The key talking points for a quality card in Ireland
Aidan O’Brien is hoping Kenya, an impressive winner of a 7f maiden at Cork last week, can confirm himself a top-notch prospect with victory in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes (3.30) at Leopardstown on Sunday.
He said: “Kenya showed promise on his first start and came forward well to win very nicely at Cork last weekend. We've been happy with him since and he's a solid, progressive sort.”
O'Brien usually runs a smart one in this race and sent out Footstepsinthesand to take the prize in 2004.
Four more Ballydoyle horses have followed up since, and in a bid to maximise the stable’s chances of notching another victory, talented fillies Bye Bye Baby and Dramatically have also been given the green light to form a three-pronged attack.
Bye Bye Baby, successful on her last two starts, the most recent win coming at Listed level over 1m, will be ridden by Seamie Heffernan while Dramatically, a winner of her maiden last week at Naas over 6f, is partnered by Wayne Lordan.
O’Brien added: “Bye Bye Baby has done well, winning her last two races and the form of her maiden win at Newmarket has been boosted by the second winning a Group 3.
“Dramatically improved nicely from her first run to win at Naas. This will be a step up and the experience should do her good.”
Can Smullen strike back?
Colin Keane spoke only last week of how he was taking nothing for granted despite going seven winners clear of Pat Smullen with the season’s end in sight.
It was an honest and frank acknowledgment that, in Smullen, he faces a fiercely determined champion who is unwilling to hand over his crown without one hell of a scrap.
Friday night’s Dundalk double for Smullen closed the gap to just five – Keane is on 90 and the nine-time champion is on 85 – and success aboard Guessthebill, just touched off in the Birdcatcher last week, could play an important part in the most dramatic of comebacks.
Johnny Murtagh is having a terrific season with his two-year-olds and it wouldn’t be incomprehensible for the 93-rated colt to get involved, especially with the assistance of Smullen.
Keane should also be in the hunt. He rides Mcmunigal for his boss Ger Lyons. The Epaulette colt posted a very taking debut at Naas last month and looks blessed with potential.
O’Brien also triple-handed in Trigo
In the Listed Trigo Stakes (4.00) O’Brien also runs three, with Finn McCool, Bound and Longing all set to take their chance.
He said: “Finn McCool is coming back from a four-month break and trip, track and ground should suit.
“Bound is still a maiden but she ran very well when fourth in a Listed race over 1m4f at Naas a week ago and dropping back in trip shouldn't be a problem. Longing was disappointing in the same Naas race and we think the shorter trip will suit. She won her maiden over a slightly shorter trip on testing ground.”
Smullen is without a ride in the 1m2f contest but Keane will partner Cannonball, again for Lyons. The jockey has sided with the Qatar Racing-owned colt over Song Of Namibia, who should handle the ground.
Grandee is an interesting runner for Jessica Harrington. The 102-rated three-year-old was disappointing when last seen in a Group 3 at the track in August and is having his first run since being gelded.
Will Sheikh Fahad shine again?
Gordon Elliott and Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, successful in the Corinthian Challenge a year ago with Labaik, will be teaming up again this year with Brutal, who is also owned by the rider.
Elliott won the Legends Charity Race during the week at Punchestown with Pallasator and also runs Veinard and Scealtana, while Charmix and Presenting Julio are reserves.
The 1m2f contest (5.30) is the final leg of the 2017 challenge in which all funds raised will go to the Irish Injured Jockeys.