Khelino to initiate double for Sweeney
Salsify's defence of his Foxhunters' Chase crown at Cheltenham next week is doubtless the focus of attention at Rodger Sweeney's Castlelyons yard right now, but first the shrewd Cork handler is responsible for two genuine contenders at Dundalk tonight.
Khelino and Till Dawn contest consecutive heats at the all-weather facility. In the second division of the mile handicap, Khelino will have to contend with recent course winner Gold Falcon, which relished a first tilt at this trip when obliging under Ian Brennan last time out.
Off a six-pound higher mark, life will be tougher for Gold Falcon now. The consistent Khelino, with Billy Lee up, looks the pick of the remaining 13 runners, having run an honest third to the in-form Alvar on the same card.
Shane Gorey takes three pounds off Till Dawn in the following six-furlong equivalent. In a race that lacks depth, despite another 14-strong line-up, Till Dawn's second to Rigid Rock in a more competitive affair at the end of November is one of the more useful form lines.
The ever-consistent Gordon Lord Byron, a sensational Group One winner for Tom Hogan at Longchamp in October, has its first start of the new campaign ahead of a possible trip to Dubai at the end of the month in the subsequent conditions race.
The globetrotting five-year-old has to concede weight to three inferior rivals, but shouldn't have any trouble doing so for Wayne Lordan, whose last two outings on the horse yielded a pair of wins on this surface at the end of 2011.
Black N Brew, a staying-on second here last month, is the nap choice. John McConnell's seven-year-old got left badly last time, so he ought to take plenty stopping in the first division of the mile handicap if he enjoys a little more luck under Gary Carroll now.
Fairylike is also fancied in the qualified riders' handicap. A first winner last month for Aidan O'Brien's daughter Ana over 12 furlongs, she was unsuited by a drop back in trip when fifth last time. The Oratorio mare steps up to two miles for a first time, which might just help her carry Ana's year-older sister Sarah to her landmark first win.
Meanwhile, ante-post favourite Kingsbarns is one of 111 three-year-olds still in the frame for this year's Epsom Derby. Aidan O'Brien's colt sealed his place at the head of the market when winning the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
He is one of 35 entries for O'Brien, who will be seeking to follow up Camelot's success in the mile-and-a-half Classic last year and bring his tally in the Epsom showpiece to four winners.
The highly-touted Mars, runaway winner of a Dundalk maiden on his only start, is another O'Brien entry along with Phoenix Stakes victor Pedro The Great and Battle Of Marengo. Irish-based entries away from the O'Brien contingent include the Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather, winner of the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket.
While O'Brien has enjoyed plenty of Epsom success, Richard Hannon has yet to make his mark in the race and is hoping the unbeaten Toronado can supply a first victory. Michael Stoute has endured a lean time of late judged by his own high standards, but Telescope is a leading candidate for him after winning a Newmarket maiden last term.