Drombeg can repeat win at dawn of Flat season
The curtain to the Irish Flat season opens today and there is a lot to look forward to.
One of the quirks of the racing calendar sees the Flat season commence at The Curragh today, just over a week after the pinnacle of the jumps season at Cheltenham.
Although with all-weather Flat action now going on at Dundalk through the winter, today's card should not prove too much of a culture shock to punters.
Irish-trained horses have failed to take any of the British Classics for the past two seasons; however, given that Ballydoyle have the market leader for four out of the five Classics for this season, that stands a good chance of being overturned.
Camelot was arguably the outstanding two-year-old last season, and he has been favourite for the Derby ever since his highly impressive performance in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Joseph O'Brien, who won plenty of plaudits for his ride on the son of Montjeu that day, has also built up an impressive partnership with Moyglare winner Maybe, which is unbeaten from five runs and is as short as 3/1 for the 1,000 Guineas.
Outside of Ballydoyle, it will be intriguing to follow the fate of Sea The Stars' half-brother Born To Sea, which was good enough to win a Listed race on his debut last season. Ger Lyons has a big year ahead with his debut Group One winner Lightening Pearl, while La Collina, the Phoenix Stakes winner, looks the pick of Kevin Prendergast's bunch.
Parish Hall is another to note for Jim Bolger, who will also be looking forward to sending out Dawn Approach today, the first two-year-old to represent the trainer's 2008 Derby winner New Approach's first crop.
Aidan O'Brien's Forester and Kevin Prendergast's Dorothy Parker look dangerous, but Tommy Stack's Dylanbaru could well be the one, given how good his trainer's horses tend to run at this time of year.
The Group Three Lodge Park stakes sees Twirl, a 20/1 shot for the 1,000 Guineas, reappear after her highly impressive maiden win at Leopardstown in November. It will be interesting to see how she gets on, especially in the face of her opposition, with Anam Alta and Princess Sinead both lively candidates.
However, the one to be on could well be Kevin Prendergast's Kissable. The daughter of Danehill Dancer never got into top gear last season, but her two-year-old form from the year before is classy and she is really interesting now racing back over a mile on soft ground.
The main betting race of the day is undoubtedly the Irish Lincolnshire handicap, which is a typically wide-open affair. Sharestan, Ansaab and Font Of Wisdom are all progressive types and could easily turn out to be very well-handicapped, but there seems no reason not to stick with last year's winner Drombeg Dawn, which actually gets in here again off a 2lb lower mark.
She didn't build on her win here last year, but she didn't exactly run badly in her subsequent runs either, and it's more than likely she has been mapped out for this race by trainer Andrew McNamara.
The excellent Ben Curtis takes the ride again, and she can run a big race at big odds.