New Approach might tip it for Classic

HORSES FOR COURSES       TOM RED In Ireland this Bank Holiday weekend there are 6 meetings, 2 race meetings on Friday with a mixed card on the turf at Cork and a night meeting on the all-weather at Dundalk. On Saturday Kilbeggan hold their first meeting of the year starting at 5.35 with 4 hurdles, 2 chases and a bumper. Sunday sees a flat meeting at Gowran Park and a national hunt card at Sligo with 5 hurdle races and a bumper. And on Monday racing is on the level at headquarters in the Curragh.    Racing has started on the local scene in earnest this week with Ballinrobe’s first mixed meeting of the year ran on Wednesday and Paddy Dunican and his hard-working committee are looking forward to another successful season at Kilbeggan in 2008 with their first meeting on Saturday evening and Sligo start with an afternoon meeting at the Cleveragh on Sunday both all national hunt cards.        Across channel the flat season is well and truly here and the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, first of the classic races, will be run at Newmarket this weekend where the going is expected to be good.   In the 2000 Guineas on Saturday the favourite, Jim Bolger’s unbeaten Dewhurst winner, New Approach heads a total of 19 horses in the 2000 Guineas. The Irish challenge includes the Aidan O’Brien trained Henrythenavigator, Jupiter Pluvius, One Great Cat and Plan all still in the mile race.     Godolphin confirmed Fast Company as a non-runner, leaving Rio De La Plata, 4th behind New Approach in the Dewhurst, together with Racing Post Trophy winner Ibn Khaldun as runners. Ibn Khaldun is likely to be their only runner and Rio De La Plata is more likely to run in the French equivalent.   John Gosden also sends the Dewhurst third Raven’s Pass back to Newmarket following his second in the Craven Stakes there. Jim Bolger’s colt New Approach should win the first classic of the season at a short price of around 2/1, from Raven’s Pass.   On Sunday the 1000 Guineas there are 18 left in at this stage with the challenge from this side of the pond including Jim Bolger’s Saoirse Abu, an outsider at 33/1 trying to repeat last season’s win of Finsceal Beo, and Aiden O’Brien’s quartet Halfway To Heaven, Kitty Matcham, Psalm and Savethisdanceforme.    France is represented by the P Bary trained Natagora and the home defence is led by Saeed Bin Suroor’s Laureldean Gale and the unbeaten pair of John Gosden’s Infallible and J R Fanshawe’s Spacious. Again this looks one for export to France with Natagora to win from Spacious.    PUNCHESTOWN: Punchestown saw a reversal of fortunes of recent years with of the 5 Grade 1 races going for export to England starting on Tuesday with Twist Magic and Air Force One.   On Wednesday Neptune Collonges took the Gold Cup for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh, adding to Twist Magic’s victory in the Kerrygold Champion Chase on Tuesday. Beef or Salmon was retired after the race finishing a respectable 6th.    Willie Mullins also announced the retirement of Hedgehunter and both horses were parade in the ring afterwards.    The most impressive performance of the week was Cousin Vinny, again in the capable hands of Patrick Mullins, hammering a quality field in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper including the Roscommon owned Corskeagh Royale who finished 4th.   On Thursday in the World Hurdle Blazing Bailey took the World Series Hurdle, the fourth Grade 1 contest exported, for Alan King in the hands of Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton in style and all you Roscommon punters were advised in this column that expenses could be reclaimed on Alan King’s star hurdler. Hope you took the advice and at a nice price of 100/30.   In the longest race ran in Ireland, The La Touche Cup, over 4m 2f and the famous banks of Punchestown, Ken Whelan gave Oh Jackie, trained by Stuart Crawford who also events the horse, a text book ride over this tricky course to win by 2l from the fav Wonderkid at odds of 25/1. It must have been particularly sweet for Whelan who had ridden Wonderkid in his previous 3 races, twice in Cheltenham. Ken had already won two La Touche Cups, in 1999 and 2000, on no less a light than Risk Of Thunder trained by Enda Bolger and owned by actor Sean Connery.   On Friday the 2007 Champion Hurdler Sublimity, had to give way once more to Punjabi trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. The winner had finished 1l in front of John Carr’s charge at Cheltenham and was the 5th English trained Grade 1 winner of the week.     On Saturday in the Champion 4-Y-O Hurdle Won In The Dark trained by Sabrina Harty beat Indian Spring and Paco Jack by 10l and 1l. The winner and 3rd had won both divisions of the 3-Y-O Hurdle at Lenebane last August. Paco Jack is owned by Ballinameen, Co. Roscommon native Christy Beirne who is now a Kilkenny based businessman.    The Ballymore 25th Anniversary Hurdle sponsored by Sean Mulryan and worth €100,000 to the winner was kept at home, if only just, when Leonard Whitmore’s Brave Right, ridden by 3lb claimer Sean Flanagan, held off Ring The Boss, trained in England by Philip Hobbs, by a neck with Jayo 2l away in 3rd.   The last race of the festival, a charity race, featured a budding young silver-haired rider from outside Athlone, Thomas Cleary, ride Silver Side bred by Padraig Gilligan from Cooltiege, owned by a local syndicate and trained in the Sliabh Bawn Stables. The jockey unfortunately appeared to get lost out on the track and crack apprentice Rory Cleary a close relation of the jockey suggested that Niall get a Sat Nav for the rider next time out. Well done to Tom, Niall and all who took part in this race which raises funds for the well-deserved cause of donor transplant.      At the end of a long national season Ruby Walsh finished up on top from Davy Russell in the jockeys championship and after a ding-dong battle Willie Mullins ended up champion trainer from Noel Meade.     Patrick Mullins won the Amateur Riders title from Nina Carberry on 31 winners. Bewleys Berry trained by Howard Johnson broke down in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday and has been retired. Johnson said ‘Both his front legs are in casts. When they’re off we’ll find a good home for him, as he’ll make a nice hack for someone.’   Owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, Bewleys Berry won 3 point to points and bet Slim Pickings in a bumper before joining Howard Johnston. He won four races in England including a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster and finished 5th in this years Grand National behind Comply Or Die. POINT TO POINT: This weekend there are 4 point to point race meetings with 2 on Saturday at Taylorstown outside Newry starting at 2.00 and there is an evening meet at Lisronagh between Fethard and Clonmel in Tipperary first race 4.00 and with 363 entries, the largest ever entry for an Irish point to point meeting, the committee will be at the pin of their collar to finish out the card. On Sunday there is only one meeting at Farnanes in Cork and again on Monday one meeting at Dawstown again in Cork and both meetings start at 2.00.   Last weekend saw huge fields with marathon cards at Laurencetown, 12 races, and at Dromahane, 10 races and 9 races at Maralin on Saturday. There was a normal card at Ballybunnion of only 6 races.    On Saturday Arctic Copper won his 18th point to point to complete his 6 wins for the season in the open lightweight race at Maralin. Running for the 4th weekend in a row and ridden by regular partner Claire McMahon he beat Hunters Tweed and Scolboa Music Man 1½l and the same. Claire now has ridden 10 winners in this year’s Ladies Championship and is the clear leader.     Galway native Derek O’Connor with one winner at Maralin on Saturday reached 75 for the season equaling his own record for a season and on Sunday he added 3 more at Dromahane and moves on to the 78 mark. Wexford’s Jamie Codd with 4 winners, 1 at Maralin and 3 at Laurencetown near Ballinasloe on Sunday, is 13 behind on 65 and MJ O’Connor in 3rd on 44. There were trebles also for Colman Sweeney and Gerry Mangan at Dromahane.