It's low-key racing at Fairyhouse and Limerick this afternoon but Tony Keenan has found a trio of horses to back at the first-named track...
"La Novia's placed runs at Dundalk earlier this year suggests she can win off a basement mark of 45 and there was some promise in her return off a three-month break at Naas last time."
We are in the dog days of summer when flat racing comes at you fast; it will seem as if there is a meeting every day from now through to the end of August. That means horses run more frequently, even the best of them as we saw with the Aidan O'Brien pair Saxon Warrior and Athena yesterday, the former running at least close to form in the Eclipse, the latter posting a career-best in the Belmont Oaks. No more than Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott over jumps, O'Brien sets the trends that others follow on the flat so we could see more horses making quick returns over the next two months.
With that in mind, it is worth a brief look at the trainers that do best with horses backing up quickly. In Irish flat turf racing from 2012 to present, 4,593 horses have returned within the week with 534 winning, a strikerate of 11.6%. Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien are tied with 51 of those winners with the less salubrious stables of Harry Rogers (21 winners) and Adrian McGuinness (19 winners) next. In terms of strikerate and considering only those trainers with at least 50 runners, O'Brien does best with a 22.5% return, followed by Bolger on 16.6%, Jessica Harrington on 16.2% (with relatively few attempts), Denis Hogan on 13.2% and Rogers on 12.8%. Another name to note is Joseph O'Brien who is eight from 41 which quick returners, a 19.5% strikerate, and it could be worth keeping these names in mind as we enter festival season with Bellewstown just gone and Killarney and Galway to come.
There are potentially five horses making a quick return in the 14:25 at Fairyhouse, not all that unusual in a low-grade sprint, but they look to have plenty on with top-weight Focus Of Attention. A mark of 65 looks lenient judging on his third off 72 over course-and-distance last September and his first start for his new yard at Navan when drawn on the watered far side was excellent considered those racing near the stands were favoured. That he is the first runner for the Joseph O'Brien Racing Club looks another positive as they will surely want to start well. The problem is one of price however with odds around [4.0] short enough in a 17-runner handicap though he would be of interest if drifting.
Joseph O'Brien has another short-priced favourite in the subsequent race with Lady Godiva and she can go well if reproducing her Bellewstown second on Thursday; still, she had no obvious excuses there unless this drop in trip will bring improvement. The Leopardstown form of Danehill Quest and Groovy Jazz is respected and perhaps the Comer horse can reverse form over this shorter trip but at the prices La Novia looks the bet.
Her placed runs at Dundalk earlier this year suggests she can win off a basement mark of 45 and there was some promise in her return off a three-month break at Naas last time. She finished seventh over six furlongs there, staying on like one that would benefit from a step up in trip which she gets now, and connections seem to have made the correct decision as she was also entered in the earlier six-furlong race. That Naas race, though a low-grade contest, has worked out well with the first and fifth winning since, and there should be improvement for fitness too.
Finding other bets on the card was difficult but it might be worth splitting small stakes across Smiling Eliza and Lady Camelot in the 12-furlong handicap in the hope of betting Baba Boom beaten. The Johnny Murtagh-trained favourite won easily at Limerick but gets a 10lb hike for his troubles and the two selections shaped well in better races than this last time.
Smiling Eliza actually beat the favourite earlier in the season at Navan on the same weight terms as today but was fortunate to do so. The case for her is more based on her Apprentice Derby fourth, a race where she was badly-in at the weights but did well to finish fourth as she raced wide on the sweeping final Curragh bend and made her challenge in the centre of the track. Horses that do that tend to struggle in the finish so she is worth marking up.
Lady Camelot ran well on her first start of the season over a mile at the Curragh, finishing fifth to some in-form and race-fit fillies, all the time looking like the trip was too sharp. She didn't really build on that in the Ulster Oaks but that was a messy race from early on; having had a good early position, she got shuffled back in a slowly-run race and had to make ground wide. First of the bridle, she had every excuse to drop out but actually ran on again in the manner of a filly that would like this distance. A drop of two pounds for that run is lenient and this race represents a class drop for her.
2018 P+L: -26.7 points