13.25 Dubai Duty Free Dash Stakes (6f) (Listed)
A field of 11 go to post for the opener, which sees dual Listed winner and dual Group 3 second POWER UNDER ME back out on the track just over a month after he was put in his place at Group 2 level over this C&D.
He couldn’t cope with the sustained pace on that occasion but he will feel the difference at this level, he acts on a sound surface (or slower) and he should prove tough to beat.
A back-to-form Hermana Estrella would certainly make a race of it. She won a Naas Group 3 on debut last year but has been seen only once since, when well beaten in the Irish 1,000 Guineas last month, over a mile. If she is better for that run, plus this drop back in trip, she’d not be far away.
14.00 Dubai Duty Free Summer Fillies Handicap (7f)
This race looks as open as you would anticipate for an 11-runner field contesting a healthy prize fund and the one who looks best suited to it is NIGHT OF ROMANCE.
A former Karl Burke inmate, she joined Joseph O’Brien midway through last season, winning on her first start for him. Consistency deserted her thereafter and she looked in need of her first run of this season, when held over this C&D.
However, the return to 7f last time out at Gowran Park proved to be key, as she showed a very willing attitude to stick her neck out and win by a very comfortable 2l. That was a career-best effort and a 9lb rise has put her into this sphere.
She may still be capable of better, given that she has run only 15 times (and only six times for this trainer) and she looks as though she could still be well treated here.
14:35 Dubai Duty Free Celebration Stakes (1m) (Listed)
Another open-looking heat, with Raadobarg, Emphatic Answer and Pretreville all respected but preference is for STRAIGHT ANSWER.
The Ger Lyons-trained colt was a 6f course winner on debut last August and followed up successfully at this (Listed) level at Fairyhouse (6f, good to firm) a month later.
Aside from a disappointing effort in the Group 3 Lacken Stakes at Naas last month, the son of Kodiac has been in cracking form in two other starts this season, finishing as runner-up in a Navan Listed event (5.5f, good) on his reappearance and then sticking on well to be second in the Group 3 Ballychorus Stakes at Leopardstown (7f, good to yielding) last time.
That performance hinted that he should get a mile and, if so, he is open to further improvement at this trip, having raced just six times.
He looks capable of running a very big race again this time.
15:05 GAIN Railway Stakes (6f) (Group 2)
Just six will face the starter for a race won twice in the last decade by Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle handler again holds the key here with BLACKBEARD.
Although a beaten favourite in last week’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, he has won his other three starts, including the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes over C&D last month.
If he could return to this track and run to that level or better, he’d be very tough to beat in this line-up. He acts well on a sound surface and he won’t mind if there is any rain before the event.
Joseph O’Brien’s Apache Outlaw could give him most to do. Admittedly, it took him three starts to get off the mark but he may just be a slightly later developer and now that he has got his nose in front, he could take more significant steps forward. He could be the one for forecast backers.
15.45 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (1m4f) (Group 1)
Favourites and upsets, they’ve all come alike to Aidan O’Brien in this race in the past decade, when he has won half of the renewals contested.
Three of those five winners have been favourites (two of them odds-on), while the 2019 winner Sovereign sprang a 33-1 surprise.
Last year the prize went to England in the form of the Charlie Appleby-trained Hurricane Lane, who went on to win the St Leger at Doncaster later in the campaign.
This time around, O’Brien relies on his sole entry, TUESDAY, who was second in what looks to have been a very strong renewal of the Irish 1,000 Guineas here last month, won by Homeless Songs.
She bettered that run last time, when stepping up to 1m4f at Epsom Downs and, under a brilliant Ryan Moore ride, just held off the challenge of the favourite Emily Upjohn to win the Oaks.
She has many boxes ticked here, including both an unexposed improver and the ability to go well on a sound surface. Her attitude also looks to be spot on and she is taken to find the necessary to hold off all-comers here.
Her chief rival may well prove to be the Derby third, Westover, who was originally put in as the favourite for this after being denied a clear run at Epsom, but running on well to be nearest at the finish, on seeing daylight.
There is no doubting that such a run was a very strong effort, given how highly rated the winner Desert Crown has been assessed as. Ralph Beckett’s Frankel colt remains unexposed and should make this a very strong renewal.
That pair are well clear of the field on official ratings but one who interested me before the Derby and remains the case, despite his defeat there, is Piz Badile, who patently did not handle the track at Epsom. In an eight-runner field here, he looks value for those wishing to play each-way, at around 9/1. I expect him to get back on track with a much better effort this time.
16:20 ARM Holding International Stakes (1m) (Group 3)
Another race in which Aidan O’Brien has trained five of the last 10 winners. This time he goes just the one runner, Aikhal, who will be partnered by Ryan Moore.
The son of Galileo has won just one of his five starts, a 7f Listowel maiden on soft ground last year. The form of his best effort, when a close fourth in last year’s Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud, would be good enough to get him involved but he will need to be much better than he was in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.
Last year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas winner MAC SWINEY remains the class act in this field. He is unusually inconsistent for a horse that is out of the top drawer at his best but if he can perform to anywhere close to his optimum this time, he should prove too good for his six opponents.
He was sixth in last year’s Irish Derby on this card and third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot (1m2f) in October. It’s possible that he could have needed the run when returning from a five-month absence to beat just one home in last month’s Tattersalls Gold Cup, here over an extended 1m2f.
This return to 1m should allow Kevin Manning to make plenty of use of him and, arguably, he remains unexposed over this distance.
16:50 Dubai Duty Free Handicap (1m) (Premier Handicap)
The biggest field of the day (20) will go to post for this very competitive handicap, for which a low draw has usually been an advantage during the past decade.
One who has the benefit of that and is the most interesting runner in the field is the Joseph O’Brien-trained DANTE’S PASS. The gelded son of Dark Angel won a Listowel maiden (1m, yielding) on debut last September and then made rapid progress to bolt up in a 7f contest at Limerick (heavy) a couple of weeks later.
It was slightly disappointing that he couldn’t go on from there when held in a Listed event at Newmarket (1m, good) on his final start of last season. However, he comes here fresh and we know he can win when that is the case.
In addition to that, trip and conditions should be no problem and he may well be able to kick on to greater heights now gelded and with another winter under his belt. He is unexposed and taken to reappear with a win.
17:25 Dubai Duty Free Handicap (1m2f)
An open heat, with Magica Chegaga an interesting competitor after a good win last time that, even after 15 starts, suggests that she may not have stopped improving yet.
Team Of Firsts has been well held in two starts so far this season. Both were over further and he did win over this trip last season, suggesting that the return to it may see better from him.
Daylight Come is another to note but preference is for CHICAGO BEAR, who has come on for each run this season, winning here over 1m last month and making a marked improvement on that effort when following up successfully at Leopardstown (1m1f, good) earlier this month.
He’s up another 7lb for that effort but he is unexposed and may still be ahead of the handicapper, with this longer trip offering possibilities for further improvement.