Oran Maestro enters the year as one of the most high-profile young prospects in training and he can confirm that status by winning the Joe Dunne Memorial Puppy Stake final at Shelbourne Park tonight.
Trained by Davy Reynolds for Elliott Whyte and John O'Sullivan, Oran Maestro gave a superb first-round exhibition when scorching around in 28.25, but he had a much tougher test last weekend when missing the break, and in the end he only held off the challenges of Cashels Pride and Slippery Robert by a pair of short heads in 28.75.
The other semi saw the Tony Grassick-owned and trained Aoifes Hope gain his seventh victory on the trot in a career-best time of 28.64.
This youngster is improving with each outing and his early pace means that Oran must make one of his better starts.
The line-up is completed by Slippery Sooty and Andthen, but on his best form, one has to opt for Oran to be the maestro on this occasion.
It is another smashing offering at Shelbourne and I will be particularly interested in the 750-yard debut of Paul Hennessy's PRICELESS PILOT (8.32).
It is a huge task for a six-bend debutant. Among his rivals will be last weekend's Clonmel Open winner Incitatus, but Priceless has the pace and talent to become a champion over this distance.
In the heats of the Swords Prince A1 there must be strong hopes of a Marie Gilbert double via ALLEN MASTER (8.46) and AIRPORT CAPTAIN (9.0), and in the concluding Opens KILLINAN CASH (10.15) and HOT PURSUIT (10.30) make appeal.
At Limerick, the semi-finals of the Feramo D Open 525 are down for decision, and Moss O'Connor's COLLEGE MAYBE can prove her class again in the second heat, while Patrick O'Connor's TOMS BRETT could be the one in the first qualifier.
The supporting Limerick card offers big chances for the Hennessy pair RINGTOWN SNOWY (8.55) and FOLLOM FLAIR (9.25), though neither could be described as consistent.
The meeting of Melodys Gamble and Leamaneigh Turbo in the Kirby Memorial Trial Stake could be another highlight.
Best bet at Curraheen Park can be Peg Shanahan's RYECOURT FOX (9.55) in a semi-final of the Guinness Trophy.
Priceless Pilot 8.32 Shel Pk
Allen Master 8.46 Shel Pk
Killinan Cash 10.15 Shel Pk
Ringtown Snowy 8.55 Limerick
Barefoot Printer will be absent in the first semi-final of the Vetsearch Feramo D Open 525 at Limerick.
Number of the day
€15,000The Pick 6 Intertrack Jackpot starts at this attractive mark after last week's massive pool. It operates on Races 7, 8 and 9 at Limerick and Races 10, 11 and 12 at Shelbourne.