Ventana Canyon to score


IT is a pity that the opposition to Ventana Canyon has dried up in today's Power Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, and the same remark applies to Elegant Lord in the Pat Donnelly and Sons Joseph O'Reilly Memorial Cup. But apart from the opening race, the fields are so meagre it would appear trainers were scared of firm or even hard ground. Yet, to the surprise of some trainers and jockeys who walked the course before racing yesterday, the going is perfect.

Ventana Canyon's 20 lengths victory over Arctic Kinsman in the Guinness Arkle Chase at Cheltenham was fully advertised by the latter's subsequent success at Liverpool. Edward O'Grady's charge was a smart novice hurdler and, judging by his Festival win, has now got his jumping act together and it will be a surprise if he does not progress. If successful, he will be the 11th favourite to win this £35,000 event since 1980 and the fifth to start odds on O'Grady last won the race with Blitzkreig in 1990.

If by any chance Cheltenham has left its mark on Ventana Canyon and this race has come a bit quick the Michael Kauntze trained Persian Halo might be the one to capitalise. However, Arctic Kinsman, Rough Quest, Encore En Peu, Kerry Orchid and a few other Cheltenham principals performed well at Aintree two weeks later so there is no rule of thumb. Persian Halo stood off much too far when falling at the eight fence in a three horse novice chase at Leopardstown, where he was remounted to beat fellow faller Lisselan Prince. Persian Halo was certainly impressive when winning over this course in February.

Double Symphony was in contention when falling at the fourth last in Ventana Canyon's Arkle success at Leopardstown, and he also came to grief at the fourth last in the Cheltenham feature. It will be a surprise if Ventana Cabyon fails to win.

Elegant Lord, an easy winner of Cheltenham's Fox hunters from Cool Dawn and Kerry Orchid should take care of the facile Downpatrick winner Corymandel in the hunters chase.

Eoin's Orchestra will be a short priced favourite for the opening Autozero Maiden Hurdle, as will Jeffell for the RFL Steel Hurdle. Low Front, a stable companion of Jeffell, would have a big chance in the Bisquit Cognac Handicap Hurdle if reproducing his good run when finishing within a length of Dance Beat over this course and distance on New Year's Day. Common Sound holds Low Front on Limerick running but that was on heavy ground. The choice is Miltonfield, who ran well on the flat at the Curragh recently. Before that, at Leopardstown in February, he got within a short head of Beakstown. The going will suit John Mulhern's charge.