Weld can make hay as Ballydoyle chase triumph in France
As the Flat season draws to its conclusion, the action is thick and fast this weekend with Irish eyes focused on today's Leopardstown card where Dermot Weld may hold the key in the Group Three Eyrefield Stakes (4.15).
Aidan O'Brien (3) and Jim Bolger (2) have shared the last five renewals but Weld's Masaff showed significant improvement on just his second start to chase home Madhmoon when third in last month's Champions Juvenile Stakes at the Foxrock track.
Further progression is expected from the Raven's Pass colt and Declan McDonogh can take the €63,000 contest in the Aga Khan colours while the master of Rosewell House also holds strong claims with Imaging in the Listed Knockaire Stakes (3.05).
However, the son of Oasis Dream - already a Listed winner earlier this season - disappointed when favourite in the Group Three Concorde Stakes at Tipperary three weeks ago with Smash Williams ahead on that occasion.
Knocking Bolger's five-year-old has gone 16 races and over three years since getting his head in front but has been knocking on the door at this level all season and may finally oblige under Kevin Manning.
Gowran Park maiden winner Leagan Gaeilge also looks the one to beat for Bolger in the Fillies Nursery (2.30), while there is plenty of Irish interest mixed between Australia and France.
O'Brien's Rostropovich (28/1) is tuning up for a tilt at the Melbourne Cup when taking on the mighty mare Winx - unbeaten in her last 28 races - in the Group One Cox Plate (7.0) this morning but faces a stiff task.
Norway is a live contender for the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud (2.45) after an impressive win at Newmarket two weeks ago but stable companion Sydney Opera House may find the going tough at Saint-Cloud.
O'Brien saddles Irish St Leger winner Flag Of Honour in the Group One Prix Royal-Oak (2.45) tomorrow at Chantilly where champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins also continues his assault on staying contests with Max Dynamite tackling the 1m7f trip.
O'Brien's globe-trotting isn't finished there, however, as Newmarket Fillies' Mile runner-up Hermosa and San Andreas - a Naas maiden winner last Sunday - fly the flag in the Group One Criterium International (3.20).
Elsewhere, a lot of jumping dreams for the new season set sail over the next two days at Galway where a crack field of six go to post in the today's Mares Beginners' Chase (2.40) at Ballybrit.
Jessica Harrington's Forge Meadow was a classy hurdler, winning at Grade Two level, and will take some stopping if taking to the large obstacles, while last year's Cheltenham Bumper sixth Felix Desjy makes his hurdling debut in the Auction Maiden Hurdle (1.35) for Gordon Elliott.
Tomorrow's fare is equally as appetising with John Queally's Getaway Katie Mai, a high-class bumper performer which sluiced home in an Aintree Group Two, tackling the GoBus.ie Mares Maiden Hurdle (12.35).
She will have it all to do to get the better of Elliott's Tintangle, however, and that should be a fascinating duel while Elliott also unleashes Blow By Blow - Martin Pipe Hurdle winner at this year's Cheltenham Festival - in the Beginners' Chase (1.05).
The Miriam Hand "Play in Pink Fundraiser" Hurdle (4.0) should be a procession for Mullins' Wicklow Brave in the hands of Ruby Walsh ahead of some loftier prizes in the coming months.