At this time of year it is very much a case of hope springing eternally as the new turf flat season begins, writes Will Reilly.
We are about to receive early clues as to how the pecking order is going to turn out this season for racehorses, and, in general, a few early pieces will also slot into the jigsaw puzzle otherwise known as the form book.
As the season evolves, the form and ‘pecking order’ picture – initially parts of it – should become clearer. By the time summer arrives, particularly if the going becomes consistently good/good to firm, we ought to be able to predict things a good bit more accurately.
That is, we will, hopefully, get to see more clearly the picture that is beginning to reveal itself and, importantly, be able to identify the best, or better, horses – which is always important before we choose to part with out money and place a bet.
That’s the theory – and aim – anyway.
Of course, all-weather racing continues at Dundalk and it, too, forms a valuable part of the programme and the puzzle.
Further evidence of this is provided by the initial entries for one of the track’s three maiden races that are scheduled for Wednesday’s card (March 25th).
It can be a lot of fun looking through these races. Here’s an example.
Dundalk Stadium, Wednesday March 25th
3:30pm – Ladies Day Sunday 12th July Maiden, 3yo, 8f, €12,000
Agitare – Trained by Jim Bolger and rated 100 after some very strong maiden form and a third to Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul in a Group 2 race at Leopardstown in September, where he finished ahead of four previous winners; Mogul subsequently finished fourth in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes, which was run this year at Newcastle; he represents very strong form in the context of this race; he holds entries for the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Irish Derby
Alghazaal – Kevin Prendergast – He’s a half-brother to two winners and a full-brother to another and there are plenty of winners in his pedigreewhich traces back to Height Of Fashion, the dam of top-class performers such as Nashwan, Nayef and Unfuwain
Cabot Hills – Donnacha O’Brien – By Gleneagles, he is out of the four-time Group 1-winner Peeping Fawn so has a beautiful pedigree; he is now with Donnacha O’Brien, having finished second then seventh in Curragh maidens for Aidan O’Brien last season; he holds entries for the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby
Dawn Over Owning – Joseph O’Brien – Owned by the Joseph O’Brien Racing Club, he has shown promise without troubling the judge so far in a couple of maiden runs here
Dragon Man – Michael Grassick – He has finished unplaced in a Curragh maiden and a Tipperary claimer so far so needs to improve substantially in order to get involved
Fifth Fleet – Joseph O’Brien – By American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, he showed plenty of promise when third on his debut over today’s c/d and should improve for that run; his maternal grand-dam, Jude, has produced seven winners, including Group 1 winners Quarter Moon and Yesterday (who won the Irish 1,000 Guineas); he holds an entry for the English 2,000 Guineas – see Kushkame
Joe’s Joy – Matthew Smith – Three unplaced runs so far, including when behind Kushkame and Fifth Fleet last time, put him among the outsiders for this
Johan Zoffani – Michael O’Callaghan – Three seconds and a third so far for this 83-colt so he brings good maiden form into the new year and he has been gelded since his last run, which came here in November; he’s a half-brother to a French Listed winner
Kipling – Aidan O’Brien – By Galileo out of La Traviata, this makes him a half- or full-brother to five winners, including dual-Group 1 winner (including the Irish Oaks), Seventh Heaven, who won her maiden here; he showed good promise in maidens at The Curragh and Newmarket (where he was sent off as favourite) last season; he holds entries for the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby
Knight Of Malta – Aidan O’Brien – He finished fourth on his debut last season, which came at Naas; he’s a son of War Front and his dam is Was, who won the 2012 Epsom Oaks
Kushkame – Andy Slattery – He showed plenty of promise when finishing second here on his debut on March 6th, where he finished two lengths ahead of American Pharoah
Ohio State – Aidan O’Brien – Being by War Front out of Misty For Me makes him a full-brother to three-time Group 1 winners U S Navy Flag (Middle Park Stakes, Dewhurst Stakes and July Cup) and Roly Poly (Falmouth Stakes, Prix Rothschild and Sun Chariot Stakes, although he has yet to set the world alight in three runs to date, including here; Misty For Me won four Group 1 races, including the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Pretty Polly Stakes
Order Of Australia – Aidan O’Brien – He showed plenty of promise when fifth of 17 on his Curragh debut; he’s by Australia out of Iridessa (who is by Ruler Of The World), who Joseph O’Brien trained to win four Group or Grade 1 races, including the Pretty Polly Stakes, the Matron Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf; he holds entries for the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby
Ramesses The Great – Aidan O’Brien – He’s by Pioneerof The Nile, a top-class US 8-9f dirt performer as a two-year-old and three-year-old, who is also the sire of US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah; Ramesses The Great is a half-brother to dual-US Grade 1 winner Vino Rosso, whose wins include last season’s Breeders’ Cup Classic; he holds entries for the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby
Russian Emperor – Aidan O’Brien – He’s by Galileo out of a Fastnet Rock mare and showed plenty of promise when third of 12 to Iberia on his Curragh debut; Iberia went on to be twice placed in Group company; he holds entries for the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby
Shedini – Trained by Dermot Weld, he is owned by HH The Aga Khan and is by successful sire Siyouni out of a dam that was placed at Group 3 level
Tiger Moth – By Galileo out of Group 3-winner Lesson Humility, he is a brother to two winners and a half-brother to two others; he showed plenty of promise when third of 14 (beaten three-parts of a length) on his debut at The Curragh; he holds entries for the Epsom Derby and Irish Derby
War Flight – Andy Slattery – He showed promise when third to easy winner United Front on his debut, which came over here over six furlongs; more will be needed, though, today
Gin Blossom – Joseph O’Brien – She has finished runner-up on both starts so far, at The Curragh (where she was beaten a head) and Gowran Park, both times on heavy going; she’s a half-sister to a Listed winner; she holds entries for the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Irish Oaks
Linda’s Grace – Keith Henry Clarke – She was highly-tried on her debut here last Friday and finished a well-beaten last of six; she’s a half-sister to five winners
Princess Grace – Gavin Cromwell – She has finished unplaced on all three starts so far, including here, so will need to build substantially on those runs in order to get involved today; she’s by Australian Group 1-winning two-year-old Shooting To Win
Rosa Albertine – Dermot Weld – By Camelot, she improved on her Naas debut to finish fourth at Navan over one mile of soft going last time, which was a promising run; she’s a half-sister to five winners; she holds an Irish Oaks entry
Sassy Dancer – Willie Martin – She has yet to race; she’s a half-sister to 10-time winner Dapper Man, who has so far achieved a highest rating of 89, her trainer trained her dam, Gist, to win two races, at Laytown and Listowel
Tasalka – Dermot Weld – She has finished second twice from four runs so far (was beaten just a nose at Tipperary on her third start) and was highly tried (Group 3 company) when unplaced last time, although she was sent off as favourite for the race; she holds an entry for the Irish 1,000 Guineas; she’s a half-sister to three winners, including a dual Listed winner, and her dam also won a Listed race