Master stroke by Martin - by any standards

YOU could only describe it as a beautifully executed gamble.

That touch on Tony Martin's Dun Doire at Navan on Monday, dubbed the Valentine's Day massacre on At The Races, showed the trainer is alive and kicking and, clearly, in rude health.

Martin had been going through a terrible time, with his horses sick and totally out of form. A much-needed success for Dantes Reef at Thurles a week ago signalled a change of fortune and once he had the wind to his back he obviously decided to drive on.

The faces were out in force on Monday morning and the layers early-warning system - morning prices - worked a treat for them.

Dun Doire was impossible to fancy, but when the 8-1 and 7-1 began to prove popular then it would have been stupid to offer prices like that on track, where the real action takes place.

As a result it was a case of 3-1 to 6-4 and you would have to say this was a classic, costing the bookmakers a bundle, although it would have been a lot worse if the lid had been kept on it until the afternoon.

Michael Barrett's excellent point-to-point form book tells us Dun Doire was successful once between the flags.

It came at Oldcastle in Co Meath in March of last year, when surprise, surprise, he was backed from 2-1 to evens.

He then started off on the racecourse in a hunters' chase and followed with two pops in beginners chases. He showed nothing in any of the three races.

Next he had his attentions turned to hurdling. The obligatory three pops, in maidens, duly followed and then, having again shown nothing in this aspect of the game, he got a mark of 76, a bad horse's rating.

And now it was time to dip Dun Doire's toes in a handicap hurdle. That came at Fairyhouse on January 29 and, for the first time, there was a hint he was capable of winning a race.

He finished eighth of 21 finishers behind Rusty Jack over two miles, with the form book noting he was staying on from the third last.

In the aftermath of the contest, Martin Mooney, who rode him, reported to the stewards' secretaries that Dun Doire did not travel in the early stages of the race and needed further.

Onto Navan then, up four furlongs in trip and Mooney only asks for the bare minimum in the closing stages as Dun Doire scores by an absolutely unflattering half a length.

And there were no questions for Martin to answer regarding the possibility of an improvement in form.

His horses had been “rotten”' for a long time and Mooney had done his duty at Fairyhouse, telling the stewards the horse had to be upped in distance. By any standards, a master stroke.

THOUGHT there was a fair bit of over-reaction by bookmakers to Watson Lake's easy success at Navan on Sunday.

He jumped and moved well through the race and it would be churlish to find fault with a 20 lengths win.

But Scarthy Lad fell at the second, Steel Band ran no race and Ulaan Bataar just gave up early in the straight.

Could be wrong, obviously, but Watson Lake's elevation to second favourite, behind War Of Attrition, for the Arkle at Cheltenham was a trifle dramatic!

RYANAIR supremo, Michael O'Leary, is certainly threatening to become one of the major players in the country. He is gradually building up a strong team, who carry his Gigginstown House Stud colours, and whoever is advising him seems to know his/their business.

War Of Attrition, of course, is currently his best horse by a long way, but the likes of The Galway Man, Kill Devil Hill (way below par at Down Royal yesterday) and Monday's Navan winner, Akhtari, aren't too bad either. Note the ones we've mentioned are in the care of four different trainers, a case, perhaps, of keeping all 'routes'' open.

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