Raider Mayson can capture sprint prize
A three-strong British-based delegation will attempt to plunder the €26,000 on offer in tonight's Mercury Stakes at Dundalk for a third time in four years.
Mark Johnston's Bannock is one of four two-year-olds that receive lumps of weight from their older rivals in the Listed five-furlong contest, while Kevin Ryan, who won the race with Arganil in 2009, saddles an out-of-form Breathless Kiss. The one that appeals most, however, in the 13-runner dash is the Richard Fahey-trained Mayson.
Successful twice as a juvenile last term -- and runner-up in the two-year-old Trophy at Redcar -- the Invincible Spirit colt finished an excellent third off a mark of 100 on his belated seasonal debut in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Redcar in August. He made no impression in the Ayr Gold Cup last month, but confirmed that he remains a horse of some potential when narrowly beaten in a Listed race at Ascot.
On just his fourth start of the year, then, Mayson can still to progress. While Bannock, a Listed winner at York, is feared, local contenders such as the hat-trick seeking Balmont Mast and course specialist The Reaper should also figure prominently.
Pat Smullen, whose quest to retain the jockeys' title is becoming increasingly urgent with Johnny Murtagh still five to the good with just four meetings remaining, could make up some ground here. Of his six rides, Flic Flac and Piece D'Or are fancied to collect.
In the seven-furlong handicap, Smullen partners Flic Flac for Dermot Weld. Duff -- back to his best here last time -- heads the weights, but Flic Flac is less exposed. Placed in three previous starts at Dundalk, her third here last week was an encouraging turn.
Piece D'Or, which represents Paul Deegan in the last, is massively unexposed.
Having shown form in three maidens, she ran well to be third on her handicap bow at Killarney over a mile, so a return to 10 furlongs off a pound lower mark ought to suit.
Knockgraffon Lad is another that can benefit from a drop in the ratings in division two of the apprentices' race. Third behind the top-weight Ashton Rose over this mile in September, he is now a whopping 16 pounds better off with that one.