Dunlop's Manndawi should be too slick for Challenge rivals
Ed Dunlop sends Manndawi to Leopardstown tonight as he strives to kick-start what has been a frustrating month to date.
The Newmarket handler has failed to saddle a winner in July, with two seconds all that he has to show from 15 runners.
Still, Dunlop wouldn't go to the trouble and expense of travelling Manndawi to the Foxrock venue if he didn't fancy his chances of plundering the €29,250 winner's prize in the Listed Challenge Stakes.
His Irish strike-rate is quite impressive - three wins from seven runners between 2010 and 2012, and three places from four runners since then - and Manndawi is trusted to enhance that ratio this evening. A five-year-old son of Dalakhani, the grey finished second to Flintshire in the 2013 Grand Prix de Paris.
On his only other start as a three-year-old, he failed to excel in heavy ground, and he then missed all of last year. Manndawi reappeared at the Curragh in a 10-furlong Listed race on June 7, running encouragingly when third behind Postulation and Parish Hall, which is a fair standard in the context of today's opposition.
One-paced in defeat, he will doubtless have needed the run, and he also probably needs further. He gets that now, stepping up to a mile and six furlongs for a first time. If the trip and the benefit of Manndawi's return bring about the expected improvement, he is fancied to justify the nap vote, with the booking of Wayne Lordan a huge plus.
Of the five locals striving to keep the prize at home, Mick Halford's stalwart Certerach is the highest rated runner with a published mark. However, he hasn't run since the autumn, and it might be that Aidan O'Brien's Fields Of Athenry will prove to be the main danger.
In the preceding Group Three Meld Stakes, Dermot Weld's smart filly Carla Bianca is the handicapper's idea of the best horse in the race.
Narrowly beaten by the Irish Oaks-bound Words when conceding 17lbs at Cork, the Dansili filly might take a bit of stopping. That said, this is the first time that she has taken on the boys since going down to Australia on her Curragh bow in 2013, and it won't be easy.
Brendan Brackan might be the one to trouble Carla Bianca. Ger Lyons' six-year-old has won in this grade before, and he ran really well when tapped for toe here last time in a slowly-run Listed race behind his stable-mate Tennessee Wildcat.
Colin Keane's mount will need to step up on that now, but, if the race is run at a true gallop, which looks likely, he could have it within his locker to pounce late.
Halford's promising juvenile Al Qahwa can take the opening maiden on the back of its fine third at Naas, while John Oxx's rejuvenated team could score with its only runner when My Twinkle contests the apprentices' race under Gary Halpin. The daughter of Sea The Stars raced keenly over 12 furlongs, so the drop to 10 here should suit.
On the last day of Killarney's July festival, John Kiely's Ancient Sands might cause a minor upset in the €16,500 handicap hurdle. Brian Hayes' mount will be fit from the Flat, and has dropped enough in the ratings to compete off a low weight in a competitive affair.
Eoin Doyle's Royal Chief gets the nod in the Dawn Milk Chase, with this shorter trip expected to suit.