A trial of more questions than answers
The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown tomorrow arguably poses more questions than answers for punters.
Is any runner good enough to win the Investec Derby? Which of Aidan O'Brien's trio is preferred, if any? Does he even know? And is the Group Three much of a trial anymore?
With due reticence, Yucatan gets the vote. He was possibly undercooked for the Ballysax when a pleasing third, and he is a rock-solid colt, out of the superb mare Six Perfections, which has the help of Seamus Heffernan in Ryan Moore's Newmarket-related absence.
It would be a shock were someone other than O'Brien to win the race. One-time Derby favourite Douglas Macarthur has now gone four runs without a win, and Capri, a little behind Yucatan last time, could be a bigger threat.
The Guineas trials on this card tend to be rather nominal, considering the card clashes with the English Guineas, and the fillies' clash is another race of minimal betting appeal. Michael O'Callaghan's relationship with Qatar Racing will be key to his growth as a trainer and Holy Cat, a course winner on debut, may be forward enough to score.
Elizabeth Browning, perhaps Ballydoyle's top dog here, has won just one of her 11 races.
It is pleasing to witness small Midlands trainer Adrian Murray have a lively each-way shout in a race such as this in Shes Ranger.
The Group Three Ard Glen Construction Amethyst Stakes can see course regular Cougar Mountain return to winning ways. Elleval is back at a mile and will relish the lively terrain after a glorious summer's week in Ireland - but so will the likely favourite, which should have too much class under Heffernan.
The opening maiden can go to Sioux Nation, a son of the late Scat Daddy. Favourite on his debut at Naas around a month ago, Coolmore's colt made a pleasing start, and he could emerge as a Royal Ascot contender with victory here, though Sebastiano Ricci was not far behind in the same race and could be a threat. Dermot Weld introduces the well-bred Scorpion Black.
One of the more volatile betting heats of the day is the Mortons Coaches Maiden. A chance is taken here on the visored Pavlenko, which has the distinction of being a runner by Deep Impact that Coolmore would wish was far less anomalous.
Given the sheer volume of Galileo-bred mares the operation has, it needs top stallions from other lines, and they come little better than Deep Impact. True, Pavlenko ran moderately here in a back-end maiden, but she was only 5/1 and is probably capable of much better, perhaps to the extent she can better stablemate Pipes Of Peace, now visored and rated 95.
The John R Fitzpatrick Agricultural Contractor Handicap could see Mr Right back up his gambled-on success at Cork. Reverting to seven furlongs is fine for the son of Echo Of Light, which is preferred to Club Wexford.
Club Wexford was remarkably well-backed at Limerick last time, considering he went into the race with one win from 26 starts, but he did the job tidily.
Harry Rogers procured Benkei partly on the advice of Pat Smullen and the champion jockey's judgement was spot on. Benkei has done well for the small Louth stable and should be difficult to dislodge in the Fitzpatrick Gallagher Mcevoy Solicitors Handicap, though Tirmizi is a potential threat off a one-year lay-off.
Racing concludes with the Crew Of R116 Memorial & Irish Coastguard Maiden. John Oxx's numbers are a fraction of what they were and he would gladly accept as many sons of his greatest horse, Sea The Stars, as he can acquire. One of them, Sing Like The Sea, has good claims now after a nice start at Navan.