Baltimore Bucko, along with stable companions Winston C, French Light, Clondaw Camp, Fancy Pance and Francois have been based at James and Ellen Doyle’s Baltimore Stables in County Wexford, under the guidance of Sheppard’s assistant trainer Keri Brion.
The gelded son of Sholokhov, running in the Buttonwood Farm LLC colours, is one of 9 horses to contest the €11,000 race.
The lightly raced four-year-old has shown some promise in the US and concluded his year with an allowance race success over 2 miles 2 furlongs at Pine Mountain-Callaway Garden in November.
National Steeplechase Association champion rider of 2020 Gerard Galligan, who rode the gelding on his four previous American starts, maintains the ride and will claim three pounds off the horse’s allotted top-weight of 11-9.
The County Kildare-born US-based jockey will be having his first mounts over jumps in his native Ireland aboard some of Sheppard’s runners this winter, with his initial ride coming aboard the Tattersalls (Ireland) Sales graduate of 2016.
Galligan, who rode six Sheppard winners in his last nine mounts to clinch the NSA champion jockeys title, has spent eight years in the USA. In 2020, he won 13 races, had nine seconds and nine thirds from 61 mounts. He won $230,200 in purses, while he also won his first race at Saratoga.
Baltimore Bucko, who will wear both a hood and a tongue tie, will have a difficult task on Tuesday as he attempts to give weight all round, conceding a total of 10 pounds to the lowest-weighted horse, Fox Fearless.
In an open looking race, Baltimore Bucko, is likely to be priced at around fourth or fifth choice in the betting market, while Blanketontheground and No Grey Area’s are the likely favourites. The former won over the course and distance on heavy ground last month, while the latter won over 2 miles at Clonmel recently with the runner-up Chalky White franking the form by winning subsequently at Limerick.
Top Line Tommy didn’t travel well on his handicap debut at Tipperary in October but has run well on heavy ground before. Blackjack Boy was a winner at Listowel in September, in what was the Eric McNamara yard’s last winner.
Gallowglass was well-beaten on his handicap debut at Thurles last month but has shown enough ability in the past. Fou Diligence was a front-running fifth at Fairyhouse last time and will wear first-time blinkers in this race. Fox Fearless is a former runner on the flat in Britain and should be suited by the soft ground, while Fierami has now moved to the stable of one of Ireland’s top trainers, Gordon Elliott, and could be placed.
Speaking ahead of Baltimore Bucko’s run on Tuesday, assistant trainer Keri Brion said:
“Baltimore Bucko is going to have to run over heavy ground at Limerick which probably isn’t ideal. We need to run to get a handicap mark and he’s ready to go.”
Further plans are also set out for the promising gelding, as Brion explains:
“There’s a race for him at Down Royal at the end of January 2021. The ground and the track there should be better suited to him.”
Baltimore Bucko’s trainer Jonathan Sheppard twice sent Flatterer to Europe: he finished second in the 1986 French Champion Hurdle and was also runner-up in the 1987 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Lonesome Glory is the only U.S.-trained steeplechase horse to have won in Europe, having won for the father-and-daughter combination of Bruce and Blythe Miller at Cheltenham in December 1992 and again at Sandown in 1995.
Baltimore Bucko will be the first of the Sheppard horses to contest a race in Ireland. With it being difficult to assess US form against Irish form, a nine-horse race should give the visitor a chance of at least being placed. The biggest challenge for the son of Sholokhov may be the expected heavy ground in Limerick.
In the words of Keri Brion “we’re going to have to wait and see what happens.”
Photos: Keri Brion