Bondi Beach can shine for Ballydoyle as Flat takes centre stage at Limerick
The jumps season is poised to reach a glorious crescendo on either side of the water over the next eight days, but attention switches exclusively to the Flat at home this weekend.
Tomorrow's Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes card at Gowran Park is a decent spread, but there is also the small matter of Bondi Beach's return at Limerick today.
Runner-up in controversial circumstances in last year's St Leger at Doncaster, Aidan O'Brien's Galileo colt went on to be beaten around six lengths in the Melbourne Cup.
Having only made his track debut when denying better-fancied stablemate Bantry Bay in slightly bizarre style at Leopardstown last May, Bondi Beach progressed at a rate of knots through 2015.
Runner-up to Radanpour in a Listed race on his second start at Leopardstown, he beat the subsequent runaway Irish St Leger hero Order Of St George in a Curragh Group Three before suffering considerable interference when second to Storm The Stars in the Dante.
Bondi Beach's gallant St Leger turn, despite similar interference, confirmed his status as a smart staying prospect. He has summer entries in races like the Coronation Cup and the Gold Cup, and it would be no surprise to see him go on to compete effectively in races like those.
Today, he re-opposes Radanpour, which was disappointing on its comeback, in the Martin Molony Stakes.
There will be little to choose between most of the nine runners in the €47,000 Listed event, but Seamie Heffernan's mount can concede weight and prove himself a class apart.
O'Brien and Dermot Weld are expected to dominate proceedings here over the next two days. The Ballydoyle genius gets the nod to take the mile fillies' maiden with Californiadreaming, which has been running well in better company than this.
On her seasonal bow at Leopardstown, the daughter of Fastnet Rock lost little in defeat when fourth to Claudio Monteverdi, eventually finishing just half a length behind The Gurkha, which dotted up at Navan on Sunday for the stable. If she runs to that level now for Ana O'Brien, she would be fancied to account for Weld's Creme De La.
O'Brien and Heffernan combine for Monarch in the first maiden. A brother to the Classic-winning Roderic O'Connor, Monarch will doubtless live up to his pedigree in time.
Nonetheless, Weld has a viable alternative here in Maneen, which made a decent impression when second on its only previous outing on slow ground at Navan in October.
In a fair race of its type, he came four lengths and more clear of the rest. On the basis that Maneen can build on that experience in the likely testing conditions now, he appeals as nap material under Pat Smullen.
Weld and Smullen could take the older horses' maiden with Shinghari and they will likely have a big say with the facile course winner Orangey Red in the mile handicap, while Paul Deegan has booked the champion jockey for a decent ride aboard Tasty Ginger in the 11-furlong handicap.
At Gowran tomorrow, Deegan's Three Majors should figure prominently in the seven-furlong handicap under Chris Hayes on the back of an encouraging Limerick return.
Weld and O'Brien have a raft of live contenders throughout the card, with the latter's Sean O'Casey one to note in the concluding maiden after blowing up on its debut on bad ground at Cork.
Shamreen warrants the nap vote for Weld's Rosewell House stable in the fillies' maiden.
The daughter of Dubawi drew clear of the rest when second to Somehow on her Leopardstown return, and a reproduction of that effort should be good enough now.
Leigh Roche takes over on Weld's lightly-weighted Va Pensiero in the seven-furlong handicap. Unbeaten in two, Va Pensiero is a game sort whose tendency to do no more than she needs to might be keeping her on the right side of the handicapper.
Weld's Discipline, a facile winner on her bow at the course two weeks ago, contests the featured Listed race. She could be anything, but Bocca Baciata is the one to beat under Colm O'Donoghue. Jessica Harrington's four-year-old competed well in good company last year, when she seemed to perform at her best early in the campaign.