Catwilldo enough to extend Donnelly's fine Dundalk run
Garvan Donnelly is a prime example of how much of an asset Dundalk can be to modestly-sized stables and tonight he can enhance his record at the Co Louth facility with Catwilldo.
The Dublin handler's wins-runs ratio on the all-weather over the past five seasons is 18-159 for an 11pc strike-rate.
To put that into context, the shrewd Donnelly has had 18 or more runners, never mind winners, at just one other track; his next most lucrative hunting ground is Fairyhouse, where he boasts an impressive 40pc win record from 10 runners.
Put simply, the opportunities and regularity that Dundalk's year-round schedule offers a trainer trying to make a living on a practical and ongoing basis are invaluable. Tonight, Catwilldo is Donnelly's sole runner in the five-furlong handicap.
It is a modest enough affair, and the One Cool Cat mare has lots going for her under Robbie Downey, whose three-pound claim is always a plus. Twice a winner here and placed five times from 15 starts, Catwilldo was last seen at Cork in October, running well to be sixth off a mark of 56.
She is down to 51 now after the annual handicap revisions, a mark that she won off at Bellewstown in the summer before following up off 54 at Navan. In short, Catwilldo has an awful lot in her favour her, so she is trusted with the nap vote.
Later on, Michael O'Callaghan's I Will Excel appeals as another pretty decent option in the mile handicap. Still a maiden after 10 starts, I Will Excel has been largely disappointing given that he was placed in three of his five outings as a juvenile.
He confirmed that promise when second on his return here last March, but misfired completely on his next three starts. However, he might now be beginning to mature, as he emerged with credit from defeat here over seven furlongs last week.
On that occasion, he was beaten just a head by the filly Splashtop, which was rated two pounds superior but was receiving 10lbs. I Will Excel kept on gamely to the line and, given that his three outings over seven have produced his best runs, he might well be suited by this step up to a mile.
O'Callaghan and Emmet McNamara might also take the opening maiden with Bottleofsmoke. In truth, this is an awful race, but Bottleofsmoke showed some ability on his September debut at the Curragh, prior to flopping at Naas. If he can leave that behind, he might be up to this.
In the €24,000 featured handicap over six furlongs, David Marnane's Jamesie could be the one to keep on side. The 99-rated top-weight has been running well of late, winning twice in three starts over this six-furlong trip before finding five too sharp in Listed company here last time.
Back at his optimum distance now, Connor King's mount should take a bit of stopping. In the 10-furlong maiden that brings proceedings to a close, Tracey Collins's Pat Smullen-ridden Eagle Valley could score.
Again, this is a pretty desperate race. Eagle Valley has shown some promise in two Naas runs, so she might step up now.
Across the water this afternoon, Space Ship is an interesting challenger from Robbie Hennessy's Co Dublin yard as he tackles the Donaldson Timber Engineering Handicap Hurdle.
Formerly trained by John Gosden on the Flat, Andrew Lynch's mount has yet to replicate his best Flat form for Hennessy, although he scraped a Graded race placing this time last year.
There's little doubt that he would have needed his outing at Down Royal last Saturday, keeping on for third in a competitive handicap, and it would be no surprise if he made swift progress to claim this two-mile contest.
Lynch, who has two other rides on the card for Stuart Crawford, will be hoping the rain stays away as Space Ship appreciates good ground and gets the nod ahead of Aristo Du Plessis.