If only the results at Leopardstown and the Curragh at the Irish Champions Festival were as easy to predict as the outcome of Ireland's Rugby World Cup opener against Romania on Saturday.
The impact that foregone conclusion has on crowd numbers at the Dublin track will be interesting to gauge on a weekend crammed with alternative sporting action on home soil, with the Irish Open reaching its denouement at the K Club and a Republic of Ireland side smarting from defeat against France hosting the Netherlands in the latest must-win game of Stephen Kenny’s reign.
Glorious September sunshine and the final Irish leg of Frankie Dettori’s farewell tour may help to swell the attendance figures this year, but the crowds have never reached the levels that the organisers hoped for when the weekend was first conceptualised.
The reality is Flat racing remains a hard sell to the general public on these shores.
Eight go to post for the feature Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes (3.20pm) on day one, with the somewhat enigmatic dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin favourite for the race.
Either side of those British and Irish Classic successes, he has flopped in the 2000 Guineas and the King George, with the latter of those defeats more difficult to explain.
His Epsom success came in a good time, with even more impressive closing sectionals, but the rest of his back catalogue hardly endorses his place as the market leader.
Last season’s Vertem Futurity Trophy victory was stunning visually, but Auguste Rodin’s rivals did too much, too soon, and Ryan Moore’s brilliant tactical ride arguably flattered the horse.
His Irish Derby win was achieved in workmanlike manner over an inferior stablemate that didn’t exactly receive the most vigorous of rides in the final furlong, even if it wouldn’t have altered the result.
As a Group One-winning juvenile and a dual Derby winner, Auguste Rodin’s future at stud is secure, but a win over 10 furlongs at the highest level makes him a far more valuable stallion prospect and if fit and well, one would imagine that this engagement had to be taken up from a commercial standpoint.
It’s possible that Auguste Rodin is better racing left-handed and that his form will be elevated now that he returns to a sounder surface, but victory here will likely require a strong pace for him to make the most of his stamina.
The pace angle here is interesting. The two runners who would love a slowly run affair are probably Alflaila and Nashwa, but the latter has been busy of late and I’d have a stronger preference for the former.
The problem is that soft early fractions look unlikely with two other Ballydoyle runners in the line-up, which could blunt Alflaila’s turn of foot and expose his stamina doubts.
Last year’s winner Luxembourg finished fourth in the King George, but that was a perfectly acceptable run for a horse that patently doesn’t stay a mile and a half.
However, this ground may be a shade quicker than ideal and there’s a suspicion he could be ridden relatively forward.
King Of Steel delivered a monstrous performance to overcome a long absence and fill the runner-up berth in the Derby, where he briefly looked like causing a huge shock at 66-1.
He subsequently justified favouritism at Royal Ascot in a slowly run King Edward II, where he outpaced stayers and followed that up with a third in the King George, travelling better than anything into the straight until his stamina ebbed away late on.
Plenty short enough when the betting opened, King Of Steel has drifted in the market and is the tentative selection over Onesto, who should benefit from being ridden from the rear.
The action on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player gets underway with the KPMG Champion Juvenile Stakes (2.15pm).
Diego Velazquez won his Curragh maiden on debut as a 2-5 favourite, indicating the esteem in which he’s held.
The overall time he clocked was a poor one, but he quickened brilliantly late on despite running green.
With the benefit of experience and a step up in trip, he doesn’t look one to oppose.
But for a half-length reversal in the 1000 Guineas, Tahiyra would be undefeated in her five-race career and is a warm order for the Coolmore America "Justify" Stakes (2.45pm).
She’s been saved for an autumn campaign and should be there or thereabouts, the question is how fit she is on her return.
Rogue Millennium ran a poor race in the Prix Rothchild at Deauville last time out, but that race came on testing ground.
Connections have experimented with a variety of trips, but her best performance came in a slowly run Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot, where she quickened well on fast ground.
Back on a livelier surface, she can outrun her odds.
Aidan O’Brien’s Victoria Road is favourite for the Dullingham Park Stakes (3.55pm), but Ballydoyle run an interesting second-string in Alfred Munnings.
Lord Massusus collared the O’Brien runner late on over course and distance last time out, but the runner-up that day overdid it at the head of affairs and can reverse form with that rival and step forward with more patient tactics.
Adelaide River has been well backed for the Paddy Power Stakes (4.30pm) and it’s easy to see why as the ground has come in his favour for this drop in grade.
However, he’s won just one of his eight lifetime starts and has stamina doubts to overcome, with his two best runs this year coming in slowly run versions of the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris.
I’d rather be against him than with him at the prices, but with seven runners and just two places, it’s more attractive to lay the favourite than oppose him with an each-way alternative.
The Comer Group International St Leger (4.35pm) is the nominal feature at the Curragh on Sunday and the most valuable race on the card, but it doesn’t set the pulse racing the way the two Group One juvenile races promise to do.
Only five go to post, with Kyprios the only genuine star in the field. A winner of eight of his 10 lifetime starts, he’s by far the best horse in the field but has a lengthy absence to overcome.
The five-year-old has scored on each of his seasonal debuts, but this reappearance comes on the back of a spell on the sidelines due to injury and his wellbeing and how forward he is has to be taken on trust.
Stablemate Emily Dickinson is second-best in the market but has shown a preference for softer going than she will experience here, while Yashin had a hard race in the Ebor just 15 days ago.
Eldar Eldarov hasn’t built on his comeback this season, but a drop in trip and better ground make him the best alternative to the favourite should he need the run, while in-form Dawn Rising could outrun his odds.
The Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Flying Five Stakes (2.55pm) is, as the market suggests, likely to be between Highfield Princess and Bradsell, with preference for the latter due to the discrepancy in prices.
City Of Troy should justify his status as odds-on favourite in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes (4.00pm) and his greatest threat may come from Bucanero Fuerte rather than Henry Longfellow, despite the former being longer in the betting.
After tentative and speculative selections across two days of action, there is one horse that I’ve actually backed and expect a huge run from in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (3.25pm), and it’s not race favourite Ylang Ylang.
Willie McCreery’s VESPERTILO chased Ylang Ylang home on her penultimate start in the Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown after an eyecatching display on debut at Fairyhouse.
Still a maiden, Vespertilio was conservatively ridden at the rear, with the goal presumably to place and secure valuable black type behind a much-vaunted rival that was sent off the 1-4 favourite.
That goal was achieved in fairly spectacular fashion, with Billy Lee’s mount quickening in remarkable style over the last two furlongs.
The task of reeling in the favourite was an insurmountable one. It would have taken a Pegasus-like performance to overhaul Ylang Ylang, who had already shot several lengths clear, and one would imagine if Lee knew then what he knows now, that he would ride the race a little differently.
Similar exaggerated waiting tactics were adopted in the Debutante Stakes last time out, but this time a motionless Lee was within a couple of lengths of the leaders passing the two pole and upsides a furlong out before scoring by a comfortable length and three-quarters.
Ylang Ylang may be the best horse in the race, but seven furlongs may already be an inadequate trip for her and next year her optimum distance is likely to be between 10 and 12 furlongs.
This isn’t a one-horse race and I’d be surprised if she hasn’t drifted from odds-on to odds against by race time.
Fallen Angel has won two of her three starts, finding only the impressive and undefeated Shuwari too good on her penultimate start, while Red Viburnum made a taking debut in a hot Curragh race featuring the undefeated A Lilac Rolla and subsequent Group Three winner Opera Singer.
Much like Ylang Ylang, Red Viburnum boasts plenty of stamina in her pedigree and could be a danger in a strongly run race.
Porta Fortuna won at Royal Ascot before coming home a well-held second in the Phoenix Stakes last time out, but could improve for the faster surface, while big outsider She’s Quality will also love the ground but looks more of a six-furlong horse.
With nine runners and an odds-on favourite, this is an ideal race for each-way betting, and it’s surprising that Vespertilio remains an each-way price at 5-1.
Her style of racing and her turn of foot mean that even if winning proves beyond her, she should hopefully still run into a place.
Like many of the runners in the field, we’ve no idea how she’d handle very quick ground, if that materialises, but there’s nothing in her pedigree to indicate she wouldn’t and she shows little in the way of knee action.
When racing at the highest level, you could quibble that a gap between races of more than 22 days would be preferable, but plenty of Debutante Stakes runners in the past have gone on to take the Moyglare.
NAP Vespertilio (5-1) E/W
NB City Of Troy 4-5
Watch the Irish Champions Festival from 2pm on Saturday and 2.15pm on Sunday on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player