Monday night at Galway was a real indicator as to why the Dermot Weld-Pat Smullen combination continues to be so successful.
They teamed up to land the featured Ardilaun Hotel Oyster Stakes with Almela and Weld’s patient handling of the four-year-old bears the closest inspection.
She is by Sea The Stars and this was her fifth ever outing. Almela didn’t appear as a juvenile, only making her debut at last year’s Galway festival in early August.
Leaving the gates as a 1-3 shot, she won hard held by 19 lengths. She then returned to Galway to contest the same race as Monday evening, which represented a major rise in class.
She nearly won as well, just giving best in the closing stages when beaten a head into second by her high class stable companion, Zhukova.
Almela ended last season at Naas in October, proving no match for Charlie Appleby’s Endless Time, when the surface was surely far too fast for her.
And that was the last time we saw Almela, until she reappeared at Leopardstown last month, when grabbed late on by Stellar Mass in a Group 3.
It was a cracking return and the hope was that Almela would then build on that at Galway.
Truth to tell this was a weak Listed event and, on ground that was ideal, anything less than an emphatic success would have been disappointing.
But disappoint she did not and coasted through the 12 furlongs to score in a canter. Weld has accorded her a lot of time to mature and far stiffer tasks lie ahead for the autumn.
She is, obviously, going to have to raise her game from here on in, but there is every chance she will prove more than capable of doing just that.
Smullen could have lit a cigar, and smoked most of it, while he was partnering Almela, but it was his handling of Weld’s Massayan in the last, a mile and a half maiden, that had one up and out of the seat.
Of course the few quid riding on Massayan had the capacity to get you at least mildly animated, but, such trifles aside, this really was a display of artistry from a master of his profession.
Donnacha O’Brien must have thought the devil was chasing him, so hard did he go in front on Treasure Chest.
Smullen refused to have anything to do with that and sat a fair way back on the winner.
Gradually, however, they died in the dwindling distance and he produced Massayan with a powerful challenge in the straight to beat the persistent newcomer, Burning Sword, by a neck.
Watching the contest unfolding I’d venture to suggest if Smullen ever decides to jump ship and head for so-called greener pastures, DKW would toss the toys so far out of the pram that retrieving them would be well-nigh impossible!
LAST Saturday night, as I headed for the cot, had a quick glance at the prices for Dundalk the following day and noted that a horse called Gino Severini was on offer at 9-2 with Paddy Power for a seven-furlongs maiden.
That, to my way of thinking, was real value and resolved to have a bit of it. On Sunday morning, though, it was as if some sort of madness had taken over and every time you looked at the market, Gino Severini’s odds had got bigger.
Shortly after 11.00, Paddy Power were going 13-2 and it would have been nothing short of ridiculous to refuse to come out and play at this stage.
The firm duly accommodated me for what I wanted, each-way, and then it was just a case of sitting back and awaiting developments.
I knew absolutely nothing, other than what the form book was telling me, and well aware it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Gino Severini might have had a problem leading into the contest and, as a consequence, not overly fancied.
When a horse is a far bigger price, either with the layers or on the exchanges, than it should be then there is usually a reason.
The old adage that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then chances are it is a duck can sometimes serve you well when wagering.
But, on this occasion, both the bookmakers and the exchanges clearly had their wires crossed and, as the race neared, Gino Severini’s price went into freefall.
Punters couldn’t get enough of him on Betfair and he was hammered down to 13-8 favourite. Imagine sitting in front of your television having 13-2, each-way, about a horse as short as that.
What unfolded was a bit like rounding five defenders in a soccer match, then the goalkeeper and ending by flicking the wall wide, as an open goal screamed do the easy bit and hit the net.
Gino Severini finished third, but basically ran stink. Ah, it can be mighty hard to make a shilling at this game.
ON that same Dundalk programme, Aidan O’Brien’s Cenotaph arrived back from an absence of 434 days to win a maiden with any amount in hand.
He literally didn’t come off the bridle and the two and three parts of a length he had to spare at the line was little indication of his superiority.
But everything is relative and his two immediate victims, Flowerhill Nova and Atlas, safely qualify as professional losers.
The handicapper, however, took a dim view of Cenotaph’s performance and bumped him up this week by a massive 23lbs to a mark of 95.
It smacks of a total overreaction and Cenotaph is a horse to which we will certainly be returning. If the handicapper is right then we will acknowledge it, although if he isn’t…!
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved