Beyond and O'Brien the girls to follow in Galway
A year after being won by one of the most popular race mares in recent times, today's Ardilaun Hotel Oyster Stakes at Galway is confined solely to the female of the equine species.
Missunited proved her quality by seeing off the boys in the 12-furlong Listed race 12 months ago, but the decision to exclude her male counterparts is in keeping with the prevailing trend for diluting quality by flooding the calendar with extra Pattern races restricted to fillies and mares.
While the race doesn't lack competition with 12 runners, it does lack the sort of context that male rivals rated 111 and 110 lent it 12 months ago when finishing second and third behind Mick Winters' great mare.
The top-rated today is Dermot Weld's 102-rated Ebeyina, successful in just a Cork maiden in three starts to date. Of the three others on marks of 100 or higher, Beyond Brilliance is the most interesting.
Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old has run 14 times this term, the pick of which was her effort to be fifth behind Bracelet in the Darley Irish Oaks. On her first stab at this trip, she stayed on well from the rear under Ana O'Brien at the Curragh, with the form franked by the runner-up Tapestry claiming Taghrooda's scalp in York.
Beyond Brilliance has failed to build on that performance since, but two defeats over nine furlongs behind Carla Bianca weren't without encouragement.
Back over the longer trip now, she appeals as tentative nap material to give her 18-year-old rider a first Pattern triumph at the suburban Ballybrit venue. Ballydoyle has five representatives on duty in the €50,000 contest and 11 on the card in total, with the juvenile maidens Archangel Raphael and Before Long also fancied under Ana's champion jockey brother, Joseph. Archangel Raphael lost nothing in defeat when just outfought by the more experienced Postulation on its Killarney bow, so average progress from that should see him take the mile contest.
Before Long went down to Bleu Ciel Et Rouge in similar circumstances at the Kingdom track a day later, progressing enormously from his middling debut here. He won't need to come on much more to lose his maiden status in the seven-furlong edition.
Colin Keane could secure a brace aboard Mansuri for his boss Ger Lyons and Clondaw Warrior for Willie Mullins. Mansuri is a consistent sort that might gain a deserved win in the seven-furlong handicap, while Clondaw Warrior is worth another go in the mile-and-a-half heat.
While the runaway Tramore winner failed to exploit what looked like a gift of an opportunity at Roscommon off a mark 17lb lower than he competes off here, that run came just two days after his Tramore rout. The suspicion is that he is capable of at least being competitive off his revised rating.
In the concluding maiden over the same distance, Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning could get on the score sheet with Croi Na Feile, a three-year-old filly that finished second to the well-fancied Mr Rock on its Wexford debut.
Although Croi Na Feile was beaten seven-odd lengths that day, she showed a willing attitude after racing greenly early on. She will certainly need to do better here, but there is every likelihood that she will. Of her 13 rivals, Wrap Star could give her most to do.