The card at Leopardstown is a cracker from start to finish, but the spanner in the works has been the rain that fell over the last two nights since declarations. Much more fell than most seemed to expect and while non-runners are likely, the majority will take their chances and my angle for the day will be to side with horses that will relish the conditions, but are overpriced in the face of "sexier" opposition that would prefer a sounder surface.
The race to start with is the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes (14:40) and it is an absolute belter of a contest. Jamaica, Parish Boy and particularly Zawraq are all high-class middle-distance prospects and it still surprises me just how Endless Drama continues to fly under the radar in terms of 2000 Guineas considering how deeply impressive he was in his only start last year.
However, for all the promise of those four individuals, they would all prefer a much less testing surface and with it being their first start of the season and very much a trial for them, they are unlikely to be given a very hard time from the saddle if they are feeling the pinch late on.
Thus, with the dead-eight runners still holding their ground, perhaps the time is right for a left-field swing at one at a massive price in the shape of the Sheila Lavery-trained Mandamus. The son of Lawman took a while to get organised last season, but impressed when winning a maiden at Cork and showed he had progressed over the winter when only just being touched off by Stormfly in the Madrid Handicap at the Curragh a fortnight ago.
I suspect he is even better than that latter run suggests, as he had yet to come in his coat and was carrying a bit of condition, as well as the fact that he didn't get as much cover as he would have liked and ended up in front sooner than ideal.
First-time cheekpieces are now applied to help him concentrate and the return to a mile should suit, but as importantly as anything, he is a proper soft ground horse that will relish the testing conditions and has the advantage of race fitness over all of his main rivals. It is a wild swing, but you will come across much worse 40.039/1+ shots this season.
The next race that appeals as a betting medium is the Racecourse Of The Year Handicap (16:55) and again, the angle is siding with one that will relish the prevailing conditions and has the advantage of race fitness, with the Paul Deegan-trained Aussie Valentine being the selection.
The four-year-old was quietly fancied for the Irish Lincoln and was the pick of the parade ring, looking an absolute picture considering the time of year. His performance matched his appearance and while on paper it was an excellent effort to finish a length second to Onenightidreamed, I really think he should have won. His rider gave him a very positive ride and kicked for home well not long after halfway and I can't help but feel that had he exercised more restraint, he would have had more to offer at the finish.
His regular rider Chris Hayes now returns to the saddle and while he was raised an eye-watering 7lb for that run, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him uphold Lincoln form with Third Dimension and see off the rest of his rivals to gain a much-deserved win.
The final play of the day comes in the Follow Leopardstown On Facebook Handicap (17:25) and the horse of most interest is the Ado McGuinness-trained Oor Jock. An angle that I like at this time of year is looking for horses that have been running on the all-weather, but perhaps aren't too fond of it, and are returning to the turf off falling marks and this seven-year-old fits that bill.
He has been running alright at Dundalk, but I don't think it really suits him and he has dropped 7lb since last seen on the turf, which now leaves him 3lb lower than the mark off which he bolted up on soft ground at this track in August. Much like his stable mate Bubbly Bellini at the Curragh a fortnight ago, I expect Oor Jock to bounce right back to form now that he returns to turf and he looks solid.
Recommended Bets (all Leopardstown)
Back Mandamus 2pts for a place @ 9.08/1 or better - 14:40
Back Aussie Valentine 2pts @ 8.07/1 or better - 16:55
Back Oor Jock 1pt Win & Place @ 6.05/1 or better - 17:25