On the eve of Royal Ascot, the Flat racing on Sunday in Ireland takes place at Gowran Park and the jumping at Downpatrick, but I'll be keying in on the former. Us punters will be treated to an eight race card for the afternoon, although all the contests range from 7f to 1m2f with no sprints or staying events. Don't worry, there will be plenty of variety on the Berkshire downs from Tuesday onwards.
Regarding the Royal meeting; I noticed Settle For Bay was fairly prominent for a follow-up victory in the Hunt Cup at 10/1 on the Sportsbook. I backed him on his seasonal reappearance at Naas where he ran poorly. It turned out he needed that run badly, but he did improve for that outing and fared better on his subsequent start at Leopardstown.
He is certainly a more attractive price than Aidan O'Brien to be top trainer at the meeting next week. His odds of 1/5 reflect the firepower he has at his disposal. Son Donnacha is 25/1 on the Sportsbook to be the top jockey.
That's all to come, but we press on with Sunday and the 13:35 opener revolves around O'Brien and his trio. The one with experience is Mythological - and he shaped well over 7f on his debut run to finish third behind an impressive winner and looks as though he might want more of a trip. He was hovering around the 2.01/1 mark yesterday evening.
O'Brien's other two are Kells and Delta Dawn. The latter is out of Fire Lily, who was a sharp juvenile who won on debut for David Wachman. However, all three of her offspring to date have failed to score on their first runs, so that's enough evidence to leave her alone in terms of a bet.
Michael Halford's runners shaped well at Leopardstown on Thursday and his yard look in good nick. His newcomer Zarzyni is by Siyouni out of a 5f dam, and Siyouni is a stallion I like who can inject a bit of pace.
I would expect her to go well and she was trading at around the 9.417/2 figure on the Exchange last night.
Oxx filly can take advantage of decent mark
The 14:05 looks a wide open race bar the only last-time-out winner Libras Power. She's rated at a lowly 60, but with just two starts on the turf, there is obviously more to come but the price of 6.05/1 reflects the nature of the contest.
My idea of a small stakes bet here is the John Oxx filly Summerset. The trainer was a bit quiet prior to a winner on Friday at Fairyhouse, so I was pleased a couple of his runners hit the frame too at Limerick yesterday. Summerset shaped well in two turf runs last year and makes a fair bit of appeal at odds of 8.4015/2 in the win market. We also have the option of 5 Places on the Exchange.
She made her debut over course and distance and came from off the pace in that run last term, and did the same on her final run as a juvenile at Limerick. She met a bit of trouble on the outside too, but she stayed on well.
Her handicap debut mark of 67 is fair and she has a good pedigree as a relation to the owner's Sugar Free.
No guessing with Bill to hit the frame
The 7f all-age handicap is a tricky old race. There's just the one 3yo in the line-up, and that's Jim Bolger's Western Dawn. Quite what to expect from the horse is anyone's guess, as he is very much hit-and-miss. He ran poorly and was eased down in midweek at Leopardstown - but he's going to be turned out quickly here, and it could be a case that he is a horse who simply wants soft conditions.
He's hardly solid.
Geological is very much in the solid camp and he's a marvellous advert for connections. The 7yo holds his form well, although is still reasonably treated on his old mark back in 2017. He sits handy and will be up with the pace and performed well under a penalty last time, but I worry if any of the rain forecast on Sunday will dent his chances. He's a good or quick ground horse, simple as that.
Any rain will benefit the chances of Johnny Murtagh's Guessthebill.
He's a good-looking colt with a bit of presence and I can understand why connections had a go at a few fancy races in 2017 as a juvenile. He subsequently missed most of 2018 with
just one start, and it looks as though Murtagh is piecing him back together again this season with two runs - and he shaped well last time at Tipperary over the extended 7f. That was an improved effort and he's had a break since then of 52 days.
He stays 7f well and has winning form in heavy conditions. If he can get back to something like his juvenile level (and his run in the Birdcatcher), he could hit a place. This really does depend on the forecast rain for the track, as we need it soft for him. Expect a price of around 14.013/1 in the Win market.
Double-figure price on Rince the way to go
I rarely place lay horses, but I imagine a few will be going after Dermot Weld's Scorpion Black. He could be the lowest rated horse housed at Rosewell at 59 and his loss tally is now
at 0-13 with plenty of chances to win a race. He sets the tone for a rather open-looking contest at 15:15.
He was also done in-running at 1.331/3 at the track back in May.
This first division of the handicap in truth is one of the most difficult races on the card, and the second isn't any easier! I would offer up the solid filly Rince Deireanach as a small stakes bet given she is now down to a mark of 58, and that makes her quite well handicapped. I like her price in double figures at 12.011/1.
She has produced two solid efforts this term at Gowran and Leopardstown and acts on any going. It's a moderate race, but if 16 stand their ground, she makes obvious appeal as an
Smooth travelling Gerry can provide a tonic for Meade
The 3yo handicap at 16:55 includes plenty of potential improvers. I've got my eye on Mick Halford's Pearlman, who has a lovely pedigree and might stay a bit further than today's 1m2f trip. He was too keen in a Premier Handicap last time at Naas and I expect a bit more on Sunday.
He didn't quite make the shortlist in terms of a bet, though. Red Gerry has, and he travelled very well behind Blenheim Palace at Navan recently. The winner made all and showed a fine attitude, but Red Gerry came from off the pace and wide, but went through the gears pretty smoothly. So smooth in fact he was done at 1.3030/100 in the race.
Nudged up to a winnable mark of 73, he has only raced on four occasions and I liked the way he travelled last time. The front three in that were well clear of the fourth, and it looked a solid piece of form for this grade.
His trainer Noel Meade is hitting the frame with several placed horses - including plenty of thirds recently at Leopardstown and Punchestown. He had the winner of the Downpatrick bumper yesterday too (and the horse bolted up). Red Gerry has improved in two handicap runs and he rates an interesting back-to-lay bet for the extra insurance. He hasn't made the running thus far, which is a shame, as I am sure there was a pacemaker headline in there somewhere.