Treasure poised to plunder
Rarely can Leopardstown's Ballyroan Stakes have thrown up quite so eclectic a showdown as it does this evening.
Dermot Weld, a dominant force in these contests at the Foxrock venue and successful in this Group Three for the past three years, saddles the versatile Galileo's Choice. Victorious here in the Kilternan Stakes at this level over 10 furlongs in September, the two-time winning hurdler obliged for a third time in a row on the Flat when beating Aklan over a mile and three quarters in the Listed Challenge Stakes here last month.
Over 12 furlongs now, Galileo's Choice might normally be something of a standing dish in an eight-runner contest that includes Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom, which was held when third in the Challenge Stakes.
This time, he faces some tough challengers, most notably the 2011 Irish Derby hero Treasure Beach and Light Heavy, third to Camelot in this year's Curragh showpiece.
While most of the current three-year-old crop -- with the obvious exception of Camelot -- look ordinary, Light Heavy remains open to progress for Jim Bolger. However, Treasure Beach strikes as the most accomplished performer on duty.
Granted, he lacks the star appeal of some of his stablemates, but did run Pour Moi to a nose in the 2011 Epsom Derby, before then recording his own Derby triumph under Colm O'Donoghue. Since then, Treasure Beach has plundered the Arlington Million and held his own in defeat in more exalted company.
This term, Aidan O'Brien has sent him to Dubai, Hong Kong and New York, the four-year-old failing to build on the promise of his Meydan fourth to Cirrus Des Aigles at the latter two venues.
But, reunited with O'Donoghue on his first start on home soil since that famous Curragh win, Treasure Beach is a serious proposition as he's the only horse that boasts genuine Group One quality.
O'Donoghue might follow up on Donatis Comet in the finale. Robbed of its chance in Galway when allowed to stroll, riderless, out of the stalls, Pat Martin's three-time bumper winner can gain compensation in this less prestigious, but competitive two-miler.
Earlier, Mick Halford might initiate a double of his own when Via Ballycroy tackles the six-furlong maiden under Shane Foley, with his Johnny Murtagh-ridden Zalanga also fancied in the 10-furlong maiden, having stayed on for an eye-catching third at Dundalk.
At Sligo, Jim Dreaper's Lord of Isenay, a half-brother to dual Grade One scorer Note Pere, is the day's nap selection in the maiden hurdle.