Take O'Brien's Words at Cork
Before the feast of top-class racing at Royal Ascot next week, there's a dearth of quality fare on both sides of the Irish Sea this weekend, although Cork tomorrow does see a couple of class animals in action.
The Munster Oaks is the feature and this sees the seasonal return of Aidan O'Brien's promising Words, which is still among the entries for Ascot's Ribblesdale Stakes next Thursday.
However, O'Brien has indicated the beautifully bred Dansili filly will not take her place in the line-up alongside stablemates Wedding Vow and Outstanding, who are possible rivals for Jim Bolger's likely favourite Pleascach which will race in new colours having been bought by Godolphin.
Words looked potentially very smart when winning on her debut at the Curragh last June. She beat Mick Halford's Raydara there, herself a very smart youngster, but has not been seen since.
Seamie Heffernan's mount is entered in the Pretty Polly and Irish Oaks later this summer and O'Brien will be hoping she can show that she's worthy of those lofty engagements.
Just four go to post with Dermot Weld's Carla Bianca, progressive last year, the chief threat. Having won two Listed races and a Group Three last summer, much was expected of her on her return at Gowran but she could only manage fourth behind subsequent 1,000 Guineas winner Legatissimo.
Ger Lyons' Roheryn is not without a chance, having finished third in the Blandford Stakes last season. She was fourth on her return to Bolger's Answered, but it will be disappointing if Words doesn't deliver the goods.
O'Brien doesn't have any other runner on the valuable card, but Heffernan does have an interesting mount in the preceding Listed sprint over five furlongs in which he gets the leg-up on Natalia Lupini's Abstraction.
This son of Majestic Missile has been a model of consistency, and ran some good races last season behind the smart Sir Maximilian, but in this field he might struggle for fitness on his first run for 233 days.
There are three English raiders - Mirza for Rae Gues and Paul Midgeley's pair of Monsieur Joe and Line Of Reason - which should attract plenty interest in the ring, but the vote goes to Michael Halford's Russian Soul.
The likeable seven-year-old rarely runs a bad race and three weeks ago, Shane Foley's mount shouldered the welter burden of 10-4 into third in a competitive handicap behind Master Speaker at the Curragh.
The Halford-Foley axis will also have high hopes of landing the Munster Derby with the consistent Shadagann, but the pair has a much clearer chance with Gift Wrap in the opener. The Godolphin filly was just touched off by Waterford Bridge at Tipperary and is taken to go one better.