests a mark of 129 should be well within his compass. He was subsequently a touch disappointing back in Galway. His latest defeats are easily forgiven. He ran as well as could be expected behind Abacadabras in Navan, and then contested a traditionally red hot Fairyhouse handicap. He’s back in much calmer waters on Sunday. The chances are he will be able to dictate from the front. The booking of talented seven pound claimer Oakley Brown is another positive.

Another horse facing an easier task is Gwencily Berbas in the handicap chase at 3.50pm. This fella looked a real prospect at one stage. He didn’t kick on though, and joined his current yard last summer. He put up a good show when finishing fourth in the Munster National. His latest effort was over the big fences in Aintree. Some horses just don’t take to that test so I’m inclined to give him a pass. In between those runs he was unlucky to be brought down at Punchestown. He had been a bit on and off the bridle that day but certainly wasn’t beaten when coming down. This is the weakest race he has contested in some time. His jumping is something of a concern. Hopefully another talented claimer, in the shape of Conor McNamara, can get a tune out of him. If so, this horse must go close.

U.K racing provided my sole winner last week. My reputation as an Irish racing guru hangs by a thread. No matter, there are no jurisdictional concerns in the payout queue. With that in mind I have a tip for Ayr. Open the window. Alternatively you could back Aniknam in the handicap hurdle at 4pm. This is basement grade fare although it does feature some in form horses. Last year’s winner, Emma Beag, will probably go off favourite. Aniknam was off the track for a couple of years before returning in November 2017. That enforced absence looked to have taken a toll as he showed basically nothing until a return to form on penultiamte start in Hexham.

He backed that effort up when winning last time up in Uttoxeter. That day he tanked into a substantial lead before being reeled in at the second last. He showed great tenacity to rally and beat an unexposed rival by a neck. Owing to his physical issues, Aniknam isn’t totally exposed himself. He has only had 20 career starts. Trainer Phil Kirby continues in good form. The handicapper only raised him three pounds for that Uttoxeter win. The heavy ground on Sunday will hold no terrors. He will dominate from the front, and for my money prove very hard to pass.

Find a full range of odds from Ayr and Thurles over on

What do you think?