The return to Dundalk Stadium is upon us and, even though it is behind closed doors, it is good to have a cracking card back on the all-weather in Ireland.
Many old favourites are back in action and it will be worth keeping an eye on them to see how they get on.
The feature of the day is the €50,000 Woodford Reserve Ballysax Stakes (Group Three, 5:30pm, live on RTE) and it will see a quality field go to post.
Here is a look at the full card, with a selections for each race.
2.30 5f Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden (Plus 10 Race) (2yo)
ALIYZA looks to be a very interesting runner here for Dermot Weld in the colours of the Aga Khan. She was only a length behind Mahaasel (who reopposes her here) on her debut and then raced too keenly when she finished down the field at The Curragh next time out.
If you can excuse her last run, I think she is one of the main contenders here as the artificial surface will really suit. The form has a solid look to it from her first run so she could go very close here.
3.00 5f Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden (3yo+)
ECCLESIASTICAL has been very consistent in his two runs this season and could make amends here in what looks a weaker race than the one he contested most recently.
He has been a very solid second in his last two runs – first time out this season behind the Johnny Murtagh-trained Koolasice, and then last week at Navan behind Papa Bear.
He has a visor on for the first time today and that could make all the difference and he shouldn’t be far away at the finish.
3.30 7f Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden (3yo+)
Dermot Weld could be in line for a quick double as DARK PINE won’t have to improve much off his last run to get his head in front here.
It was a very strong handicap he ran in at Leopardstown, with Confidence High, who won that race, finishing second to Sinawann in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes next time out. I think he will be very hard to beat here off a 9lb rise.
Blinkers were on for the first time last time out and if they have the same effect here then he should go very close.
4.00 7f Crowne Plaza Hotel Virtual Ladies Day Handicap (Div I) (3yo+ 45-65)
Leanne Breen, who was one of the trainers who took her time out to answer my questions during a lockdown Q and A, has a very good chance of getting a winner here with LA NOVIA.
She has been a bit in and out of form but had a luckless run last time out at Fairyhouse, where she travelled like a dream all the way and ran on strongly to snatch third place close home. She has won off higher marks than the mark of 46 she races off here and looks a solid each-way proposition.
With luck in running she should go very close here.
4.30 7f Crowne Plaza Hotel Virtual Ladies Day Handicap (Div II) (3yo+ 45-65)
EACHARN is a horse I have followed around Dundalk for quite a while and, while he wasn’t able to make use of his lower turf mark, I can see him going very close here in what, admittedly, looks a competitive race.
He returns to the all-weather here off a mark of 65 and he has run well on a couple of occasions off a pound higher so I would expect a big run.
The form of his fourth behind Amazing One at Fairyhouse has received an almighty boost with the second, Eleuthera, and third, Musalsal, winning since so a similar performance should give Eacharn every chance here.
5.00 1m2½f (1m2f150y) Ireland Thanks You Handicap (Div I) (3yo+ 45-70)
Ben Coen has struck up a very good association with Johnny Murtagh this season but he picks up a very good ride for Michael Mulvany here aboard NEW VOCATION.
This horse was formerly trained by Jim Bolger and is a course-and-distance winner off a mark of 48. She is rated 67 here and has shown that mark is not beyond her by finishing second on two runs since racing resumed at Roscommon. She takes her racing well and should go close here with conditions to suit.
She was second behind Wilderness on the 22nd of June when ridden by Gary Caroll. Wilderness, on that occasion, was ridden by Ben Coen so it is very interesting that Ben now takes the mount aboard New Vocation.
Wilderness went on and won again on Saturday so that franked the form even more.
5.30 1m2½f (1m2f150y) Woodford Reserve Ballysax Stakes (Group 3) (3yo)
The feature of the day and, while Monarch Of Egypt will be all the rage, I was really impressed with INDICATIVE VOTE when he won at Roscommon as he got headed and fought back and, in the end, won going away. For his first run, he showed a willing attitude and there should be plenty more to come.
He impressed me there and, while this is a big step up in grade, he could go very close. Ger Lyons obviously thinks plenty of him as he is letting him run in this race and it would be no surprise if he went very close.
His owner Vincent Gaul has had plenty of good horses over the years and this could be another that we need to pay close attention to.
6.00 1m2½f (1m2f150y) Ireland Thanks You Handicap (Div II) (3yo+ 45-70)
One of the most interesting runners on the day takes his place here as the Emmet Mullins-trained MARMOLATA is high up my list of main contenders.
This horse was formerly trained by Ger Lyons and then went to Margaret Mullins, for whom she was unraced. Emmet has landed a couple of nice touches since racing resumed so I would be very keen to see what happens in the market.
This horse was a beaten favourite in a seven-furlong claiming maiden at Dundalk back in October 2019 so we know she handles the surface. A mark of 66 could really underestimate how good she is if her new team can get her back in some decent form.
She looks to me to be one of the main contenders and should be hard to keep out of the frame.