In a race littered with out of form and largely untrustworthy sorts, STRATEGIC FORCE (best price 12-1) makes most appeal at his attractive early quotes. On the bare bones of his recent displays, Gerard O’Leary’s inmate appears bang out of nick, but that is mainly due to his constant struggles with the turf and he is best judged on some of his better performances at today’s track further back down the line. On his last outing over the C&D in April, for instance, the son of Strategic Prince ran a blinder in a much better race than the one he faces today against the likes of Lady Mega and Go Kart (now rated 89 and 85 respectably) and considering he now gets the chance to race off a 6lb lower mark, his chance, buoyed also by an inside draw, looks a bit brighter than his market position suggests.
Yet to finish out of the frame in five starts at today’s venue (31321), VICTORIOUS SECRET (best price 5-1) arrives here in the sort of form that’ll help Tommy Stack’s filly uphold those impressive set of figures. A smooth winner over today’s C&D three starts ago, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor followed up that victory with an equally impressive display at Leopardstown over a furlong shorter and she may have well scored again back at the same track if it wasn’t for the power-packed finish of strong stayer McGuigan last time. Clearly in rude health at present from an outfit in a similar vein of form (Balcony won at Navan yesterday) the consistent three-year-old has all the right credentials to run another huge race at her happy hunting ground.
GREEN OR BLACK (best price 9-1) ran a race full of promise on debut at Navan eight days ago and with just normal improvement, Andy Oliver’s inmate has a decent chance of making her presence felt in this ordinary-looking maiden. Breaking alertly for a 25-1 poke having her first racecourse experience, the daughter of Zebedee found herself chasing a suicidal pace set by the perennial underachiever Shubert through the early exchanges, so it was no great surprise that she failed to keep up that very strong gallop all the way to the line under the circumstances. Given the time figure of the race, she did, however, run to a fair standard first time off the shelf and sure to be all the better for that initial experience, a big run looks on the cards dropping back down a furlong.
A useful horse on the Flat for Andrew Balding, MYSTERIOUS MAN (best price 9-4) made a bright start in his new discipline for new connections at Worcester recently and he can defy a penalty despite taking on two similarly promising types. Clearly big things weren’t expected of Brendan Powell’s charge on his first start over hurdles, hence his 10-1 starting price, but he defied his easy-to-back position in the market with a facile success over several with previous solid form. Given that he stayed the 2m 4f journey really strongly that day after a positive ride from the front, one would imagine the son of Manduro will be forcefully ridden again in order to make full use of his stamina now dropping in trip and providing he gets into a decent rhythm facing conventional hurdles for the first time, he could be pretty tough to peg back.
Despite running eye-catchingly well in a strongly-run and competitive affair at Roscommon last time out, SAPPHIRINE (NAP) (best price 6-1) somehow finds herself in 0-65 company after the handicapper amazingly dropped her 3lb and she has the kind of profile that suggests she will be capable of exploiting such leniency. A useful performer on the all-weather for previous connections, Johnny Murtagh’s inmate has done more than enough in three outings for the Co Kildare handler to suggest she could be a decent little money-spinner at this track throughout the autumn and winter months and this race, against a largely out-of-form bunch of exposed handicappers, rates a fair starting point for the Shamardal filly.