O'Brien set to return with Cork double
Joseph O'Brien can make a winning return to the Flat when he takes the reins on two of his father Aidan's bluebloods at Cork this afternoon.
The former champion swerved both the curtain-raising card at the Curragh last Sunday and Wednesday's Dundalk fixture as he worked on getting his weight down to a level from which he could begin to compete.
It remains to be seen whether he will be able to do 9st come the Classics next month, but he has committed to doing 9st 5lb and 9st 6lb today. Suitably small steps for someone with big feet.
East India and Hans Holbien are the only two Ballydoyle representatives on duty and they are both expected to win. First up is East India in the conditions race over an extended mile.
The highest-rated of the five runners, this son of Galileo was beaten at long odds-on by Convergence in his second start as a juvenile in August.
Convergence's defeat of War Envoy during the week was a timely boost for that piece of form, and a line can be drawn through East India's only subsequent outing, when he effectively operated as a pace-maker for the exciting John F Kennedy at Leopardstown in September.
A narrow winner on his Curragh bow back in July of last year, East India remains a fair prospect.
If he runs to the full of his potential in a first-time hood on deep ground that might well be to his liking, then he ought to give his towering 21-year-old rider a comeback victory.
Hans Holbien appeals as nap material in the concluding 10-furlong maiden. A three-parts brother to the 2010 Irish St Leger hero Sans Frontieres, this Montjeu colt got a little tapped for toe on his sole outing over a mile on fast ground at Gowran Park last year.
He nonetheless kept finding to finish fourth behind the useful-looking Intransive, just two necks behind Aloft, which went on to be second to Elm Park in a Group One at Doncaster.
If Hans Holbien builds on that now, he really should be very hard to beat.
The €55,000 Listed Noblesse Stakes is a fascinating affair comprising a real variety of mares. John Kiely's Toe The Line is the top-rated, and she is trusted to vindicate that honour under Fran Berry.
A bumper winner that goes on any ground, Toe The Line is considered potential Gold Cup material, so she needs to be winning this if she is to have any hope of fulfilling that aspiration.
Berry could also take the seven-furlong handicap on Christy Roche's Dragon Khan, while Tony Martin's Pyromaniac is worth a look under Shane Foley in the 10-furlong equivalent on his return from a mid-winter break.