Radiantly can light up mundane Gowran spread before Galway feast
Gowran Park will today host the old Wexford fixture that traditionally constitutes the calm before the Ballybrit storm.
Wexford's switch to a left-handed circuit led to it ditching Flat racing, so the Kilkenny venue will take centre stage on what is the quietest domestic weekend in the calendar, with the exception of this year's pre-Christmas two-day blank.
In a way, next week's festivities are a first cousin of the unbridled merriment that prevails over the Christmas period. It is seven days of escapism and revelry, a western jaunt that exists in a vacuum in the context of Irish racing, and, indeed, Irish sport in general.
There isn't really any defining the phenomenon that is the Galway Races, other than to acknowledge it as an institution that hasn't just stood the test of time, but evolved with the times to become the all-consuming beast that it now is.
While tradition has a lot to do with it, success precedes tradition, and luring most of 150,000 people to a week-long race meeting these days is a success by any measure in modern Ireland.
Once-a-year race-goers flock there in their droves because Galway stages one of the most enjoyable carnivals in the country. In the ever-changing world we live in, maintaining that status is no mean feat.
That veritable feast is all ahead of us. For now, we must be content with a less salubrious starter, with a disappointing three-runner €15,000 conditions race the main event at Gowran.
Notwithstanding the outsider-of-three maxim, Pretty Love is easy to discount based on official ratings, which leaves Tonkinese and Radiantly to vie for the €9,225 win prize.
Having run quite well behind Qatari Hunter and Stellar Mass recently, a case could certainly be made for Tonkinese.
However, Willie McCreery's Radiantly is preferred.
Although outclassed in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Radiantly has been performing creditably in decent company, latterly finishing fourth in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot.
She has long looked capable of plundering a decent prize, so is trusted to take this opportunity under Billy Lee before returning to more ambitious targets.
Earlier, Winter appeals as nap material in the opening juvenile fillies' maiden.
Elizabeth Browning might be the pick of the three Ballydoyle contenders in this, and Ger Lyons' Kiss The Wind is another with claims on the back of its fine debut fourth at the Curragh.
Still, it was hard not to be taken by Winter's spring bow at Naas in May. Over six furlongs on that occasion, the grey daughter of Galileo ran green, but she kept finding.
She eventually finished a length or so behind Cuff in third, and the form of the race has since held up soundly.
The suspicion is that Winter will be a lot better suited by this mile trip, and she should also be wiser for the experience, so she is fancied to collect under Wayne Lordan.
The same firm could also go close with the newcomer Close To My Heart in the older horses' maiden, while Posing also has a leading chance in the 12-furlong handicap. Preferred in that competitive affair, though, is Andy Oliver's I'll Be Your Clown.
Successful in a decent Navan contest off a mark of 86 last year, Chris Hayes's mount got squeezed for room at Leopardstown last time.
The handicapper has dropped him two pounds for that, leaving him on a mark of 79 here.
He has to be of real interest off that rating, although he has yet to win over this trip.
If I'll Be Your Clown does get home, he could be hard to stop in what is a lesser race than he has been frequenting.