Irish Derby weekend is upon us.
The RTÉ cameras will be joined by a limited number of racegoers. Hopefully, this test event will pave the way for bigger crowds to go racing later this summer.
There has been a bit of rain about during the week. The weather looks set fair for the weekend. We should get good ground. The big race has an open feel to it. As you might expect, the supporting card features some classy horses too.
2.00 Dubai Duty Free Dash Stakes
A tricky opener. Make A Challenge has underperformed thus far this season. He also has to shoulder a penalty here. A couple of his recent efforts read well in the context of this race mind you. He should go close if repeating those, and has the potential to blow these away if rediscovering his best form. Romantic Proposal is a progressive mare who arrives here in good heart. She should run well again.
Selection: Make a Challenge 4-1
2.30 Dubai Duty Free Fillies Handicap
It could be significant that Colin Keane partners Marbling here. Stablemate Amber Kite would look to hold more obvious claims. Marbling is an unexposed type who makes her first start for the Ger Lyons stable in this valuable race. There may be a plan coming together. French Rain ran well above market expectations on her seasonal bow. Any progression would see her go very close to winning here.
Selection: Marbling 10-1
3.05 pm GAIN Railway Stakes
This looks like a cracking renewal. Go Bears Go and Cadamosto bring rock solid Royal Ascot form to the party. Castle Star and Dr Zempf appear horses of some potential too. At long odds, a chance is taken on The Entertainer. He was wildly impressive when making a winning debut in Navan. He blew out next time out in the Marble Hill Stakes over this course and distance. It seems reasonable to assume that the gruelling conditions that day compromised this speedily bred sort.
Selection: The Entertainer 20-1
3.45 pm Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby
High Definition heads the betting. He may get caught out for tactical speed. The Derby second, third and fourth meet again. They all hold claims but the strength of that Epsom form remains open to question. Lone Eagle rates the selection. He's a tough and progressive sort who should relish this stamina test. This race promises to be strongly run. Expect Frankie Dettori to get his tactics spot on.
Selection: Lone Eagle 8-1
4.20 pm Arm Holding International Stakes: True Self is a tough, classy mare. She travelled notably well in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out. A repeat of that run could well prove good enough here. She will probably be more effective on this better ground. Cadillac was a high class juvenile. He would be greatly feared if primed for his seasonal comeback.
Selection: True Self 3-1
4.50 pm Dubai Duty Free Celebration Stakes
The lack of obvious early pace complicates matters here. Harpocrates has done well since joining the Jessica Harrington yard. The form of his latest win in Tipperary reads well, and his tendency to race on the pace could give him a tactical edge. Sinawann is the class of this field. He should really be winning this but usually finds a way to lose.
Selection: Harpocrates 9-1
5.25 pm Dubai Duty Free Handicap: Eagle's Flight looks to be getting the hang of the racing game. He had to challenge very wide on the home bend when winning last time out in Leopardstown. He got an 8 pound hike for that win but was value for more than the winning distance. The form of that race is working out really well. Hale Bop must defy the handicapper, and a wide draw here. This progressive three-year-old is greatly respected all the same.
Selection: Eagle's Flight 7-1
5.55 pm Dubai Duty Free Irish EBF Handicap
Arcadian Sunrise is a progressive sort over hurdles. He looks to be on a reasonable mark for this assignment. Shoshone Warrior enjoys a class edge here. His recent comeback at this track should have him cherry ripe for this assignment.
Selection: Arcadian Sunrise 11-4
Watch the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival live on RTÉ 2 and on the RTÉ Player this Saturday and Sunday from 1.45pm. Coverage also on Saturday Sport and Sunday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1, from 2pm.