Ben Linfoot picks out four points of interest from the racing world in the UK and Ireland on Friday as stablemates Stormy Daniels and Flamboyant Fling do battle at Dundalk.
1. Has Clayton still got it?
For a horse rated 104 on the Flat CLAYTON has never really fulfilled his potential over jumps.
He has hinted at being a good horse in the National Hunt sphere, though, most notably when landing a Plumpton maiden hurdle by 16 lengths but also on a couple of occasions at Lingfield, his favourite track.
A winner of a handicap hurdle off 117 at the Surrey course in the December of 2017, he was second back at the venue off 3lb higher the following month and that was his last run for 314 days.
Gary Moore has had a few unlucky runs with the son of Peintre Celebre, as he’s been hard to keep sound, but when a leg injury kept him off the course for much of 2017 it took him a few runs to regain his fitness before that Lingfield success.
So his last run on the back of a similar absence was encouraging. Reappearing in the same race he won the year before but off a 5lb higher mark of 122, he shaped with promise before falling in a hole in the straight, fitness getting the better of him at the business end.
Dropped 4lb for that, he returns to Lingfield in the starsports.bet Handicap Hurdle on Friday (2.00) and he has everything in his favour; ground, track, trip and handicap mark.
The one question is has he still got the legs, being a 10-year-old, against several younger rivals? I guess there’s only one way to find out…
2. Prince can be crowned at Wetherby
The bumper at Ascot that PRINCE LLYWELYN was second to Hazzaar in is traditionally a good one and although this season’s race could be working out better this horse’s second run is eagerly anticipated.
He stayed on really well on debut, once the penny dropped, to cut through the field for the runner-up spot at Ascot and that effort can be improved upon now he has his second start.
I can’t remember the last time Wetherby was Good to Soft in January, but that was the ground Kim Bailey’s charge encountered at Ascot so underfoot conditions should be no problem for this son of Schiaparelli.
More of a concern is that this test will be too sharp, but it’s to be hoped his Ascot experience will help him travel better in the mid-section of the contest and I always think you need to stay well in this type of race at Wetherby anyway.
This could be a classic speed versus stamina test, as fellow form pick Big Bad Bear has more zip about him both on paper (he’s by Jeremy) and judging by his Sedgefield run behind Champagne Well.
It could be a tight tussle between the duo, but you'll still need to get home on Friday and I fancy Prince Llywelyn’s strong finish could sway things in his favour in what looks a fascinating end to proceedings at the Yorkshire track.
3. Merlin magic over a mile?
MERLIN has gone off the rails.
However, the magic could return at Kempton in the 32Red.com Handicap on Friday as he’s dropped 8lb in four runs and now he’s running over a mile for the first time in 11 starts.
The step back up in trip from six furlongs could be just what he needs, as he just looked to have lost a bit of whizz at the end of last year and he wasn’t beaten far over a mile in the early part of his career.
He’s certainly bred for a trip, as his dam won over 10 furlongs, so, although he has something to prove on the surface after his last couple of runs, his decreasing mark and the distance angle make him an interesting contender in a good little race.
4. And finally…
Mick Halford has achieved many things at Dundalk having saddled no less than 234 winners at the all-weather track, but he’s yet to nail a Donald Trump forecast – something that could change on Friday night.
He saddles three in the Bet Victor Maiden at 6.00 including STORMY DANIELS and FLAMBOYANT FLING, the latter a succinct description of the president’s alleged dalliance with the former if there ever was one.
Stormy Daniels is a daughter of One Night In May and is a half-sister to Hashtag Frenzy, so expect her progeny to be named something like Cohen’s Payment (by Beneficial) or Pornstar Martini (by Stimulation) if she ever makes it to the breeding sheds.