WHAT a difference a week makes with Ireland crashing out of Euro 2012 before they even play their last game against Italy.
I’m writing ahead of that final fixture and while none of us really went into the tournament with lofty expectations for the men in green, it’s been extremely disappointing that they have proved such a poor side.
But saying that we might just have come up against a very good team indeed in Spain who are currently just 12-5 to win the championship and frankly made Ireland look like a pub outfit against a Premier League team when the two squads met last week.
One thing Ireland should do well at is Royal Ascot with Aidan O’Brien and son Joseph favourites for leading trainer and jockey at the fixture this week.
My nap of the week is John Oxx’s Saddler’s Rock in Thursday’s Gold Cup for which at time of writing he is a 5-1 chance. This progressive type with the heart of a lion was beaten by Midnight Soprano on his seasonal debut in the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown earlier in the month but I think that performance can be ignored and was in fact encouraging.
The wily Curragh trainer had said beforehand that his charge had been slightly held up and that he would definitely need the run that day, but he was desperate to get an outing in to him before his big assignment in England.
The winner was having her fourth start of the campaign and would have been hard fit and also is no mug herself having now won all those four starts. But the selection made her pull out all the stops and she was only half a length ahead where it mattered.
Over the last five seasons Oxx has saddled 22 runners in Britain on turf, winning with seven for an amazing 32% strike rate and this fellow can boost that statistic.
Saturday’s Wokingham Stakes is one of those big handicaps that punters love to get their teeth stuck into and I like the look of Kevin Ryan’s Gramercy at a current 20-1. This fellow clearly likes Ascot having won there as well as being placed second twice and will love a bit of juice in the ground.
He didn’t run well at York last time finishing last of 16 but the Knavesmire is one of those tracks that horses can either take to or absolutely hate and I think that it might be the latter with this chap as on his one other start there he also ran very badly. Last year he mustered a fifth in the Wokingham when trained by Michael Bell and that was a darned good effort as the first three home all came from double figure stalls whereas my fancy came out of the coffin draw of number one.
His York effort wasn’t the best but it was also his first start of the campaign and will have put him cherry ripe for this more important assignment.
Euro 2012 really clicks into gear on Thursday with the first of the quarter finals with Portugal meeting the Czech Republic and I think the former will justify their price of 5-6.
My selection put the final nail in Holland’s dismal campaign with a 2-1 victory and the Iberians will be in buoyant mood going into the knockout stages as this was easily their greatest performance of the tournament so far. Portugal haven’t always been known for withstanding pressure but despite the Dutch taking the lead with a brilliant early goal from Rafael van der Vaart, they stood firm and man of the moment Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace to take them forward to this stage.
Thursday 3.45pm, Royal Ascot - Saddler’s Rock
Thursday 7.45pm - Portugal to beat the Czech Republic
Saturday 4.25pm, Royal Ascot - Gramercy