Halford's progressive Dabadiyan the wise choice in Dundalk finale
After a rare two-day midweek break, a pair of meetings at Downpatrick and Dundalk kick off a quartet of fixtures within 80 miles of each other over the next three days.
It's hard to grasp the logic behind such clustering, especially with a crossover today between the last two races on Downpatrick's jumps spread and the first two all-weather heats. On the other hand, both are distinctly low-key spreads, with only the clash of Dabadiyan and Afonso De Sousa in the Dundalk finale lending any quality to proceedings.
A $300,000 half-brother to the dual American Classic winner Big Brown, Ballydoyle's Afonso De Sousa ran away with a Leopardstown maiden last July before finishing third in the Acomb Stakes at York. He returns now in this 10-furlong conditions race, and while he clearly has potential, he might just find Mick Halford's progressive Dabadiyan too sharp.
Having got off the mark impressively at the fourth time of asking at the Curragh in June, the Aga Khan's classy colt went on to record similar triumphs in a handicap at headquarters and a conditions race at Down Royal.
Declan McDonogh's mount even had Group One entries, so, while he may not be quite up to that sort of challenge yet, he is certainly a live improver. On ratings, Dabadiyan is 5lbs wrong with Afonso De Sousa and the drop back to this trip is a slight concern. Still, he should strip fitter than his chief rival in the six-runner affair.
Earlier, Kevin Manning could land a juvenile brace aboard Paul Deegan's Atlantic Sea and Jim Bolger's Centre Of Interest, with Crystal Wings fancied to add to Connor King's lead in the apprentices' championship in the mile handicap.
Thomas Cleary's four-year-old ran well off 56 when last seen here in November, and he returns now off a lowly 47. When you factor in his excellent rider's claim, he looks thrown in.
King's fellow apprentice Luke Dempsey is another who could depart with a double courtesy of Patrick Prendergast's Candy Apples in the nursery and Johnny Murtagh's Manuka in the apprentices' handicap.
At Downpatrick, Mikey Fogarty can continue his prolific initiation to the paid ranks on Romeo Is Bleeding in the two-mile-seven-furlong maiden hurdle. Butney Rock has claims here under Ruby Walsh, but Romeo Is Bleeding's form for Eoin Doyle is more robust.
In the Jonjo Bright Trust Beginners' Chase that follows, Claragh Native gets the nod to end a frustrating run under champion jockey Davy Russell. While Arthur Moore's son of Beneficial – twice a winner here over flights – has failed to win in 16 previous attempts over fences, he won't have contested too many races as weak as this.