Ireland aiming to close gap on Wales & The West in week three at Windsor
Wales & The West is the team to catch as Racing League approaches the halfway point at Windsor on Thursday evening, August 17, in what promises to be a hotly contested fixture with 87 runners across the seven races.
The reigning champions flew out of the traps on the opening night at Great Yarmouth, winning four of the seven contests, and posted two wins at Chepstow last week to top the leaderboard on 319 points.
Wales & The West has a full complement of runners at Windsor, including the Rod Millman-trained Chinese Knot who is going for her third straight win of this year’s competition.
Team manager Jamie Osborne said: “Chinese Knot should have a favourite’s chance in the nursery as she won at Chepstow like a penalty would not stop her. We managed to win three races last year with Tregony and it would be a great achievement by Rod and his team if that was to happen.
“I think we have two of the least exposed horses in the five-furlong handicap – Libra Tiger was very impressive last time dropping back in trip and Crimson Angel could be anything after winning two of her three starts.
“The same could be said about Gallant Lion and Fulfilled in the extended 11-furlong handicap. Both horses are on a bit of a roll and their respective trainers think there is still more improvement to come.
“We also look strong in the mile handicap for three-year-olds. Man Of Eden is solid for all that he does not win much, while Zoukster is on the upgrade still and I don’t think the handicapper has him yet.
“The way the leaderboard is, and the way he has pulled his finger out, I would say Kevin Blake’s team [Ireland] are going to be the biggest threat to us. I will be keeping an eye on what the green team is doing.
“There is still all to play for because the leaderboard can change very quickly, as we proved last year. We were flailing until the final night. Yes, we have won six of the 14 races so far, but we are not miles clear. Consistency, avoiding blowouts and picking up place points in every race is crucial.”
Ireland (242 points) will be looking to capitalise on a strong performance at Chepstow, where Kevin Blake’s team gained the most points to move up to second in the standings.
Ireland's Star Harbour winning at Chepstow (credit: Grossick Racing Photography)
Blake said: “There is a good feeling in the camp after last week. Even though we only had one winner, 162 points on the night was a pretty good tally and sets us up nicely for the rest of the competition.
“From our perspective, everything has been working better this year. We had 12 runners on week one, 13 last week and we have the full 14 this week, which is essentially key to the whole thing.
“It has been great to be involved for the last two years but, when you are turning up every week and getting a hiding, it is hard to maintain the enthusiasm, whereas now I feel like we are in a spot where we can be genuinely competitive.
“Tuesday morning was a bit dramatic as we had a few late changes with jockeys and runners but thankfully the whole thing has come together nicely in the end. I think we have a strong squad, although whether it is as strong as last week remains to be seen.
“I would say our strongest races are the 5.30pm and the 6.00pm. Bernado O’Reilly and Conquistador both bring strong form lines in the six-furlong handicap, particularly the former who was a little unlucky behind Dark Trooper on the opening night.
“Another Baar goes for Adrian Keatley in the five-furlong handicap. He is unexposed over five furlongs and comes into this on the back of a really good run at Goodwood. We also run Thunder Moor of George Boughey’s, who ran a big race at Yarmouth behind Stone Circle and I think you can forgive his last run as the ground was very soft.
“On the jockey front, it is nice to have Billy Loughnane back from injury for a full book of rides. I did not think Danny Muscutt would be available this week, so I am delighted to have him down for four rides, while Danny Sheehy is coming over again to ride the lighter weight mounts.”
In what is a home fixture for London & The South, Matt Chapman’s team will be looking to build on a respectable start that has left them third on 231 points.
Chapman said: “The big news for us this week is that Gary Moore has his first Racing League runners. Magic Memories goes in the three-year-old handicap at 6.30pm, while The Whipmaster lines up in the 7.30pm. I have no idea if they are chucked in or not, but the stable is in great form and it is great to welcome Gary to the party.
“The only issue I have is that my cohort of trainers do not have that many horses for Racing League, which makes it tricky, and I think we are massively overachieving so far.
“People will say that I have Richard Hannon and Charlie Hills but, between those two, I have one runner on Thursday. The likes of Eve Johnson Houghton, Daniel & Claire Kubler, Jack Channon and Dean Ivory have really stepped up to the plate, which I am hugely grateful for.
“My biggest problem is in the £100,000 races, where from what I can see the only eligible horses I have are Andaleep, Certain Lad and Pledge Of Honour. My trainers just don’t have the horses in that category."