Updated 9.35 - all selections online.
This looks a rare Irish Champions Weekend when the Curragh is set to overshadow Leopardstown; certainly, the second day of the meeting has attracted the star horse in Pinatubo but its appeal seems much more to do with the Pat Smullen Champions Race, a cause that has captured the imagination of the racing public.
Twenty-five runners go to post in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Bold Lad Handicap at 1:20 over six furlongs but 11 of those are out of the handicap as Gordon Lord Byron has been declared off top-weight. One beneficiary is his stablemate RHYDWYN who has been shaping like this may be his trip for a while.
He made the 99-rated Dunkirk Harbour work for a long way over a mile at Killarney two starts when trying to make all and again showed early pace in the Platinum Stakes at Cork over seven furlongs last time when fourth to the consistent Flight Risk, the runner-up Black Magic Woman going close in a big handicap at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Drawn in stall 25, it is possible those high numbers will again prove an advantage as the track is opened out to its full width for this meeting and there is fresh ground down the stands side.
The Debutante Stakes is often the key trial for the Moyglare Stud Stakes (3:00) but this year’s form, represented by the third SOUL SEARCH and the sixth TANGO, seems to have been dismissed in the market.
Less than three and a half lengths covered the first seven there, but they looked a good group of fillies beforehand and both the overall time and closing sectionals compared well to the following Futurity Stakes won by Armory.
Soul Search wasn’t better than the result in any way, but she remains with potential after just three starts while Tango was having her first run in nearly two months and posted a career-best.
Given her trainer, it seems likely she improves on that again in the first-time cheekpieces while it is a positive that Donnacha O’Brien has opted to ride her over perhaps more obvious contenders.
Albigna represents the yard that has won just about every significant race in this division this year, but she is off a break and may have made her challenge on the right part of the track when winning here last time.
Perhaps the best bet on the card is in the closing Irish Stallion Farms EBF Northfields Handicap at 6:00 where last year’s winner HAMLEY is taken to land her first win since.
She won this off 87 last year and is 2lb higher now but this looks a much weaker race; among the first ten on that occasion were Danceteria, Downdraft, Still Standing and Arthurian Fame, all of whom are rated much higher now.
Hamley beat them easily and while her form this season appears to be below that level there have been good reasons; she always needs her first run of the season, shaped well when fourth over course-and-distance next time from a bad position before finding a slow pace against her at Leopardstown and seemingly not handling Galway last time.
That’s a whole lot of excuses but her mark has dropped as a result, and she now reverts to what look her ideal conditions with the claimer who won this race on her last year back on board.
Tony Keenan’s next tipping column will be on Saturday, September 21st.
Tony's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
1.20 CURRAGH - IRISH STALLION FARMS EBF BOLD LAD HANDICAP
0.5pt each-way RHYDWYN (22-1 Ladbrokes, 20-1 Bet Victor, Coral, 18-1 Betfred, Unibet, 16-1 general)
3.00 CURRAGH - MOYGLARE STUD STAKE
0.5pt each-way SOUL SEARCH (10-1 Bet Victor, Unibet, 9-1 general)
0.5pt each-way TANGO (28-1 William Hill, 25-1 general)
6.00 CURRAGH - IRISH STALLION FARMS EBF NORTHFIELDS HANDICAP
1pt each-way HAMLEY (12-1 bet365, Unibet, 11-1 Betfair Sportsbook, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, 10-1 general)