William Knight is having one of his best years by strike rate, having moved to a Newmarket stable in the spring, and the icing on the cake would be success in a major race at Goodwood, close to his former base in Sussex. He gets his chance with Sir Busker (3.35) in the Celebration Mile, the highlight of ITV’s Saturday coverage.
Goodwood was the scene for Sir Busker’s worst run of the year but he can hardly be blamed for getting no daylight in the Golden Mile last month. Things should be different in this much smaller field and he looks the sort to cope with stepping into Group company after showing excellent handicap form.
Importantly, he has proved his ability to cope with soft ground and makes more appeal than the mercurial Regal Reality, whose return to form three weeks ago was on a very different surface.
1.50 Goodwood Happy Romance has been a real money-spinner this summer and can probably cope with the step up in class but a testing surface is not what she wants when also stepping up in distance. The well-bred Pomelo is a safer option to build on her easy debut win.
2.05 Newmarket Jash is understandably the choice of Jim Crowley but the second colours of Sheikh Hamdan might emerge on top in the Hopeful Stakes, as Shabaaby is an interesting contender. Given how useful he looked in two soft-ground wins as a juvenile in 2017, it’s surprising he hasn’t been tried on a muddy surface since then.
2.25 Goodwood With Mick Channon back among the winners, a chance is taken on his Milltown Star, last seen winning a Listed race in France on hock-deep ground in November. Gelded since his busy juvenile campaign, his ability to cope with these conditions could prove crucial.
2.40 Windsor The Thames-side track must pass an inspection this morning and conditions are sure to be testing. That looks like bad news for Desert Encounter and Communique but Le Don De Vie has looked versatile and was terribly unlucky in running in a better race at Glorious Goodwood.
3.00 Goodwood A maiden winner here last year, Celtic Art is the unexposed runner in this four-strong field. Form and pedigree suggest this significant step up in trip could be very helpful to the chestnut, who should be able to cope with the slop underfoot.
3.15 Windsor King Ottokar is interesting, with soft-ground form to his name and gelded since last time, but his price is as short as it should be. Fox Chairman has stronger form and there was nothing wrong with his Group Two second place last time.
Irish Grand National cancelled for 2020
There will be no winner of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 2020 after Horse Racing Ireland decided to abandon its plan to stage the race this autumn when Ireland’s most valuable jumps event would have been celebrating its 150th anniversary, writes Greg Wood.
The only previous years without an Irish National winner since the first running in 1870 were 1919 and 1941.
The prize fund for this year’s race will now be split between two of the major handicap chases for stayers in the first half of the season: the Troytown Chase at Navan on 8 November and the Porterstown Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse three weeks later.
The decision to cancel this year’s Irish National was taken amid continuing uncertainty about the return of spectators to sporting events in Ireland.
“The Irish Grand National is known by many as ‘the People’s Race’,” Peter Roe, the general manager of Fairyhouse, said on Friday, “So to stage the race at Fairyhouse without that huge community of locals and racing fans just wouldn’t feel the same. I know the race will return as big as ever in 2021 and would like to sincerely thank BoyleSports for their loyal support of the race.”
The Irish National is traditionally run on Easter Monday each year and always attracts a sellout crowd to Fairyhouse, which is around 20 miles from the centre of Dublin. Legendary winners include Arkle (1964) and Desert Orchid (1990), both of whom carried top weight of 12st to victory. The brilliant Flyingbolt won under 12st 7lb in 1966.