Grand Admiral can make the step up
Watering started again at Down Royal after last evening's jumping fixture, in an ongoing attempt to ensure a safe surface for the remaining two days at the Lisburn venue, where the Specsavers 2 for 1 Ulster Derby holds centre stage.
Never one to miss a suitable opportunity for his lesser lights, champion trainer Aidan O'Brien sent Changingoftheguard on the long trek north a year ago to justify favouritism in the Specsavers promotion and he's back for more today.
The Wexford-born handler has nominated runaway Dundalk scorer Grand Admiral to fill the bill this time and his teenage son Joseph takes the mount in a bid to counteract somewhat the four-year-old's gradual rise up the ratings.
Superceded marginally in this Premier Handicap by Thomond O'Mara's versatile Eagle's Pass, the Ballydoyle performer is obliged to concede 17lb -- exclusive of Joseph's 7lb claim -- to Ghetto Gospel, which has run up an enviable sequence for connections.
Stepping up to almost a mile and five furlongs should however play to Grand Admiral's strengths as a relatively lightly-raced sort, on the evidence of his all-weather romp at Dundalk, in a race for which re-opposing Baracas was a disappointing favourite.
Any stamina doubts in Ghetto Gospel's armoury could be exploited to the maximum by the likely forcing tactics which the O'Briens often employ and that scenario can also count against Joe Murphy's Northgate. The latter's partner Pat Smullen, who resumes his relentless quest to recapture the senior title from Johnny Murtagh at Down Royal today and tomorrow, can double up after the €70,000 highlight courtesy of Strandfield Lady and the younger Seraakh.
Strandfield Lady from the Harry Rogers yard looks a worthy top weight for the Fonacab Handicap after a spirited finishing effort at Roscommon last Sunday to take the runner-up berth behind Cabin Point, while the blinkered Seraakh for Smullen's main employer Dermot Weld has only fellow Curragh resident Zinawar to overcome in the shamefully-supported Tote Maiden.
Padraig Beggy is also faring well of late and the Meath apprentice likewise is booked for fancied mounts such as Paul Flynn's consistent Mr Man In The Moon in the opener and Owen Weldon's Dundalk victor Desert Al (Taxi Handicap).
Tomorrow at this track the Coolmore Stud-sponsored Ulster Oaks is a competitive affair for fillies that may see Beggy and Donal Kinsella's Vivacious Vivienne defying the handicapper once again despite a career-high mark of 89.
John Hayden's Harriers Call, which kept on nicely for third money in the recent Silver Stalkes at the Curragh, is expected to test Beggy's mount to the maximum, even if Kinsella's daughter of Dubai Destination is preferred on likely fast ground.
The following Irish Stallion Farms Maiden over the same extended mile-and-a-quarter is even more important for the Coolmore team, who would warmly welcome a belated victory for High Chaparral's own-sister Dance On By. This 84-rated filly takes a definite drop in grade here after a couple of outings behind Jim Bolger's progressive Carraiglawn and can complete a double for Colm O'Donoghue, who should land the Dark Horse Auction Maiden as well on David Marnane's Act Of Love.