Sunday a great day for punters

Roscommon Races Kevin Hussey  Sunday’s card was chiefly remarkable for the very high levels of prize money on offer and for a series of results which, in general, so favoured the punter that it must have been a bitter experience for the bookmaking fraternity. Only the victory of Geranjo in the Abbey Hotel Handicap offered them any relief – and if favourite Silent Wind had not ducked the issue, flashing his tail when coming to challenge, the backers’ domination would have been complete.   As it was, five market leaders won, while the opening maiden went to second favourite Queen Jock. She came here from the Irish Guineas and was not winning out of turn. In the Dermot Hughes Handicap which followed the 3/1 favourite Funatfantasia had been napped by no less than the legendary Pricewise  and duly carried the day, but only after a heart stopping drive up the rails by Pat Smullen got him home by a short head from Nortburn.   There were no such concerns for either Peacock’ Pride in the auction maiden or Salford City in the Pyramid Bookmakers novice chase, who both landed short odds. Salford City was rated a country mile clear on his hurdle rating and won like it. Only four years ago this horse was well fancied for the Derby and has a touch of class. He would be very interesting for Galway, but apparently Gordon Elliot has a more exotic campaign in mind.   The featured Earley Properties handicap attracted a quality field, with Dermot Weld’s one time classic aspirant Unwritten Rule a likely contender. However, he had a stiff task for a three year old and never threatened the decisive winner, joint favourite Ragged Staff, who should be able to follow up soon.   The prize-money for the day totalled some €117,500, a sum that would be the envy of most English tracks and is a testament to Roscommon’s growing stature in the racing world. It is one of the abiding mysteries of the modern game how people can afford to race in the UK for the derisory rewards generally on offer. It can only encourage skullduggery and this is the only racing country where such a situation obtains. Step forward our bookmaking friends and their slick PR operation!   Monday was more low key, but it afforded some relief to the layers in wins for unconsidered animals like Whatwouldmyrasay and Dariak. The latter in particular had a big impact in that he scuppered the Jackpot, which now carries forward to Leopardstown. Three favourites did win during the evening, with the hitherto highly tried Afasheen, an impressive odds on shot in the Gerry Coffey Hurdle.   Riding honours went to the ladies, however, with Nina Carberry taking her usual bumper bow on the unraced Seefin Dancer, while Amy Parsons was strong and resolute on the perennial maiden Blaze trailer in the First Chice Betting Handicap.   On the wider racing scene, the season is shaping up into a more than usually fascinating one. New Approach’ s Derby victory was astonishing in the manner of its achievement. Rarely can a horse have pulled so hard in the early stages of any race and still produced the turn of foot he did. Much has been made of his suspect temperament, but there was little evidence of that on Saturday. The win was a fitting tribute to the modesty, loyalty and talent of veteran Kevin Manning. It is unfortunate that the event was rather sullied by the circumstances of the horse appearing at Epsom at all – but the manner of his victory and the promise of the future should transcend that.   Finally, the Prix de Diane in France on Sunday confirmed the arrival of another potential champion in Zarkava. Add the likes of Henrythenavigator, Fleeting Spirit, Sakhee’s Secret, Soldier of Fortune and Duke of Marmalade to the formula and an alluring chemistry appears for the summer ahead.