Ballot gets the vote to end drought for O'Brien
Newly crowned champion jockey Joseph O'Brien (right) is napped to bring an end to a domestic drought that stretches to nearly two months when he takes the mount on Beat The Ballot at Dundalk tonight.
The brilliant teenager's last triumph was aboard Kingsbarns in the final Group One of the season in this part of the world at Doncaster on October 27, while his last local wins came courtesy of a Naas brace that helped him to secure his title a week earlier.
Since returning from the Breeders' Cup, he has kept busy at Dundalk, but the Tracey Collins-trained Beat The Ballot is possibly as good a ride as he has had.
A winner and placed twice at the all-weather facility from five tries, Collins' charge is an improving three-year-old that is favourably treated at the weights in the mile conditions race.
Only one of its 13 rivals, Golden Shoe, is rated higher, and O'Brien's partner receives 1lb from the Chris Hayes-ridden runner.
On its latest start here a month ago, Beat The Ballot confirmed that he is still progressing when just chinned by Maude Adams, with Hes Our Music, successful here on Wednesday, back in third. If he can build on that once again under his 19-year-old partner, he is going to take plenty of stopping now.
Curragh-based Collins teams up with O'Brien's fellow champion Ronan Whelan for Captain Joy in the mile handicap. Just seven line out and last term's deeply impressive leading apprentice should add to a winter tally that already stands at seven.
In six starts over the past 12 months, Captain Joy has not been out of the first three, beating a field of solid campaigners here at the end of November. He is up 6lb for that, but is another three-year-old with scope to build on what's gone before.
Monasterevin native Whelan, who added to his reputation as an 18-year-old of real substance with a frank and engaging interview on being presented with his apprentices' gong at Monday's Horse Racing Ireland awards, might also double up on Ado McGuinness' Gold Falcon in division one of the seven-furlong handicap.
Another unexposed three-year-old, the Ifraaj gelding showed some ability on four starts in England.