With every passing week, there is more and more evidence being put into the pot. As more horses make their seasonal reappearances, we can assess how much ability they retain and which trainers have their horses more forward than others. Races dominated by horses making their seasonal return are reducing in number all the time and in a nutshell, more and more pieces of the puzzle are being revealed. The list of horses I want to be with next time in the right circumstances is growing all the time and hopefully today's card will see this column continue its good start to the campaign.
The first race of interest is the Cunninghams Of Kildare Handicap (15:20) and for the second week in a row, the Ado McGuinness-trained Oor Jock is of interest. He hit the frame at Leopardstown last week to reward our each-way support, but he shaped better than the bare result there. He didn't get nearly as much cover as he would have liked and travelled very strongly into the race only to fold inside the final furlong.
This shorter trip, his excellent high draw and the presence of Cash Or Casualty amongst other pacey sorts in the race should ensure that he gets plenty of cover as well as plenty of pace to run at. He remains 3lb lower than when bolting up over this trip last August and another big effort should be forthcoming from him.
The Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes (15:50) isn't the type of race I generally play in, but this contest becomes attractive by virtue of an opposable favourite in the shape of Due Diligence. Not only have Aidan O'Brien's horses generally been needing the run on their returns to action, Due Diligence would prefer a firmer surface and he also has the question of his stamina at this trip to answer. He failed to get home when trying the trip at Dundalk last year and while he may well get it now, Joseph O'Brien is likely to ride him quietly in an effort to give him every chance to stay, as he did with the similarly profiled Cougar Mountain at Leopardstown on Wednesday. He could well win, he's the class act in the race, but at such a short price he makes the market for the rest.
The one I like at the prices is the Paul Deegan-trained Sruthan. While Dermot Weld has rightfully been grabbing all the headlines in the opening weeks of the season, Deegan is a trainer that has made a very good start in his own right and with Sruthan having won this race in very similar conditions last season, one can be sure that he will be spot on in fitness terms for his return to action. While his draw could be better, Chris Hayes will hopefully be able to get him some cover and deliver him onto the scene late in the day.
The final race of interest is the Clongowes Wood College Bicentenary Handicap (16:50) and the one that I want to be with is the Andy Oliver-trained I'll Be Your Clown. Regular readers of this column will remember that I put him up when he ran at Leopardstown on October 26th and that run is worth a look again, as I reckon he would have gone pretty close but for getting checked at a vital stage over two furlongs out that cost him both ground and momentum. Since then, he has acquitted himself well in three starts over hurdles and made a promising return to the flat in the Irish Lincoln, finishing sixth on ground that was almost certainly too testing for him.
He has now dropped to a career-low mark (4lb lower than he ran off at Leopardstown in October), the slight ease in the ground appeals as being just right for him and the return to this longer trip is sure to suit. While a lower draw would have been more helpful, there seems to be plenty of pace in the race and Gary Carroll should be able to find a slot on him. He really ought to go close.
Recommended Bets (all Curragh)
Back Oor Jock 1pt each-way @ 4.57/2 or better - 15:20
Back Sruthan 1pt each-way @ 7.06/1 or better - 15:50
Back I'll Be Your Clown 1pt e/w @ 8.07/1 or better - 16:50