Knockcroghery capable of opening Weld account in €70,000 amateur riders feature
King of Ballybrit eyes hat-trick on Day One
Knockcroghery looks to have taken on a new lease of life since being confirmed in foal to Fame And Glory. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Presseye/Inpho
It’s Day One of Galway and while it looks like being business as usual for Dermot Weld in the winners enclosure this evening, the €70,000 amateur-riders feature can throw up some festival romance if Knockcroghery continues her winning streak.
The female is famously the deadlier of the species but in thoroughbred terms an even deadlier female is one that is in foal and Knockcroghery looks to have taken on a new lease of life since being confirmed in foal to Fame And Glory.
Prior to her dalliance with the Irish Derby and Ascot Gold Cup hero, 44 career starts had yielded the John Nicholson owned, bred and trained mare three victories – a tally she has equalled in her last three starts.
It’s the sort of pattern that encourages calls for punters to be made officially aware of when mares are in foal. And while it is a statistically murky picture, there appears little doubt Knockcroghery is a significantly improved racer for having been covered.
A winner over hurdles at Limerick last time, but successful on the level at Bellewstown and Tipperary prior to that, she gets into the 20-runner Connacht Hotel Handicap towards the bottom of the weights and Co Tipperary amateur Rachel Blackmore is good value for her 7lb claim.
Jane Mangan teamed up with Dermot Weld to land the two-mile heat with Midnight Music last year and they are represented by Notable Graduate this time, while Willie Mullins has top weight Digaenta and Call Me Bubbles who will be ridden by his son Patrick.
Domination and Redera are at opposite ends of the handicap but both are sure to be fancied while the high-class jumper Shadow Eile is one of the quartet of mares taking their chance. There can be no knowing the rate of progress in an in-foal mare and a revitalised Knockcroghery can trump the lot.
Notable Graduate is one of half a dozen Weld runners tonight as the King of Ballybrit continues to exert such a vice-like grip on the festival that last year’s tally of nine winners was greeted almost in a “ho-hum” manner considering 2011’s record 17. However, Weld insisted yesterday he will be “more than satisfied” if he emulates last year’s tally as he bids to be crowned leading trainer for the 27th time.
“If we even get close to that this year, we’ll be more than satisfied,” he said.
“We’ll probably have less runners this year. We’ve had less runners throughout the year because we’ve less horses.”
One race in particular, the seven-furlong juvenile maiden, has become a Weld benefit over the years and if Mustajeeb is successful this evening, it will be win number 23 in the contest for the trainer who has produced some high-quality winners over the seasons, none more so than Grey Swallow a decade ago.
Mustajeeb may not come up to that quality. But he holds some decent entries later in the season and there was plenty to like about his Curragh debut in May when he broke slowly, raced keenly but had enough about him to finish just on the heels of the subsequent Railway Stakes winner Sudirman.
Aidan O’Brien has disrupted the Weld benefit a couple of times in recent years and the form of his runner, Friendship, got a significant Group Three boost last week from Exogenesis. But Mustajeeb is sure to have been primed for this task.
Diplomat goes for Weld in the opening hurdle on the back of a comfortable success at Sligo and runner-up that day, King William, has since boosted the form.
A Weld-trained daughter of a Group One winner having her first handicap start in first-time blinkers around Galway will have bookmakers taking a wary stance on the seven-furlong handicap.
Peace Accord hasn’t done anything to justify a short price but no one’s going to underestimate her either.
Relish the trip
In contrast Pay Day Kitten looks to be well-exposed in the mile-and-a-half handicap and it could pay to side instead with Killarney winner Abu Nayef who races like he should relish this trip, and the final hill.
John Oxx has had an underwhelming season to date but the well bred Abu Nayef looks in decent form and may be a value option to confirm form with Lady Giselle, and also cope with Saturday’s Wexford winner, Irish Bulletin.
Raydari has just his second start over flights for Cork trainer Rodger Sweeney in the handicap hurdle and there should be plenty more to come on the back of a Roscommon win that saw a hefty hike in the ratings.