O’Leary targeting Munster National glory with Arkwhist
Aidan O’Brien has seven options including Abyssinian in Irish Cesarewitch
Michael O’Leary’s dominance of Ireland’s big handicap chase prizes could continue at Limerick on Sunday with Arkwhist prominent in the sponsor’s betting for the JT McNamara Ladbrokes Munster National.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained horse is one of five potential hopefuls for the Ryanair boss among 29 entries left in the €100,000 highlight.
Arkwhist was beaten half a length by another of O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team, Potters Point, in the Kerry National last month, a result which followed up Balko Des Flos landing the Galway Plate in August.
Lord Scoundrel and Wrath Of Titans completed the Galway-Listowel double for O’Leary in 2016 before Tiger Roll secured the Munster National prize and similar Gigginstown dominance may be on the cards again.
The former top staying hurdler Alpha Des Obeaux is also in contention along with the top-rated Devils Bride although curiously Gordon Elliott is without an entry.
In contrast Elliott’s great rival Willie Mullins has three possible starters including the ex-Sandra Hughes trained Total Recall who has yet to run for the champion trainer.
The 2014 winner Shanpallas is among seven entries from the JP McManus team which also includes Arkwhist’s stable companion Slowmotion.
Ladbrokes reacted to the latest forfeit stage by making Arkwhist and Total Recall 6-1 joint-favourites.
Sunday’s other big six-figure handicap will be the Irish Cesarewitch which takes places at Navan this year due to the Curragh’s redevelopment.
A total of 45 entries, including both Agent Murphy and Nietzsche from Britain, are left in the €100,000 highlight. Aidan O’Brien has seven options including the progressive Killarney winner, Abyssinian.
Dermot Weld has left Vigil in the Cesarewitch and the Curragh trainer is likely to give his talented but injury-plagued Zawraq a start in Saturday’s Listed Martin Molony Stakes on Limerick’s flat card.
Zawaraq was one of the leading contenders for the 2015 Epsom Derby until ruled out through injury and has run just twice since. On his latest return to action at Listowel last month he was beaten less than a length by Riven Light in a Listed race.
Wednesday’s Naas card contains seven juvenile races with the potential to throw up a potential international star of the future.
There are seven Ballydoyle declarations in all, including three in the concluding seven furlong maiden.
The Japanese-bred Conclusion is sure to attract attention being by Deep Impact who sired last week’s impressive Beresford Stakes scorer, Saxon Warrior.
However the experience garnered by Flag Of Honour on his debut that day could prove crucial. The colt was ten lengths behind the winner McMunigal but still shaped with some promise.
Aidan O’Brien unveils full sisters to Cliffs Of Moher and Together Forever in the fillies maiden although Minnie Haha could prove tough to beat in this.
John Oxx’s Night Of Power was fourth in the maiden won by McMunigal and he can advertise that form in the earlier auction maiden.
Night Of Power’s jockey Declan McDonogh will renew his partnership with the ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ winner Burnt Sugar when that horses lines up for Saturday’s Challenge Cup at Ascot.
Burnt Sugar and McDonogh landed the Sovereign Path Handicap at Leopardstown last month and the horse’s trainer Roger Fell is keen to keep the link.
“He’s going to Ascot and Declan will ride him again. I still think his handicap mark is fair as he’s in such good form,” Fell reported.
“We’ve also got him in the Balmoral on Champions Day and if he can win one of those we’ll be alright,” he added.
The all-conquering Arc team of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori is likely to tackle the Champion Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day with Cracksman.
Gosden indicated the Champion Stakes plan for the Irish Derby runner-up on Tuesday as well as confirming no decision has been taken on whether or not the Arc heroine Enable races as a four year old in 2018.