Leonard can Waltz to Dundalk success
Dundalk stages its penultimate pre-Christmas meeting today, with plenty of resentment remaining that it races on December 23 too.
This is far from ideal for stable staff and people who work at the races: many will not be back home until well into Christmas Eve, even with an earlier-than-normal finish in seven days' time.
However, the pubs will be full of punters betting on tonight's offering, getting into the Christmas spirit, and they can dance to the tune of Tennesse Waltz in the first division of the mile handicap.
This horse has run 14 times and never finished in the first two; his yard has had a poor season and he has gone 11 runs without finishing placed. What's not to like?
All that considered, Killian Leonard is a fine apprentice, the horse cannot get rated any lower and he took the eye in fourth last time; headgear is also tried. In the second division, Arbourfield is solid.
A purse of €24,000 is up for debate in the penultimate event, which is a cracker. Billy Lee's stunning 2016 nears a quiet conclusion but it would be appropriate if he could strike on the strapping Shepherd's Purse and this appeals as an axis that will feed off each other.
Shepherd's Purse has been somewhat disappointing, considering a modest hit-rate - two wins from 18 and never otherwise placed - but he is now 20lb off his career high and his penultimate effort, in an unsuitably small field, was pleasing.
Joseph O'Brien goes from JP McManus one day to Qatar Racing - which owns Duplication - the next. This horse has plenty going for him in the opener but in theory Alfredo Arcano must have every chance of beating him at the weights.
Ellaria has an edge over Pure Action and Missguided in the mile maiden; with very little else to beat, she gets the nod, though it is hardly a certainty that blinkers will not backfire.
The apprentice handicap sees two last-time-out winners, Honor Oak and Shabra Emperor, clash. The latter is tipped, though there is no getting away from how much Honor Oak relishes this surface.
In the Irishinjuredjockeys.com Handicap, note the likely pace angle: plenty of these can lead so it may be wise to consider the upside of those that can track the speed.
More Kudos seemed to win with a little more to spare than the bare margin last time. Seamus Heffernan is an excellent booking and it is hard to envisage anything other than a big run.
A fiendishly difficult closing race might go the way of the ultra-reliable Brokopondo, which stays, battles and has the assistance of excellent apprentice Donagh O'Connor, which is a help off top weight.