Shifting can lap up the Lincoln cream
O'Brien to put stars through paces after Flat season kicks off at the Curragh
The Flat season gets underway with a slightly ironic twist at the Curragh tomorrow, as it is the sole remaining domestic fixture this weekend after National Hunt cards scheduled for Gowran Park and Downpatrick were lost to waterlogging.
The going at Headquarters is officially soft to heavy, but officials remain optimistic that the seven-race spread – due to be followed by a raft of star names from Ballydoyle being put through their paces – will go ahead.
Coming into a big season for the likes of Camelot and Kingsbarns, race-goers will be eager to see how Aidan O'Brien's finest are taking shape, and he has six runners on the card itself.
In the seven-furlong handicap, Francis Of Assisi, a ready winner in deep ground at Naas in October, is fancied to prevail under the trainer's son Joseph. The outgoing champions are also expected to take the concluding mile maiden with Piet Mondrian, which was an encouraging third in a fair race on its autumn bow at Leopardstown.
However, they are without a representative in the feature on day one, a typically competitive renewal of the €100,000 BetVictor Lincolnshire. Ansaab, second last year for Kevin Prendergast, has a squeak off a 10lb-higher mark, while Anton Chigurh, one of two British runners among the final 22, is vying for favouritism with the sponsors.
Successful in three of its last five starts in the autumn, including twice on heavy going, the Tom Dascombe-trained four-year-old has obvious claims.
Dermot Weld's unexposed Tandem, twice a winner in the mud last term before being well held in Listed company on the last of its four starts, is another with live prospects, likewise Denis Hogan's Inis Meain, so progressive on the level throughout last year.
Nonetheless, given that last year's winner Sharestan is the only horse to carry nine stone or more to victory in nine editions of the prestigious mile handicap, it might pay to look away from the aforementioned quartet. The one that appeals most is Willie McCreery's Shifting under apprentice Shane Kelly.
A runaway winner for a second time in three starts off 83 on heavy at Listowel in September, this four-year-old filly signed off with a fair second to Manieree in Listed company at Naas. On that occasion, Shifting received just three pounds from the then 109-rated winner, while she raced off levels with the neck-third Devotion (97).
In that context, her rating of 87 – a stone higher than when she hosed up in Kerry – remains potentially favourable, not least when you factor in her useful rider's five-pound allowance.
As ever, Tommy Stack's Golden stable can be expected to hit the ground running, so Bird's Eye View warrants the nap vote.
In two outings as a juvenile in 2011, JP McManus' filly was placed in good maidens and she had five winners of seven subsequent races behind when prevailing on heavy here on her only outing at three last August.
Chief among her rivals in the Macari's Supporting Kildare Rose Handicap is Paul Deegan's hat-trick seeking Srucahan.
Another that revels in deep ground, Srucahan is feared, but the suspicion is that Bird's Eye View might have more up her sleeve off a first-time mark of 79.
She should take plenty stopping under Fran Berry.