In the second edition of a new series of racing previews horse racing expert, WILL HOFFMANN, looks ahead to Saturday’s racing and wonders what’s happened to Tiger Roll’s jockey Davy Russell.
Gigginstown are a funny bunch. In many respects, Michael and Eddie O’Leary are the ideal racing owners: their horses always run on their merits, they are as objective and honest as you would hope about their horse’s abilities and they’ve invested heavily in the game.
All that being said, they have a habit – perhaps not all that surprising given Michael O’Leary’s ownership of Ryanair – of hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons at times. Their perceived threat of the handicapper over Tiger Roll’s participation in the National and previous boycott of the race are but two examples of many.
This week, however, the strange demise of Davy Russell seems to have gone under the radar. If anybody was in Gigginstown’s good books, it would surely be Russell. Tiger Roll’s jockey and a man, with Ruby Walsh’s retirement, probably regarded as about the best rider left in the game. Not so. Although Davy has ridden for them on occasion over the past month, it appears he’s fallen well out of favour with the O’Leary brothers.
He’s not been aboard any of their well-fancied sorts, or big names, including Battleoverdoyen or Samcro for whom he would have been the obvious deputy with Jack Kennedy injured. His services have, perhaps most crucially of all, not been rendered for Delta Work who Russell partnered on every start last season.
Donoghue moving up the ladder
Since Bryan Cooper was sacked, Gigginstown have been fairly mercurial with their selection of riders but, ultimately, there was a loose hierarchy which placed Russell and Kennedy at the top with Blackmore and Flanagan picking up rides for their associated stables. That seems to have been thrown out the window with Keith Donoghue the chief beneficiary.
What Davy’s done to merit another cup of tea has yet to be determined and, if it wasn’t for oblique reference made to it by the ever mealy-mouthed Racing Post, it wouldn’t have been touched on in the mainstream media at all. With Davy the rider of the only horse who can bring racing back to the front-pages, however, that surely can’t continue much longer.
Ireland’s other big owner, JP McManus, isn’t renowned for his straightforward campaigning of his horses which, although unappealing to those who strive for purity, makes them more interesting from a punting perspective. One such “quietly campaigned” sort ran at Stratford on Thursday. The horse, Eaglehill trained by Olly Murphy, was tenderly handled in the latter stages of the race and heavily steadied into the last. With that in mind, he finished quite powerfully to finish about 10-lengths behind the winner. Handicaps are obviously the aim here, and it’ll be interesting to see what the handicapper makes of those runs.
We turn to Saturday and a couple of tips for you to consider.
TIP ONE – INDEFATIGABLE
Over hurdles, Indefatigable caught my eye in the Wetherby mares hurdle. She’s long been held in the highest of regard by Paul Webber which culminated in a solid fifth at the festival and a Listed mares hurdle win in April. Her return fifth was the almost the definition of an eyecatching run. A competitive handicap, strongly run and good on the clock, she was held up in rear early. Sheehan made a bizarre move down the back-straight, using up a lot of energy quickly. She was still travelling best early in the home-straight but the effort quickly, and understandably, petered out. Back down to 2-miles here, race fit and on a galloping track, she’ll prove very hard to stop.
Lady Buttons is a more naturally pacey type, and will almost certainly travel like the winner, but she lacks Indefatigable’s generosity under pressure and I’d be hopeful the latter named can grind this out.
TIP TWO – EARLOFTHECOTSWOLDS
Over fences, Earlofthecotswolds has only a single chase start to his name but, prior to that, was in top form over hurdles. His chase run ended with a fall but the winner, Rouge Vif, posted an excellent performance which I rated in the low 150s. Earlofthecotswolds wouldn’t have beaten him, but he would have been an honourable second and is let in off a mark of 140 here. The extra two furlongs will suit, as his weakness over the minimum was tactical speed, and most of these look rather more exposed over hurdles than him.
Clearly the concern is experience, but that’s more than factored into the price, and is a similar worry for many of these given it’s a novices chase. I had him clear favourite, and he’ll prove hard to stop.
1:35 Ascot. Back Earlofthecotswolds at 7/2 or bigger
1:55 Wetherby. Back Indefatigable at 3/1 or bigger