Fort Del Oro can shows her rivals clean pair of heels in Naas sprint
On the eve of the jumps season's grand finale, a five-furlong Listed race takes centre stage at Naas.
A rescheduled Tramore fixture hosts a modest programme for National Hunt fans, but the action at the Kildare venue ahead of this week's Punchestown Festival is of a higher standard.
The €45,000 sprint is the most valuable prize on offer, with Paul Midgley sending over his regular raider Monsieur Joe for its seasonal debut. Pat Smullen's mount is a five-furlong specialist that handles a cut and is among the highest rated of the 10 runners, so his chance is obvious.
However, his record first time up isn't great, so he might be vulnerable. Maarek, The Happy Prince, Moviesta and Flight Risk lead the home defence, but the one that appeals is Fort Del Oro.
Trained by the sprint king Eddie Lynam, Fort Del Oro is a four-year-old that only made her debut a year ago, when she finished second at the Curragh.
She won there on her next start and was then placed in Group and Listed company, before finishing off with a decisive defeat of The Happy Prince and Flight Risk - among others - in a Listed race at headquarters.
That was quite an introductory season, and the suspicion is that Fort Del Oro has the scope to be very smart, especially when there is a little ease underfoot, as there will be this evening. The big question is over which trip she will be most effective, and she has never run over five before.
Time will reveal all, but she travels easily, so she could be a player over the minimum distance. Today, she receives weight from most of her serious rivals, and it is worth speculating that she will be able to take advantage of that under Billy Lee.
There is also an intriguing six-furlong handicap worth €25,000. A field of 12 is set to go to post for this, with Johnny Levins' heavy ground Curragh winner Mr Right sure to be a contender. It is an open race, but In Salutem might have a say in the finish.
Ken Condon's busy sprinter enjoys slow ground, and he ran better than a finishing position of seventh suggests when a nine-length seventh to Mr Right on his return.
On that occasion, he raced in the rear and never got into the race, but there was plenty to take from the way that he moved in the third quarter of the race. It's fair to conclude that he will come on plenty for the outing. If that is the case, off a pound higher mark than that off which he won at Navan in October, he should go close this time for Shane Foley.
The maidens on the card are interesting, with Aidan O'Brien unleashing full sisters to Hit It A Bomb and Minding in Brave Anna and How respectively, and Jim Bolger's Bean Fasa is a Dubawi half-sister to Teofilo.
Bean Fasa, though, is up against the colts, and Ballydoyle's Zoffany colt Edgar Allan Poe might be a newcomer to note.
In the juvenile fillies' contest, preference is for Dermot Weld's Blue Bahia, on the basis that she has a run under her belt, having looked useful when third to Hyzenthlay at Navan.
The day's nap vote goes to Peace N'Milan in the opener at Tramore. Francis Flood's mare is a bumper winner that has shown enough over flights to suggest that she is the best on duty in this moderate affair.
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