Russell and Elliott can reward punters' faith at Downpatrick festival
With Royal Ascot looming large on the racing horizon and kicking into gear next Tuesday, it's an unusually quiet weekend on these shores with four meetings leaving little to write home about.
Surprisingly, there's no Irish representation in the French Oaks (3.05) at Chantilly tomorrow where Alain de Royer-Dupre's unbeaten filly Siyarafina will take all the beating under Christophe Soumillon.
The action at Downpatrick is poles apart from the French track in terms of quality but it's where the best of the Irish fare comes this weekend as part of their two-day summer festival.
Amor Verdadero looks likely to get today off to a flyer in the opening mares maiden hurdle (2.30) for the crack team of Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell with the Cork jockey already hitting the ground running in the new jumps season. The Visit Newry Mourne & Down Handicap Hurdle (3.05) is an open affair but few like it more around the Down track than King Of Aran.
Michael Grassick's 12-year-old has only won six times under rules in his lengthy career - with three of those victories coming at Downpatrick - and Danny Mullins' mount can get his head in front again after an encouraging fourth at Leopardstown on Thursday.
Demi Plie may be safest option in the beginners' chase (4.15) with Pádraig Roche's charge looking the likeliest winner before coming to grief at the second last at Tramore and Bryan Cooper can make amends in the saddle.
Shes Flat Tothemat hasn't shown much since landing a maiden hurdle on her third start at Wexford - over two years ago - but Michael Winter's charge gave signs that she may be ready to strike with a decent run at Tramore last month.
Winters will make the ten-hour round trip from his base in Cork (Kanturk) and Darragh O'Keeffe's 7lb allowance should see her come into the equation and repay her trainer's faith.
Tomorrow's feature - the Molson Coors Handicap Hurdle (3.25) - can also go the way of Elliott and Russell through Rakhine State with the progressive six-year-old having some fine recent form.
The other weekend action sees racing at Limerick today where Aidan O'Brien's King Pellinor - 4/5 favourite when well beaten by brilliant stablemate Sir Dragonet at Tipperary last time out - will be warm order to land the limerickraces.ie Maiden (4.0).
The value choice may be John Feane's Bitcoin Boy, however, with clear promise shown in his two career starts while a decent card at Gowran Park tomorrow can be concluded with victory for Fozzy Stack's Wargrave (5.30).