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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020

Weekend tips: Day One of Flat season brings new opportunities

Sea the Stars’ son Karawaan can make an impression this weekend, writes Thom Malone.

Leanne Holton with Logan the dog and one of Gordon Elliot's new unnamed horses this week.
Leanne Holton with Logan the dog and one of Gordon Elliot's new unnamed horses this week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE SPRING EQUINOX signals the changing of the seasons, and as the lights went out on the Cheltenham festival last week, the flat season in Ireland gets underway this Sunday.

The Lincoln meeting can have mixed results but plenty of stars have announced themselves here; Dawn Approach won his maiden and Awtaad won the Madrid handicap before going on to Classic success later in the season.

The Nursery of Champions tagline sits comfortably at this racecourse and when the Curragh is ready, few would begrudge keeping the Lincoln at Naas.

The feature race on the Sunday Card, the Lincoln handicap, will go to post at 4.10. Theobald looks like he will be a worthy favourite and has proven himself to be in rude health in Dundalk over the last few weeks, but Ger Lyons loves having winners in big handicaps at Naas, he won this with Brendan Bracken in 2017.  

Karawaan is now in Lyons’ care and this is exactly the type of horse these connections excel with. Karawaan is bred to win a classic, may have been slightly slow to come to hand and has been picked up at the horses in training sales for 32 grand, a hefty sum you might think, but the previous owners paid a quarter of a million for him, so a relative bargain. This son of Sea the Stars has some really nice turf form and has bumped into some very classy types, so down at the bottom of the weights, he could be another nice Naas winner for Ger Lyons and the Glenburnie team.

The going on Sunday may be testing so horses with form on slower ground are ones to keep an eye on. Aurora Eclipse effectively won the race within the race behind the impressive Urban Beat at the Curragh last year. Her form tailed off a little after that, but it was a very dry summer so perhaps we can forgive her that. Her handicap marked has dropped accordingly so in the six-furlong Naas Racecourse Launches The 2019 Irish Flat Season Handicap at 2.35, she could bounce back to form.

Aidan O’Brien often doesn’t have his horses firing at this stage of the season; they are generally ready and hard fit for the first weekend in May, a bit like Willie Mullins and Cheltenham. That said, he has won the second race on the card three times since 2011 and Ryan Moore is in town to ride Empire State at two o clock. Moore will also ride the lesser-spotted Amadeo Modgliani in the penultimate race on the card at 4.45. He has not been seen on a racecourse in 445 days, but was being talked of a serious 2018 Derby contender, before missing all of last season. He could make up into a Coronation Cup, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Royal Ascot type in time but assuming he can get the better of the now six-year-old Stellar Mass, he looks the likeliest winner of the Devoy Stakes.

As it is the first day of the flat season one that jumps off the page for the 2000 Guineas market is Madhmoon, trained by Kevin Prendergast. The son of Dawn Approach was one of the best juveniles in Ireland last season. The market is dominated by Too Darn Hot, but at evens that’s quite a leap of faith, whereas Madhmoon is a 20s poke. There is a chance Kevin Prendergast will go to the Curragh rather than Newmarket, but the owners have no other major Classic contenders as it stands so the octogenarian trainer might be tempted to roll the big dice.

Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne dissect Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, and discuss the pros and cons of rugby’s new law proposals in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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