Horse Racing Tips

Saturday Irish Racing Tips: Improving Cougar to take Ulster Derby

Down Royal
Mark Milligan has three selections for Saturday's Irish action

"Cougar was third in another maiden at Navan last time, form that has already been franked by the fourth horse coming out and winning next time."

Mark Milligan is back for his regular look at the weekend's Irish racing, and he has a trio of selections at Down Royal on Saturday...

While the attention will quite rightly be on the final day of Royal Ascot on Saturday, across the Irish Sea Down Royal stages its marquee meeting of the summer, headlined by the €100,000 Ulster Derby at 16:25.

Despite its grand title, this is actually a handicap, albeit a very good one, though it doesn't contain the kind of stars we've been watching at the Berkshire venue over the last five days or so.

The majority of the seven-runner field are lightly raced and open to potential improvement, though none more so than Aidan O'Brien's Cougar, who looks to be heading into his first handicap off a very workable opening mark.

Runner-up in a Curragh maiden on just his second start in April, that was a race won by subsequent Derby Trial second Glory Daze, who went on to finish down the field in the main event itself at Epsom.

Cougar was third in another maiden at Navan last time, form that has already been franked by the fourth horse coming out and winning next time.

All told, he looks attractively handicapped off a mark of 84 and future Group-race entries suggest that connections feel he has the talent to become more than a handicapper in time.

The main danger may well be the equally unexposed Shajak, who won a maiden at Tipperary a few weeks ago and hails from a yard that is going through a good spell at the moment.

He's another handicap debutant that the assessor might have underestimated, though he does have to concede 8lb to Cougar, which will be no easy task.

Spartan Army another potential improver

The opening contest, a 1m 2f maiden at 14:00, can go the way of the Joseph O'Brien/Shane Crosse partnership that we saw to such good effect with State Of Rest at Royal Ascot earlier in the week.

Spartan Army showed a little bit on debut at the Curragh in October before ultimately finishing well beaten, but then improved markedly to finish third at Sligo on his comeback run last month.

In a race dominated by a pair that raced handily, he did really well to stick on from the rear, despite charting a wider course than ideal.

He looks the type to go on improving for his high-profile connections and a maiden like this should be well within his compass.

Not that it will all be plain sailing, however, as several of this field have shown enough to win an ordinary contest, notably A Shin Udine, who finished ahead of the selection last time.

As noted, she was one of two that had the run of things that day and I'd be hopeful Spartan Army can reverse that form.

Filly could be well handicapped

I'm sticking with the O'Brien/Crosse partnership in the next race, a 1m 2f handicap at 14:35, as they team up with Onameridance, who hasn't been seen to anything like maximum effect on her last couple of starts.

A lightly raced daughter of Fastnet Rock, she showed plenty of promise when seventh to Oaks winner Tuesday on her seasonal reappearance, not being given anything like a hard time having been slowly away.

Sent handicapping off a mark of 75 at Killarney last time, Onameridance was again slowly away and found herself with a hopeless task from the home turn, eventually finishing fifth under another considerate ride.

Provided she's away on terms this time, she should take plenty of beating, and it looks significant that Crosse take over from apprentice jockey Mikey Sheehy, who's ridden her on her last two outings.

Bred to be a lot better than a 75-rated filly, Onameridance is related to stacks of winners and I'll be very disappointed if she doesn't go close from this sort of mark, particularly if decides to pick her feet up out of the stalls this time around.

Recommended bets

Mark's P/L

Staked: 207
Returns: 263.16
P/L: +56.16


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