BEN CURTIS, the 2010 joint-champion apprentice who enjoyed a first winner in six months at Gowran Park last week, can build on that return to form on Battleroftheboyne at Dundalk tonight.
The hard-working rider, popular as ever this evening with five mounts, faces a real challenge this term if he is to capitalise on his excellent progress over the past few years.
For the first time in his career, the Cork native begins a season without a claim to help generate momentum, but he is in demand and well able to take what opportunities come his way.
Battleroftheboyne tackles the three-year-old six-furlong handicap for Michael Mulvany after finishing a fine second here under Curtis on Friday.
Twice a nursery winner in a busy juvenile campaign off marks of 75 and 76, the Majestic Missile colt made the running last week, only to be overhauled at the death by the fast-finishing Footprint.
Given that the eventual winner came so late and wide, Battleroftheboyne had no time to respond, but his performance confirmed that he is well handicapped off a rating of 70.
Northgate is another that is fancied to improve on an eye-catching effort last Sunday. Joe Murphy's seven-year-old ran far above what his rating entitled him to do when third to Famous Name and the Irish Lincoln hero Sharestan at Leopardstown.
The 99-rated runner was less than two lengths behind Famous Name (116) and Sharestan (108) off level weights, with Hujaylea (101) back in fourth.
A three-time course winner, Northgate will have to concede weight all round if he is to take the concluding 12-furlong handicap, but there is reason to believe he can if he replicates Sunday's turn for Pat Smullen.
Napped on the eight-race spread is Ballydoyle's regally bred Betterbetterbetter in the fillies' maiden, while Chris Hayes might secure a brace courtesy of Opa Loca and China One.
In the mile maiden, Eddie Lynam's consistent Opa Loca is just preferred to stablemate Diamond Daze, with Paul Deegan's China One, successful here on its racecourse bow last month, possessing a touch of class in the 10-furlong handicap for three-year-olds.