Night Invader pick of bunch in Bolger's Wexford assault
Jim Bolger (below) will doubtless be at Ascot, but his powerful Coolcullen stable has a contender of note in each of this afternoon's seven races at Wexford.
The excellent Ronan Whelan is booked to steer all of his employer's runners at the south-eastern venue, so it would be no surprise if he goes into tomorrow's 24-hour break ahead of Galway having made some headway into Connor King's lead in the apprentices' championship.
Of the partnership's septet, Night Invader appeals as nap material in the Racecourse Challenge For Cystic Fibrosis Handicap over most of a mile and a half.
Despite a 14-runner field, this is a race that lacks depth, but Night Invader, a full-brother to none other than Trading Leather, stands out as having real scope for improvement.
Unsighted in three starts on slow ground last year, he showed that he has matured by finishing second on his handicap bow over a mile and six on his Leopardstown reappearance two weeks ago.
Having made the running there, it was hardly surprising that Night Invader tired over the extended trip on his first start for 12 months.
However, he will surely strip a bit fitter now, and the drop to this more intermediate trip on fast ground is likely to be to his advantage.
Johnny Murtagh is another trainer on duty at Ascot, albeit in his role as a jockey. His Curragh yard has two representatives in wexford and the front-running Benbecula gets the nod to make the most of a drop in class under seven-pound claimer Luke Dempsey in the Slaney Handicap.
Bolger's Something Graceful is the danger in this, having run respectably in defeat behind Dabadiyan and Fosters Cross on her last two starts.
Still, when you factor in the riders' respective claims, the two chief protagonists meet off the same terms that they did when Benbecula beat Something Graceful into third by nearly two lengths at Fairyhouse in June.
In the final conditions race, Murtagh's Manuka also has a chance under top-weight, but Moveable Asset catches the eye here on its debut for Willie Mullins.
Not beaten that far when a one-paced seventh behind Digeanta over a mile-and-six at Leopardstown last month for Andy Oliver, the five-year-old hurdle-winner steps up to two miles under Pat Smullen now.
If Moveable Asset improves for the longer trip, he has a chance, as the way that the weights are framed also looks quite favourable for him.
Earlier, Tommy Stack's Light Storm Cass is fancied to get off the mark in the Littlewoods Maiden.
Second at Gowran Park at the beginning of the month, Wayne Lordan's mount's form is nothing special, but she might just shade this modest heat from John Oxx's Papaya.