Many punters will no doubt put their trust in serial champion trainer Aidan O’Brien when Ireland’s new turf Flat season gets under way at Naas on Monday.
O’Brien will be represented in all but one of the seven races on the card and none of his contenders are bigger than 3-1.
However, his runners in March usually carry a wealth warning with his strike-rate of about 10 per cent during the month in the past decade being well below his usual standard.
Since 2010, he has had 11 winners from 112 runners and you would have lost £51.95 had you staked £1 on all his runners blind.
Here’s a guide to all seven races.
2.00 IRISH STALLION FARMS EUROPEAN BREEDERS FUND MAIDEN\
The first race of the Irish turf season would not be complete without a runner or two from the yard of Jim Bolger.
He saddled the winner three years in succession between 2011 and 2013 but his past seven contenders have all been beaten, with a trio of them going off at 7-4 or shorter. This time he relies on Poetic Flare and Allagar, although the pair are bred to come into their own over further.
The obvious one is O’Brien’s LIPIZZANER, a son of American champion Uncle Mo out of Australian 1000 Guineas winner Irish Lights. The $650,000 purchase stands out on breeding and his dam was effective on soft ground.
Incidentally, O’Brien’s past two runners in the race were Stubbs, third in 2013 at 9-4, and Forester, who filled the same position at the same price in 2012.
Of the rest, Marketa is worth a second look. She was a cheap buy but there is some speed in her breeding and her trainer, Brendan Duke, won this with. a 20-1 shot two years ago and saddled the runner-up 12 months ago.
Selection: Lipizzaner at 4-5 with William Hill
2.30 NAAS NURSERY OF CHAMPIONS MAIDEN
Those with experience have not achieved much and it may be worth risking the Dermot Weld-trained debutant ESHTIYA.
She is a daughter of Dark Angel out of Eshera, who won two of her three starts for the same connections in 2015, including in Listed company. Eshtiya holds an entry in the Irish 1000 Guineas.
O’Brien has trained the winner of this three times since 2011 and is represented by Knight Of Malta, who shaped with some encouragement when fourth behind stablemate Hong Kong in the mud over course and distance in the autumn. The winner subsequently cut little ice in Group Three company at Newmarket.
Grizzly offered something to work on when fourth at the Curragh in October and is now equipped with a tongue-tie. Front-running Getawiggleon boasts plenty of experience and has back-and-lay potential for those who like to play in-running.
Selection: Eshtiya at 11-2 with William Hill
3.00 NAAS RACECOURSE LAUNCHES THE 2020 IRISH FLAT SEASON HANDICAP
Dark Vadar and Arcanears arrive here fit and in-form from the all-weather, so it is not surprising they are prominent in the betting.
However, Dark Vadar is unproven on deep ground, while Arcanears has been pushed up 9lb for his latest success at Dundalk, where he clearly operates well.
SENDMYLOVETOYOU (nap) is more interesting than most. She won a 23-runner maiden on her debut at the Curragh in late August and was an eye-catcher next time out, on heavy ground, when a close fourth in a sprint handicap on the same track.
She disappointed ten days later but she should have more to offer.
Mokhalad ticks a few boxes and is another to consider, while Tresorier will also be a player if able to pick up from where he left off last season, for all he has a poor wins-to-run ratio.
Selection: Sendmylovetoyou at a general 10-1
3.30 NAAS RACECOURSE BUSINESS CLUB MADRID (PREMIER HANDICAP)
This is wide open and WILD CHERRY can only be a tentative choice.
She was having only her third start when a staying-on fourth in a six-furlong maiden here on heavy ground here in October and is bred to be well served by the extra furlong she will encounter here.
The winner of that maiden subsequently went close off a mark of 84 (behind In From The Cold), suggesting Wild Cherry’s opening mark of 80 will not be beyond her.
You can make cases for numerous others, although plenty will look no further than O’Brien’s Hong Kong, a course winner last autumn who then finished down the field in pattern company at Newmarket. He switches to handicaps of a mark of 88.
Fan Club Rules has plenty of weight to shoulder but showed smart form in several top two-year-old sprints last summer. He is intriguing up in trip for his new yard.
4.00 DEVOY STAKES (Listed)
It will be disappointing if SIR DRAGONET is not able to land this.
Beaten under a length in the Derby, he also ran well when fourth in the St Leger when not quite getting home.
This ten-furlong trip is probably on the sharp side and he is unlikely to be anywhere near fully wound up, but his class should carry him through against inferior opposition.
Halimi is a reliable sort proven in the mud, and over further. He may be the one to chase Sir Dragonet home as Numerian would prefer better ground.
Brogue looked one to follow when winning on his debut at Cork ten months ago but the son of Frankel has since been absent.
Selection: Sir Dragonet at 4-5 with Sky Bet
4.30 LODGE PARK STUD IRISH EUROPEAN BREEDERS FUND PARK EXPRESS STAKES
There was plenty to like about the way EVEN SO lost her maiden tag at Gowran over a mile on soft ground in late September.
The daughter of Camelot was confirming the promise of her debut that day and looks to have a bright future. Her entries include the Irish 1000 Guineas and Oaks.
Ger Lyons, her trainer, also has an interesting “second strong” in Lemista, who signed off last term with an emphatic success over a mile at Gowran in October.
Blissful cut little ice in the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket but has to enter calculations, while Hamariyna has a Group Three win on her CV and warrants a second look.
Kiss For A Jewel, proven over further and on a testing surface, looks best of the rest.
Selection: Even So at a general 2-1
5.00 IRISH STALLION FARMS EUROPEAN BREEDERS FUND MAIDEN
Several of these showed promise as two-year-olds, with EMIYN getting the nod.
The Invincible Spirit colt shaped with plenty of promise when a close fourth in a 16-runner maiden over course and distance in November, a day when the mud was flying. Watch the closing stages above.
Russian Emperor and Lough Cutra also shaped like certain future winners on their respective debuts last year.
Lobo Rojo and Irish Master are interesting newcomers for Jessica Harrington who need monitoring in the betting.
Selection: Emiyn at a general 9-2
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