'Maura' can pounce for Leahy at Newbridge
Whereas just a few years ago no Irish tracks opened their gates on Good Friday, there will be ten meetings staged all around Ireland today with the feature event being the final of the Red Mills/TSC Open Unraced Bitch Stake at Newbridge.
Carrying a first prize of €5,500, this stake has generated huge interest and the likely winner is Headford Maura (9.30), one of two litter sisters owned and trained by Galway's Seamus Leahy. She has been thoroughly professional on her unbeaten path to the final and has won all her races with ease.
Early pace is her hallmark and she can take a first-bend lead and hold it all the way. Litter sister Headford Fantasy also has smashing early pace but sustained her first defeat last week when unable to hold Ger Kiely's Airmount Dvinsky and the latter can chase home the selection. Mustang Evita must also enter the reckoning.
There will be an extra meeting at Shelbourne Park this evening (5.0pm) which will prove to be a welcome "warm-up" venue for all the football fans heading for the soccer international at the Aviva. Soccer legend Tony Cascarino will be conducting a question and answer session during racing and after the game. Gates will open at 3.30pm and the card comprises seven races.
Rose Martin's Last Landing (6.00) displayed plenty of pace when making her debut a few weeks back and should step up to win this A4 contest.
The veteran Skymas will run a huge race from a perfect draw in the A2 contest. She looks the likely leader but will find it hard to hold the challenge of Irene McConnell's Martinstown Hawk (6.20) which is overdue a winning turn.
Fraser Black's Bandicoot Shane (8.40) can open his career account at Harold's Cross where he contests an A3 event. He was in trouble in his Clonmel debut and his promising trials suggest that he can be much better than this grade.
Others worth considering at the Cross are Pat Callery's Confey Mags (9.25) which ran into traffic when improving fast last time and Jacqueline McCann's Oulartleighgenie (9.40) which looks perfectly housed in an A2 550.
The famed FFK McCalmont Cup moves to the second round stage at Kilkenny this evening and the banker for many will be the Michael O'Donovan-trained Lone Scolari (9.12) in the second heat. This fellow is all about early pace and he can shoot clear into the back straight en route to victory over Fairway View which is trained by Michael's brother Tim.
Local handler Murt Leahy has a strong team in the event and he should be on the mark with 2015 Produce Stakes winner Ballybough Mondo (9.24). He also has Berkey in Heat 4 but Ann Guilfoyle's Kilcarrig Cillie (9.38) looks drawn to win.