Incredibly, Ireland’s most reliable grass venue, Thurles, has had to abandon two Jumps meetings of late. This means a return of the Flat to the track, which was most unexpected.
I have five fancies for this weekend's action with two on Saturday and three on Sunday.
Including the reserve, Aidan O'Brien has five Galileo-breds in this maiden. It shows how much of a disadvantage the other trainers in Ireland are in general in terms of raw material.
Few of them have access to Dubawi or Galileo and are scrambling for the best of what is around otherwise.
Ger Lyons has a horse by Champs Elyssees, a sire I like, here in Heliac. The bay filly, out of a Galileo mare, makes her second start after an eye-catching run at the Curragh when 9-2 in a 21-runner maiden 75 days ago.
Lyons does not rush his horses and her experience will be key given the terrible record O'Brien has with debutantes by his main sire.
Madrid is by Galileo, closely related to French middle-distance winner Emily Strange, and a half-brother to six more, one at Group Two level.
By comparison, he has achieved little. He ran three times as a two-year-old before sent off at 9-4 on handicap debut at Bellewstown when it looked as if he did far too much up front on his first try at the distance.
He then ran a solid race in a maiden at Gowran and, if he can overcome draw 15 here, he has the potential to do better. Archer’s Up looks a danger for Gavin Cromwell, having run well here in the past.
Court Maid was probably not the quintessential bumper horse, but she came good in one at the Galway festival.
Considering her lack of experience, she did really well to finish second on hurdling debut at Listowel when popular in the market, suggesting she was well-schooled.
She may not need to improve to score here for the under-appreciated Tom Mullins.
Joe Murphy had a sluggish campaign until October and now he is bombing.
This fine, big horse overcame a horrible draw to score readily at Fairyhouse and he can overcome another high draw to take this better race.
He looks the type to improve; indeed, stepping up to a stiff seven furlongs looks a positive.
That said, this appeals as a competitive race. Billy Lee will have a plan and he has enough faith in this horse to deliver a nice pot here.
Michael Halford could have a really profitable Dundalk after a relatively quiet Flat campaign to date.
He nearly had a five-timer at the all-weather venue on Friday of last week and his horses are hitting form, augmenting the claims of Castle Guest in this apprentices' race.
He comes here after two excellent runs at Leopardstown and the Curragh, and he ran into a very well-treated horse in Perfect Tapatino at the Curragh. He has a reasonable draw in 11 and should run a big race.
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