Ol' Man River in shock return but Bravery the sensible call
"Old Man River, that Old Man River - he must know something, but he don't say nothing."
The 1920s classic was not written with a 21st-century thoroughbred called Ol' Man River in mind but it might have been and the son of Montjeu's shock return to racing at Dundalk this evening is the stand-out talking point.
Being out of Finsceal Beo, which was so agonisingly close to winning the Guineas in three different countries, his reputation necessarily preceded him. However, he walked the walk for Aidan O'Brien as a juvenile, his two victories from as many starts seeing him go into the winter of 2014 as a leading Epsom Derby fancy.
How the train derailed. In four performances at three, he beat the grim total of six horses. It is over a year since he raced and it can be safely said he has been pretty much forgotten about - until now.
Reappearing in new colours and now with Joseph O'Brien, Ol' Man River takes his chance in a fascinating Dundalk Stadium - Light Up Your Night Race under the trainer's brother, Donnacha. The older brother admits he is in the dark too.
"He's in good form but has been off the track for a long time and hopefully he runs well," said the 23-year-old.
"He'd be hard to beat if back to his two-year-old form but it's hard to gauge him at this stage. We haven't really asked too much of him: he's done some nice half-speeds. Donnacha sat on him and was very happy with him. Right now, it's time to get him out."
The race may go to the family in the form of the Ballydoyle-trained Bravery, which is a reliable 96-rated animal and the only course at which he has won is Dundalk. Elusive Heights has claims too.
Tom McCourt has had a good run of late and both My Good Brother and stablemate Kiss The Stars have prospects in the opener, with narrow preference at the likely prices for Kiss The Stars. Her rider, Killian Leonard, has had a splendid campaign.
The same can be said of trainer Andy Slattery. Flowerhill Nova, with form of 232232, deserves to get his head in front and he can defy a horrible draw in the six-furlong maiden.
Racing commences in Ireland today at Downpatrick. The Warm Welcome Handicap Hurdle sees Tornado Watch big to record a hat-trick, as he returns to the track at which he landed a huge gamble in late August. His Ballinrobe win on Tuesday was even more impressive and, despite giving so much weight to the well-treated Black Waterfall, he should collect.
The class act on the card, Marinero, should have the winning of the staying maiden chase for Henry de Bromhead and Gigginstown. The trainer/owner axis will be especially strong in point-to-points this year.