Tom Thurgood looks at the big races and points out some names and numbers to note from Monday through to Friday in Co Kerry this week. Enjoy all the action from the Harvest Festival live on Racing TV!
Over 90,000 spectators piled in to Listowel for the seven days of the Harvest Festival last year and three-time champion jockey Oisin Murphy is already down as a guaranteed attendee for this year’s event.
Racecourse chairman Pat Healy has said that the meeting is worth around €15m to the local economy and punters have plenty of puzzles to pick at among the customary mix of exciting jumps and Flat action during the September highlight.
Here, we outline five of the big races from across the week as well as some potential numbers and names to note.
When: Tuesday at 3.50
Trainers Joseph O’Brien, Aidan O’Brien and Willie McCreery are multiple winners of this contest with strong race records, but this might just be a breakthrough success for the John O’Donoghue stable.
The Curragh yard send their flagbearer Kingswood into action and the one-time Irish Derby hope arrives here after travelling oh-so sweetly into the closing stages of the valuable concluding handicap at the Irish Champions Festival before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a narrow defeat by Crystal Black.
The three-year-old drops back in trip to 1m1f now and receives weight from most of his rivals here despite being top-rated on official ratings.
Three-year-olds don’t have a particularly distinguished record in this race overall in the last 25 years, but leading runners from this age group that have gone off at single-figure odds boast a 27 per cent strike-rate with 56 per cent placed (1.09 A/E).
When: Wednesday at 4.25
The mighty Hewick was an unlucky loser in this race last year when a dramatic final-fence faller, a timely reminder that class just can’t be dismissed in these handicaps despite associated big burdens to carry.
However, it is still worth noting that big weights have traditionally proven heavy in the Guinness Kerry National and that only two winners since 2010 have carried 11st or more. No runner rated 149 or higher is yet to win from 27 attempts this century.
The quality of this €200,000 showpiece is ever rising and the general profile could well change sooner rather than later, with the exciting Salvador Ziggy – the Pertemps runner-up and unbeaten in three starts over fences – right towards the top of the weights. He can’t be discounted in a race which has generally favoured chasers that have been in recent action over the summer, although only 2 horses from 32 have won this on the back of three runs over fences or less.
The each-way pick might be Ciel De Niege, who like several of these ran in the Galway Plate last time but was inconvenienced by several false starts and most notably patient tactics in a race in which prominent racers dominated. He made significant progress late on to snatch sixth and going up in trip here will suit for the champion trainer. Willie Mullins doesn't have a great Kerry National overall, but things might look different in a few years after a winner, two runner-up and a third in the last three renewals for Closutton.
When: Thursday at 4.35
This premier handicap was only inaugurated in 2018 yet, from a small sample of races, it might be prudent to look out for the draw – the last three winners have been drawn 14, 12 and 14 with more runners from high berths hitting the places.
Ger Lyons has sent out a third and a fourth at double-figure prices from his two runners in this so far and Mr King is one of two possible contenders this time.
He looks well-treated on his form from last time when third despite not racing efficiently and hanging left at the Curragh, yet still finishing behind a subsequent runner-up from a 6lb higher mark as well as a next-time out winner who is now rated 10lb higher. The fourth from the Curragh has also won since.
Mr King now races from a 1lb-higher mark of 86 and the step-up to 1m4f for the first time promises to suit given his dam was a two-mile winner and has already produced stale favourite Thunder Kiss, a winner over 1m4f.
When: Friday at 2.35
This €100,000 event is a good contest over the minimum trip and one that has proven hard to carry weight in over the last 25 years (runners rated 135+ just 2 from 39, 18% place, 0.52 A/E).
Despite some established names towards the head of the weights, it may prove prudent to scan a little further down and one that can't be dismissed is Volantis, a lightly-raced and inexperienced hurdler who ran a blinder in a valuable event at the Galway Festival last time.
Sent off 28-1 there, he fared best of those ridden towards the rear while he also had to switch when making his challenge. In a race in which the fractions were not overly hard, it was something of a dash for home and nothing was quicker than Volantis in the final half-mile despite his positional disadvantage.
He's gone up 6lb and that rise looks feasible while additionally getting him into this assignment from the foot of the weights. He certainly looks as though he has more to offer.
When: Monday at 3.20
This Listed handicap is a big early-season event for the juveniles and we’re set for another strong double-figure field, with the maximum of 18 runners in contention for this €60,000 prize.
Joseph O’Brien has won several big juvenile races in his still relatively short career and he has a good record in this race. The trainer has sent out two winners and three runners-up from 13 contenders so far (46 per cent placed, 1.27 A/E) while he scooped both wins on the two occasions he has only relied on one runner (Gold Seal in 2018 and Prairie Dancer last year).
Common Practice is the sole stable representative this time and he last ran at the Dublin Racin Festival when 10-1 behind hot favourite Gaelic Warrior in a 17-runner handicap when coming down at the third obstacle. His relative jumping experience in this field appeals (half of the field have four prior hurdles runs or less, with such runners recording a 5% strike-rate in the last 25 years) and Common Practice looks well-handicapped off 129 in a race that has the feel of long-term aim.Watch every race live from 62 British and Irish racecourses on TV, online and mobile, including The Cambridgeshire Meeting and Dubai Future Champions Festival from Newmarket, QIPCO British Champions Day from Ascot and more!
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