'Bondi' and Heffernan look irresistible force
A typically diverse weekend of Irish summer racing is spearheaded tomorrow by a Navan Flat card that features last year's luckless St Leger runner-up Bondi Beach.
There's jumping activity at Punchestown today and Killarney tomorrow, but, with a purse of €65,000, Navan's Coolmore-sponsored Vintage Crop Stakes is the most valuable purse on offer over the two days.
Regrettably, there are just four runners declared, despite prize money down to sixth place. Zannda, Silwana and Toe The Line are all decent operators in their own right, but it will be very disappointing if Bondi Beach doesn't stamp his authority all over this 14-furlong affair.
Controversially denied by a head by Simple Verse in last year's St Leger, the Galileo colt subsequently wasn't disgraced in the Melbourne Cup. The famous Flemington handicap is again on Aidan O'Brien's radar for Bondi Beach, with the Coronation or Gold Cups likely to be targeted in the more immediate future.
He should ready himself for his first big-race target of the year, whatever that may be, with another victory here.
On his Limerick reappearance, Bondi Beach found plenty for pressure to make up a lot of ground in the finishing straight en route to a decisive win.
All things being equal, he will come on for that, so he is going to be hard to stop again now under Seamie Heffernan, who is in flying form and is unbeaten in three outings on Bondi Beach.
The Kildare native could take the juveniles' maiden for his boss aboard Edgar Allen Poe. A son of Zoffany, Edgar Allen Poe faded late on when fourth on its Leopardstown track bow to Psycedelic Funk, which dotted up at Naas on Wednesday.
Having shown plenty early boot, Edgar Allen Poe looked as though the six-furlong trip stretched him. He drops back to five here, so that should suit.
O'Brien has a raft of chances on the card. His similarly in-form son Donnacha could take the long-distance maiden on Immortal Bridge, while Colm O'Donoghue could also get in on the act aboard Waterloo Bridge in the Listed race.
In Washington DC, Heffernan may be on the first string in this near six-furlong contest, but last year's Coventry hero Waterloo Bridge didn't do a lot wrong when second to Gifted Master on its Newmarket return. The winner has since won in Group Three company.
In the five-furlong handicap, it might be worth taking a chance on Russian Soul. When Mick Halford's venerable eight-year-old last ran in a handicap at Dundalk in February, he won off a rating of 97. Despite winning there again, he has fallen to a mark of 93, which gives him a serious chance for Shane Foley.
In the 10-furlong fillies' edition, Prunella Dobbs and Pat Smullen might be the team to keep on side. They combine for Gallope, a consistent and unexposed four-year-old that was second to Buenos Y Bobos on its Curragh return.
At Killarney, Gordon Elliott's Missy Tata ought to be hard to beat in the mares' hurdle, while his Runfordave warrants the nap vote in the bumper. A son of Stowaway, Runfordave kept on to be fourth on its Punchestown bow and will come on for that.
Elliott and Luke McGuinness are also tipped to take today's bumper at Punchestown with the frustrating Broken Soul, while the nap vote goes to Crown Theatre under Davy Russell in the handicap chase.
Henry de Bromhead's charge should enjoy this switch back to fences on a decent surface.
Canyon to make most of grand adventure
There are nine cross-channel raiders on duty in Britain, but the real international flavour to the weekend's racing activity might not kick in until 10.30 tonight.
That is the time that the Willie Mullins-trained duo Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill are scheduled to face the starter in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle in America.
The $200,000 Grade One takes place at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, and it is useful to have the former Matthew Smith-trained Rawnaq among the Mullins pair's seven rivals. Rated 144 here, the nine-year-old has been placed in two US Grade Ones and is third in the betting for this at odds of 8/1.
As the fourth highest-rated Irish hurdler in training with a mark of 162, Nichols Canyon is strongly fancied to record a landmark success for Mullins and Ruby Walsh at around 11/10.
Placed behind Annie Power at Cheltenham and Aintree, the six-time Grade One winner has been crying out for this step up to three miles. The Danny Mullins-ridden Shaneshill (156) is more established at the trip, but this will be tough for him after taking in Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
Tomorrow, foreign interest turns to Deauville, where the French Guineas are being staged as Longchamp is closed while undergoing major refurbishment.
Aidan O'Brien will saddle his Newmarket third Alice Springs in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, while he relies on facile Navan winner The Gurkha in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains.
For a variety of reasons, you couldn't be confident about either of Ryan Moore's mounts, but, as ever with the Ballydoyle genius, neither would it be a surprise to see both raiders claim the spoils.