The Crowne Plaza Hotel Handicap (14:10) brings together a competitive bunch of three-year-olds and older horses and my preference is for one from the latter group, with the John Joe Walsh-trained Longfield Lad making the most appeal.
The five-year-old is a horse I've had a view on for quite a few years now. I've always felt that he is a better horse over six furlongs than over further, but I've also had a lingering thought that he is worth a try at the minimum trip. He has only run over it once in his life and the ground was much too soft for him on that occasion and I'm delighted that he will try it for the first time since here at Dundalk, as he has a fine record on the all-weather.
His mark is 11lb lower than he last won off and he has shown plenty of promise of late, most notably when looking the winner everywhere bar the line at Naas in June. The return to this surface, the drop in trip and that his trainer seems to be hitting form in recent weeks are all in his favour and he is worth supporting.
The Follow Us On Twiiter Rated Race (15:45) brings together some interesting types and I think it offers a good opportunity for the David Marnane-trained Emperor Bob to make the breakthrough for the year.
The son of Big Bad Bob impressed when making a winning debut over this course and distance in December, but he didn't learn much on that occasion and it has taken him a while to learn how to race in quite strong company. The application of a tongue tie has seemed to help him in his last two starts and he has shaped well for a long way in finishing in the frame in a strong handicap at Galway and a useful conditions race at Killarney, both of which were run over an extended mile.
I suspect that this shorter trip is what he wants and while his draw is a bit wider than ideal given that he ideally wants some cover to help him settle, I am willing to take the chance that he will find a slot early on and run a big race.
The final race of interest is the first division of the Friday Horse Racing Returns 25th September Handicap (16:15) and it is another horse trained by David Marnane that is taking my fancy, namely Kodiac's Back.
I've been a fan of the horse from an early stage and would like to think I have a good handle on him. From an early stage of this season, I've felt that he is ready for headgear, as he has tended to get quite lazy/idle in the middle part of his races which has held him back to an extent. I strongly suspect that blinkers will help his cause, he is well drawn and this also represents a drop in class for him, all of which are positives.
The only slight concern I have is the surface. There is no real reason why he shouldn't like it, both his full brother and sister act well on artificial surfaces, but he has run a bit below his best in his two most recent starts at the track. Excuses can be made for him on both occasions, as he probably needed the run the first time and got caught wide with no cover from a poor draw the second time, but one would have liked to have seen him run to form on the surface before assuming that he handles it.
Other than that slight concern, it looks to be the right day to side with him and I expect him to take all the beating.
Back Longfield Lad 1.5pts each-way @ 11.010/1 or better - Dundalk 14:10
Back Emperor Bob 2pts to win @ 13.012/1 or better - Dundalk 15:45
Back Kodiac's Back 3pts to win @ 5.59/2 or better - Dundalk 16:15