I'm a big fan of the all-weather throughout the winter months, and when Betfair asked if I'd be interested in producing a regular column taking a look ahead to the weekly Friday night racing at Dundalk, I understandably jumped at the chance.
While I accept the all-weather isn't everyone's cup of tea, the fairness of the track at Dundalk makes it an ideal punting vehicle in my view, even if the racing sometimes lacks a little in quality. The cut-away that confronts the runners as they enter the home straight allows the fields to generally fan out, which means trouble in running doesn't occur all that often.
I've reported on Dundalk's fixtures for Timeform on a regular basis over the last couple of years, a position that I think gives me a nice steer on everything that goes on at the Leinster track. Whether or not that translates into winners, only time will tell!
The apprentice handicap at 16:15 is where I'll head for my first selection, with recent C&D winner White Marlin looking to have sound claims of following up last month's maiden victory.
Bred to be useful, Joseph O'Brien's son of Mastercraftsman looked a potentially above-average recruit there, as he got the better of one that had already run to a fair level.
It was all the more encouraging that he was able to emerge victorious over a 12f trip that he isn't necessarily bred to stay, with a couple of speedy winners in his pedigree.
Racing in mid-division, White Marlin took the lead a furlong from home and managed to fend off the attentions of the runner-up Elzaamsan, despite showing plenty of greenness once he got his head in front. There should be plenty more to come from this one, and he doesn't look overburdened off a mark of 80 on handicap debut.
A decent draw in stall 6 should ensure that the selection gets a nice trip. It's worth noting that he managed to defy stall 13 in his debut win, where he managed to get the job done despite being trapped a little deep throughout.
Drish Melody to follow up
The other apprentice handicap at 17:15 is where we go for the second selection, with another recent C&D winner Drish Melody also looking to have sound claims of following up.
Although she was sent off a massive price at 50/1 (97.75 BSP), there didn't appear to be any fluke about that win. Having chased the leaders, Donal Commins' daughter of Galileo Gold took over inside the final furlong and was well on top at the finish, coming home just over a length to the good of Cryptos Dream.
Just a cheap purchase at €1,000, it would be wrong to think she's going to end up limited because of that. Indeed, Commins could well have landed himself a bargain here as she looks a filly with a bit of size and scope to her.
The race she contests on Friday night is also arguably weaker than the one she won here last month, too, which is another plus point where the selection is concerned. A decent draw in stall 5 adds to the appeal, and I'm expecting another bold showing from this one.
The other handicaps on the card have a trappy feel to them, and the maiden races that supplement the handicap action are also tricky puzzles to solve. We'll stick with our two selections on the card for this first column, and hopefully we can build a bit of profit/momentum with plenty more Friday night action to come over the next couple of months.