PAT KEANE: It’s a handicap — but it’s on a Plate for Balko Des Flos

There are solid reasons for thinking Balkos Des Flos more than capable of running a big race in next Wednesday’s Galway Plate, writes Pat Keane.

Betting on handicaps is essentially for the needy and greedy and, as we fall into neither category, they are rarely of any interest to us.

But there are, of course, occasions when the temptation simply proves irresistible and so a modest investment on the Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos in next Wednesday’s Galway Plate seems entirely appropriate.

This week the progressive six-year-old was on offer at 10-1 and that certainly shaped as fair odds. The beauty about such a price, obviously, is that a major wager is not required to reap a decent dividend.

And if the horse then proceeds to fall at the first, or perform like a three-legged jennet, then it is not the end of the world!

In any case there are solid reasons for thinking Balkos Des Flos more than capable of running a big race.

When he ran at the Punchestown festival at the end of April, his last appearance, I distinctly remember saying to myself the six-year-old would win the Galway Plate.

When the weights were unveiled for the 47 entries earlier this week, I could find no good reason to change my mind.

In that Punchestown contest it just didn’t work out for Balko Des Flos from the third last. He came away from the obstacle on the outside and had to be hard-driven by Bryan Cooper to remain competitive.

Cooper soon switched his charge and Balko Des Flos finished up challenging over on the far rail. In the end, he was beaten three parts of a length and a length and a quarter into third behind Woodland Opera and Arbre De Vie.

It seemed to this observer he lost more ground, than that by which he was beaten, by not travelling the shortest route between A and B. On Wednesday, he will compete off a mark of 146, 3lbs higher than Punchestown, and that’s fair enough.

Now 146 currently equates to 10-10 and if that is the weight Balko Des Flos ends up carrying then it will be a big help.

It all depends on whether Willie Mullins runs top weight Ballycasey, one of eight original possibilities for the champion trainer.

I gather Mullins will run at least five, including Ballycasey, and his final decisions will be eagerly awaited come Tuesday morning.

Among his other entries were Arbre De Vie, 2lbs worse in with Balko Des Flos compared to Punchestown, classy staying hurdler - on a going day - Shaneshill, and Townshend.

I was fascinated by the prospect of Townshend making his debut as a handicap chaser in a dog-eat-dog heat such as this, but he was taken out on Thursday morning.

It now seems as if Townshend, with the same 146 rating as Balko Des Flos, will instead turn up in a two and a quarter mile Grade 3 chase at Galway next Thursday and it promises to be a good contest.

Other notable entries in that are the rapidly improving Peregrine Run, a natural chaser, and Jessica Harrington’s Don’t Touch It (150), who was last seen when landing a valuable handicap chase at the Punchestown festival at the end of April.

But back to the Plate and one of the more important factors will be the way Ruby Walsh nods when it comes to the Mullins army?

Anyway, here’s to luck in running for Balko Des Flos and, if still in contention entering the last half a mile, I have a feeling he will eat the Ballybrit hill, especially if ending up with just that 10-10.

ON Wednesday, John Gosden revealed that Enable would contest this afternoon’s King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and it was the news everyone wanted to hear.

There is something enchanting and endearing about this filly and the fact she is ridden by the charismatic Frankie Dettori just adds to her appeal.

It is certainly a bold move on the part of the unflappable Gosden to throw her in at the deep end just two weeks after the daughter of Nathaniel landed the Irish Oaks at the Curragh.

Brilliant when taking the Epsom Oaks, she was even better at the Curragh and today will tell us whether we are guilty of being totally carried away with her.

So far Enable has dismissed anything that has come her way, but they have been against her own age group and sex.

The King George represents a far more formidable challenge, taking on older horses and colts to boot. The dangers to Enable are all in that category.

But Enable will be getting 14lbs from them and that is some concession in the height of summer. Here’s one who will be most disappointed if she doesn’t bound away in the closing stages.

GER Lyons is enjoying some season and, unless the Dermot Weld-yard hits form very soon, the Lyons number one pilot, Colin Keane, could end up being champion jockey.

Prior to last night’s racing, Lyons had 41 winners to his credit this campaign and only Aidan O’Brien and Jim Bolger were ahead of him.

There aren’t really any superstars in his care, but he does place his horses particularly well and seems to give them all the time that is required.

A case in point, for instance, is his relatively lightly raced three-year-old Insayshable, who won at Gowran Park last Saturday.

Successful in a maiden at Leopardstown in early April, he returned to that track in May for the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

Insayshable ran a cracker to take fourth behind three Ballydoyle horses, Douglas Macarthur, Yucatan and subsequent Irish Derby hero, Capri.

He returned home covered in ringworm, however, and so arrived at Gowran on the back of a 76-day absence.

But Lyons’ patience had its reward and Insayshable, backed as if defeat was out of the question, strolled to victory.

In lots of ways, it emphasised what Lyons is all about. Now, one wonders how seriously he is going to treat Galway next week?


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