Weld holding strong double hand for Irish St Leger assault
Dermot Weld's Ascot Gold Cup hero Rite Of Passage and stable companion Profound Beauty, which likewise holds a Melbourne Cup entry, are ante-post favourite and third favourite respectively with Paddy Power for Saturday's Irish Field St Leger at The Curragh.
However, the Weld pair could face an exceptionally strong English challenge for the final Classic here this year as second favourite Opinion Poll, Sans Frontieres, Kite Wood and John Dunlop's Curragh Cup winner Tactic have also been pencilled in for the race.
Rite Of Passage is 5/2 to resume where he left off at Royal Ascot following a summer break and Profound Beauty is available at double those odds.
The Michael Jarvis-trained Opinion Poll, at 7/2, is regarded as the one most likely to spoil the Weld party in a race that attracted 17 acceptors at yesterday's noon deadline, including Charlie Swan's much-improved Rajik.
This syndicate-owned Galway specialist, which seems to be most effective on fast ground and was supplemented at a cost of €24,000, is available at 20/1 as Powers make recent Newbury winner Sans Frontieres an 11/2 chance, Godolphin's Kite Wood is on offer at 6/1 and Tactic could represent each-way value at 12/1 after getting the better of Profound Beauty over the course and distance during the Derby festival.
Aidan O'Brien, who has left in Joshua Tree (14/1), Flying Cross (16/1) and Lady Lupus (20/1), is expected to make a stronger bid to enhance his enviable strike rate in the Boylesports Vincent O'Brien National Stakes over seven furlongs on the same card.
Phoenix Stakes victor Zoffany looks the pick of the seven colts which the champion trainer can choose from for this juvenile contest, for which the 13 survivors now include the supplemented pair Pathfork for Jessica Harrington and Godolphin's Janood.
The inaugural running of The Curragh's Amateur Derby is set to have a much larger field, as 40 entries were received yesterday, including the Mark Johnston-trained Bay Willow, which successfully raided a decent handicap there on Derby day.
Meanwhile, the fixture list here for 2011, which has belatedly been released by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) after a review of the available funding, features a reduction for the second successive year.
The current list of 345 meetings, which was seven less than in 2009, has been cut back to 335. However, the number of race days has been upped by three to 267.
In addition to uncertainty about Government financial input and moves to tax off-shore internet and telephone betting, the board of HRI had to take into consideration the falling number of horses in training (down 13pc at the end of August) and reductions of 22pc and 5pc in entries and runners over the same period before they could rubber-stamp next year's schedule.
The 2011 Flat season will begin at the first Curragh meeting on Sunday, March 20, and extend to Dundalk on Friday, December 16. The current jumping campaign won't end until May 7, the Saturday of the Punchestown Festival.