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The fillies take their turn in the spotlight at the Curragh on Sunday and Santa Barbara heads the betting for the feature race. Anytime she takes a chunk out of the market, I’m obliged to have a bet. My hunch is that she’s not a warrior of the turf, but she does have a big fan club though. It’s a game of opinions and we will know more at approximately 3.43pm on Sunday.
BLAIRMAYNE returns to his beloved Curragh for the first time this season and he lines up in this 6-furlong handicap. Given it’s getting on for two years since his last win, it’s reasonable to assume that the handicapper has him where he wants him.
He has been highly competitive in some hot handicaps at this course mind you and it wouldn’t take much more to see him over the line here. His seasonal comeback in Naas was full of promise and he finished a close second, with subsequent winners in behind.
His latest effort in Fairyhouse is best forgiven as he blew the start a bit, and was messed around up the home straight. Most of the pace in this race is drawn high and that could prove beneficial to Blairmayne’s chance. With Paddy throwing an extra place bone our way, this horse rates a rock solid each-way play.
Paddy sponsor the Rockingham Handicap and they’re also offering an extra place on the race, so it would be rude not to throw a bit of business their way. STRONG JOHNSON was a very well backed winner of this race last year and he bids for a repeat on Sunday. It won’t be easy off a 7lbs higher mark, but I’m surprised this relatively unexposed horse is trading at such a big price.
The horse changed stables over the winter and his seasonal comeback in Navan was underwhelming. His latest effort in Tipperary was much more like it though, and he produced a doughty performance to be denied by, the reopposing, Master Matt. That reads like solid form.
It’s entirely possible that this race has been the target all along and I’d expect the horse to be cherry ripe. His promising rider takes off a valuable 7lbs too. This race is likely to be run at a torrid pace and I’m hopeful that Cian Mac Redmond will be happy to track the leaders. Strong Johnson finds plenty for pressure. He should finish strongly over a course and distance he clearly relishes.
The Pretty Polly Stakes is an interesting tactical affair, as it’s not loaded with obvious early pace. Willie McCreery runs two fillies, and they could compliment each other nicely. Epona Plays has raced handily in both starts this season. Granted, they were both over a mile, but I’d guess she’ll be allowed to bowl along over this longer trip. That will help stablemate INSINUENDO, who is inclined to race a little keenly.
That hasn’t stopped her performing with great credit in three career starts. Indeed, were it not for being a bit clueless off the bridle on her second run in Tipperary, I feel she could be unbeaten. That Tipperary form worked out a treat, as did her Group race win in Naas last time out.
She is learning quickly, and will hopefully prove a touch more tractable on Sunday. She probably needs to improve about 10lbs to prevail here. Given her profile, that doesn’t seem all that improbable and she rates a sporting wager at a double figure price.
It will be interesting to see what price Notre Belle Bete goes off for the mile maiden that closes the card. He has the ability to blow the opposition away, the snag is that he’s regressed in each of his four visits to the track and I’m inclined to oppose him at the likely odds.
YERMANTHERE is interesting at what could be huge odds. He made a very promising debut in Gowran last month. He was intimidated at least three times in the race before suffering severe interference about a furlong down. He finished seventh, but would have been at least third with a clear run. That wasn’t a particularly strong maiden but then, Notre Belle Bete aside, neither is this.
Yermanthere has a very pleasing head carriage and he looks like he should appreciate the step up in trip, he also has a decent draw. His trainer would be more associated with the jumping game, but he had a horse run well at a big price on the Flat recently mind you. He could well have another one here.
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