Big Weekend: Horses to watch this weekend

Friday, August 09, 2019
Weekend Watch Horses to watch

Horse To Watch 1 – Drumcliff

Curragh trainer Aidan Howard has been among the winners on the Flat of late from a very select team. Since The Last Indian finished fourth of sixth in Ballinrobe on June 24, Howard has had just eight runners. Six of those have been on the level and from those six, he has recorded four victory -  Miss Jabeam hitting the target twice.

For that reason, the previously unraced Lady Jane Wilde has to be watched in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden (5.15) at his local venue tonight, despite being among the outsiders, and Enter The Red could be value in the TRI Equine Nutrition Handicap (8.00).

Howard has long been held in high regard as a trainer and educator of young horses but his handling of Winter Escape, a horse that has had his share of difficulties impressed owner JP McManus and manager Frank Berry enough for them to leave him in his care last year, having initially been sent over from Alan King’s for some R & R. Winter Escape went on to bag a pair of Grade 3s and while bursting blood vessels may hamper consistency, the ability is such that there are sure to be other big days in him.

Drumcliff is another McManus-owned gelding, who was last seen just over 12 months ago falling in the Galway Plate when very well backed and travelling well under Áine O’Connor for her brother-in-law Harry Fry, early in the final circuit.

The son of Presenting had prevailed in three of his previous assignments, with O’Connor doing the steering twice and her fiancé, Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden on board on the other occasion. It is Madden that gets the office in the Joe Cooney Memorial Hurdle (6.05) at Kilbeggan tomorrow but Howard is down as the conditioner in that first run in 374 days.

Clearly, he has been tending to the eight-year-old’s recuperation for whatever was the cause of his lay-off and Drumcliff has taken to his new surroundings. After such a lengthy lay-off, significant improvement is sure to come but on all known evidence, we can expect him to be competing in big-money handicaps in time.


Horse To Watch 2 – Gordon Lord Byron

It is over two years now since Gordon Lord Byron won, not that anyone connected with him could dream of complaining. The now 11-year-old is still racing because he could not contemplate retirement and his most recent appearance – the 100th of an astonishing career – saw him finish fourth in the Group 2 Minstrel Stakes at HQ, just over four lengths behind last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised, who has leading claims in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville on Sunday.

That is a clear indication of his continuing health and competitiveness and a drop down to Group 3 Qatar Racing And Equestrian Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes (7.25) at the Curragh tonight ostensibly improves his chances of adding a 17th career triumph, though the drop to six furlongs may not play to his strengths unless there is a strong from the off gallop.

Trainer Tom Hogan has been regularly posting updates on his Twitter status of Gordon’s trips to the beach and the Tipperary handlers is optimistic that the sea air and salt water has been beneficial to his triple Group 1-winning hero.

It will be the biggest cheer of the night if he gets up.

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