The Flat season starts in Ireland on Sunday, and Alan Dudman previews the major races on the Naas card. He also has one bet for the Ulster National at Downpatrick....
"The mud flying around seems to suit him best, so it was no surprise he was backed on the Sportsbook last night from 12/1 to 15/2. There's more to come from him with his current mark of 86."
For those waiting to see the dark blue racing silks of Ballydoyle, or the green and the red of the Aga Khan, the wait is over. Flat racing returns on Sunday for a super afternoon of action at Naas - a card that has thrown up Classic winners in the past with Dawn Approach and Awtaad. It's a wonderful mix of handicaps, maidens, Group and Listed races and it certainly has the look of a decent punting fixture.
As has been the case with the topsy-turvy weather, we start the Flat on soft with potentially heavy in the description - a word that seems to have disappeared from the lexicon of going descriptions from nearly all jumps' Sundays since the turn of the year.
We'll also have a look at Downpatrick with the feature Ulster National at 15:50.
Go with the Mayson in the conditions
The opener is a complete guess-up, with a field of 12 juveniles all making their debuts. I expect Jim Bolger's Feminista will be fairly popular in the market nearer the time, as she's by Dawn Approach, who won this race for Bolger seven years ago before going on to great things. Feminista gets the 5lb filly swing too and is drawn in one.
I might throw a couple of quid at Ampeson as I am a subscribed member to trainer Richard O'Brien's fan club.
Ampeson has got a couple of 6f winners in his pedigree and he's by Mayson - the gun sire for horses in soft and heavy conditions. It won't be easy in the mud for young horses making their debuts, but a Mayson in the ground is always worth a second look. Anything around 10.09/1 might tempt me.
Empire State the target for in-running layers?
With 20 runners in the older horse 6f Maiden at 14:00, we have a bit more to go on. We also have the unlikely scenario of Ruby Walsh riding against Ryan Moore - although the latter has a much stronger chance of a winner than his jumps' opponent with the favourite Empire State.
The Aidan O'Brien horse sets a fair standard rated 85 - but he has been turned over three times as a beaten favourite and I wasn't hugely convinced about his finishing effort in a race at Dundalk last October.
As a son of Scat Daddy, he really is all dirt with the pedigree, so whether he wants hock-deep ground I am not sure. I'll also offer up the fact he was turned over in a Maiden at the track last year at 1.111/9 In-Play. There are reasons to take him on.
Dermot Weld's Aga Khan newcomer Kattani is bred for a proper trip, so this 6f might be a bit sharp. but she was 33/1 on the Sportsbook last night.
I thought Michael Halford's Sonaiyla shaped really well on her debut over course and distance last term in her sole start as a juvenile. Her trainer wasn't banging in the 2yo winners at that stage, so it was a pretty good start to her career. She was slowly away and looked little outpaced, which could have been down to the inexperience. She ran on well and has ability, and her mother handled soft conditions well.
Unfortunately she wasn't missed in the market last night on the Sportsbook at around 3/1. I wanted around 6/1-plus, so I might just be leaving her alone.
Weld could have a Jewel in the Handicap
No prizes for being original here by picking Jewel Maker - who looks by far and away the most interesting runner in this 6f handicap at 14:35.
Anything at 6.05/1 or 7.06/1 will do for this beautifully bred Dermot Weld horse, who goes handicapping for the first time from a mark of 87. He's completely unexposed and travelled like a decent horse when winning his Maiden at Cork last May. Crucially in heavy ground.
He really did go well in that race and looked set to when by a larger margin. He was driven out in the end, but the mark of 87 might just under-estimate him. That Cork victory came over 7f and he drops down in trip for this afternoon which isn't a bad thing considering the going.
As a 4yo, he's either been hard to train or had a couple of setbacks, I don't know if it's either, but he raced only once as a juvenile and once last term. So it must have been frustrating for Weld that he didn't see a racetrack again after that promising reappearance in 2018.
Incidentally he finished second on debut behind Flag Of Honour, with the third Kenya. Both three-digit rated horses.
Murtagh's Parker Hill one to note in the Madrid
This year's Madrid Handicap at 15:05 looks an open renewal with Zander as the 4/1 favourite, and whilst I like the horse, I worry he could be vulnerable to something with a bit more staying power. Trainer Joseph O'Brien has two in the field, and you can click here to read what he has to say about his runners.
Whether we have another Awtaad in this line-up, I am not so sure. And wasn't he well-handicapped from 95 a few years ago!
Johnny Murtagh could have a serious horse for the future in Parkers Hill, and he does hold an entry in the Irish 2,000. Whilst we are not quite going down Awtaad territory, he does have the profile I like for this race as a massively unexposed runner with a Classic entry.
He ran well on his debut behind the subsequent smart Group horse Van Beethoven last year, he kept on well that day over 6f at Naas to suggest talent. He made no mistake on his second run when turning over the ultra-short National Guard at Leopardstown.
There was no fluke about that win as he made the running and showed a really likeable attitude. That victory came on quick ground, so it's a bit of an unknown as to how he'll take to conditions for Sunday, but he's a big horse with a bit of presence, and he looks overpriced to me at around 16.015/1. He was 14/1 on the Sportsbook on Saturday evening.
Take a chance on outsider in Group 3
Yulong Gold Fairy tops the betting for the Group 3 Park Express at 15:40. She was 10/11 last night on the Sportsbook, but this looks a tricky race with a few potential improvers.
The wild card could be Fresnel; and she looked rather impressive winning a race at Dundalk on debut. She won at a Betfair SP of 123.25 that night and clearly nothing much was expected. She's a massive price again.
Trainer Fozzy Stack is someone who I tend to think of having his horses forward, and he's three-handed for this with Hand On Heart, Elthea and Iiex Excelsa. The most interesting is perhaps Elthea who has joined Stack from Karl Burke. She was a very good 2yo who landed the Group 3 Weld Stakes at the track, but she lost her way a bit in 2018, in what essentially was a disappointing campaign.
Aidan O'Brien's Delphinia won her Maiden at Galway and clearly improved for the soft conditions there, and she's another that steps up in class.
However, I am going to chance a Win and Place bet here with Rionach. She comes from a different angle with one decent piece of handicap form last season with a fine third behind Riven Light at Galway. She had a terrible draw that day, so done really well to finish third behind the 108-rated winner. She seems to go well fresh and she can bounce back to form in ground she showed she could handle last summer.
Fahey sends three for Irish Lincolnshire, I'm backing one
Richard Fahey sends Crownthorpe to Ireland on Sunday, and the trainer will be pleased with the soft conditions. He looked a potentially really progressive handicapper last term following his reappearance third in the "Madrid" on this card 12 months ago. The hot summer blunted those aspirations, and whilst he performed with credit in some strong handicaps (including a fourth to Wissahickon), he rarely got the heavy he craved.
When he did, he landed the "Cock O' The North" at Ripon last April from 85, a race in which he travelled superbly in and showed a smart burst of acceleration. He also showed up well in heavy at Haydock towards the end of the season with a fine second in a 0-95 in first-time headgear. He moved like a well-handicapped horse in that too.
The mud flying around seems to suit him best, so it was no surprise he was backed on the Sportsbook last night from 12/1 to 15/2. There's more to come from him with his current mark of 86. He travels like a 90s horse.
Amedeo on the comeback trail. Is he a lay?
I cannot really find a betting angle for the Listed Devoy Stakes at 16:45. With one-time Classic contender Amedeo Modigliani making his return to the track after an absence of 596 days, he's got the potential to add plenty of stardust on the card. However, I am not a backer at 11/8, and there'll be plenty looking to get after the horse in terms of laying him considering the time off the track.
Stellar Mass is a strong stayer and his trainer Jim Bolger seems to be going fairly well at Dundalk recently, and if he makes the running to make it a test, he could get the vote in-running but I am giving the race the swerve.
Logical Song could be the logical bet at a price in Ulster National
Over to Downpatrick for the one bet on the card in the Ulster National, and that's Logical Song. And not because I don't mind a bit of Supertramp.
There are risks attached, and one massive one of course with him being off the track for 16 months. It was a match-up with him and Out Sam for the bet, but the latter is at the top of the market and Logical Song is double the price at 10.09/1.
He looked a really exciting stayer of potential when winning the Cork National as a novice by a wide margin in 2017. He landed that from 123 and is racing from 133 here, and there's still more to come from him considering he has only raced over fences seven times.
Gordon Elliott's Out Sam has tip-top handicap form this season with a win also in a Cork National and a pair of fine efforts in the Troytown and Thyestes. However, Logical Song has plenty of form in soft ground and jumped well at Cork when winning that big race.
Back Ampeson @ BSP in the 13:30 at Naas
Back Jewel Maker @ 6.05/1 in the 14:35 at Naas
Back Parkers Hill @ 14.013/1 in the 15:05 at Naas
Back Rionach Win and Place @ 16.015/1 and 4.03/1 in the 15:40 at Naas
Back Crownthorpe @ 11.5021/2 in the 16:10 at Naas
Back Logical Song @ 10.09/1 in the 15:50 at Downpatrick