There may be none of last week's Boylesports.com Irish Derby finalists in the line-up but it is still a heartening entry for the Red Mills Irish Laurels, which starts this evening at Curraheen Park with a marathon 13-race programme of heats
The Laurels is vastly different to the Derby and is perceived as an event more suited to the early-paced tracker. In keeping with that premise, the two ante-post favourites are Sidarian Blaze and Crokers Champ.
Both of these are noted early pacers which would also be regarded as shorter racers. Sidarian Blaze has won over 550 yards but he is essentially a high-class 525 performer and he heads a strong Graham Holland challenge for the classic.
Sidarian Blaze (9.58) will wear the red jacket in Heat 11 and it will be a surprise if he is not at the head of affairs down the back with Quick Blaze and Nellies Flyer his likely pursuers.
The Peter Cronin-trained Crokers Champ (8.43) swings into action much earlier in Heat 6 and he looks designed for the Curraheen circuit. He has brilliant early pace and was unlucky not to win the English Derby final while he followed up winning the 400m Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk.
He should have too much firepower for both Holborn Junior and Jaytee Valencia.
Race of the round can be Heat 7 where last year's winner Lassa Expedition bids to return to winning ways after a disappointing term thus far. He will need to do everything right if he is to get the better of Champagne Jackie, Roxholme Ted and the Graham Holland duo of Vans Viking (8.58) and Cabra Buck.
Another healthy attendance is anticipated at Shelbourne, where the first round of the Billy Mulvaney Memorial will be run over the 600 yards trip.
My idea of the outright winner of this competition is last week's Irish Derby fourth Vulturi (10.10), which contests Heat 3 over what is probably his optimum distance. He should be too strong for Tyrur Nathan and Blenhiem Cracker.
In the other heats the likely winners are Pennys Deanridge (9.40), Barefoot Agent (9.55) and Deanridge Pennys (10.25).
It is one of the big nights of the year at Mullingar, with the card including the final of the Shaneboy Spencer at Stud Fair Warrior 400.
This is one of the premier sprint competitions of the year and the likely favourite is Drumsna Turbo, which has already finished fourth in the Bar One Racing Irish Sprint Cup final at Dundalk.
Gerry Holian's Neds Opinion is a formidable rival while Gerry Merriman's Ballymac Matthew and John Langan's Monread Jack read the main dangers.