Team Ireland manager Kevin Blake is relieved to be finally competitive in the Racing League following a couple of below-par showings.
After week two of this year’s competition the side he manages are sitting in second place behind Wales & The West despite having only one winner.
Blake feels the biggest advantage he has this year is he is fielding almost a full team each night.
“There is a good feeling in the camp after last week. Even though we only had one winner, 162 points on the night was a pretty good tally and sets us up nicely for the rest of the competition,” said Blake.
“From our perspective, everything has been working better this year. We had 12 runners on week one, 13 last week and we have the full 14 this week, which is essentially key to the whole thing.
“It has been great to be involved for the last two years but, when you are turning up every week and getting a hiding, it is hard to maintain the enthusiasm, whereas now I feel like we are in a spot where we can be genuinely competitive.”
He went on: “Tuesday morning was a bit dramatic as we had a few late changes with jockeys and runners but thankfully the whole thing has come together nicely in the end. I think we have a strong squad, although whether it is as strong as last week remains to be seen.
“I would say our strongest races are the 5.30pm and the 6.00pm. Bernardo O’Reilly and Conquistador both bring strong form lines in the six-furlong handicap, particularly the former who was a little unlucky behind Dark Trooper on the opening night.
“Another Baar goes for Adrian Keatley in the five-furlong handicap. He is unexposed over five furlongs and comes into this on the back of a really good run at Goodwood. We also run Thunder Moor of George Boughey’s, who ran a big race at Yarmouth behind Stone Circle and I think you can forgive his last run as the ground was very soft.
“On the jockey front, it is nice to have Billy Loughnane back from injury for a full book of rides. I did not think Danny Muscutt would be available this week, so I am delighted to have him down for four rides, while Danny Sheehy is coming over again to ride the lighter-weight mounts.”