The opening maiden of the season is always hotly contested but rarely goes to the favourite, who is usually from one of the bigger yards.

This year, Aidan O’Brien is represented by Lipizzaner  , who, on paper, looks head and shoulders above his rivals. However, he has drifted slightly this morning, suggesting that confidence is not high in the Uncle Mo colt, who is bred to be precocious.

It’s worth noting Jim Bolger and Brendan Duke’s fantastic record in this race, too, with five wins, two seconds and third between them during the last 10 years.

Bolger saddles Poetic Flare , who has been backed in from 11/4.

Duke enters Marketta  .

The market usually speaks volumes in newcomer maidens, so be wary of who is being backed and don’t be afraid to follow a smaller stable if the money comes.

Also, in the early stages of the season, it often pays to side with two-year-olds who were foaled in the early part of the year, such as Boasting  , as opposed to those born in April and May. The early-born horses have already reached their second birthday, meaning they have an extra few months of training in them and tend to be bigger in size as a result.


These big-field 3YO+ maidens are always competitive, and this is no different.

The market, as it often is, is shaped around the Aidan O’Brien inmate, Knight of Malta  , who, on his first start, shaped as though he’ll want a stiffer test of stamina in time.

There are a couple of newcomers who are in the unknown category, including Eshtiya   from the Dermot Weld yard, who is more than capable of getting them ready first time up.

With uncertainty around plenty of horses, the impression Grizzly  made on his racecourse debut is enough for me to think that he could be a good each-way bet.

He was fourth on his only start as a two-year-old at The Curragh, shaping well and learning as the race went on. He has since been gelded, which often helps these young horses calm down when on a racecourse and, if he reproduces that debut fourth, he’ll put himself in the reckoning here.


This 3YO Handicap has attracted 14 runners where the market leaders – notably Dark Vader  – have race fitness on his side following runs on the all-weather this winter.

Mokhalad   should also be in good shape.

In these early-season handicaps, that race fitness tends to be more of a help that natural talent, but I do think Sendmylovetoyou  has plenty of the latter and may be able to buck that trend.

She was a winner on debut and then ran well on the first of her two handicap starts, though everything went wrong on her third and final start of the season. I’m inclined to put a line through that run and, based on the form she showed before that, she ought to be a little shorter in the market.


The Business Club Handicap is another race that has attracted 14 runners.

Hong Kong  has been perched at the top of the betting – again, largely due to his connections. However, his final run of his two-year-old season ended with a fifth-placed effort in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newmarket, which is as good form as any of these runners’ in the race. He wasn’t at the top of the pecking order at Ballydoyle last season and I just feel he’ll be used as a pacemaker in the bigger races later this season.

Justina  went off favourite for a race at the Galway Festival but disappointed and has been off the track since. She had created a favourable impression on her first two starts and can certainly run into a place here for the in-form Jessica Harrington stable.

Elusive King   looked very progressive on his second start in a 6f maiden here, doing his best work at the end of the race, suggesting a step up in trip – like he gets here – wouldn’t be out of his reach. He was put away after that run and can be competitive off his mark of 85.


The Listed Devoy Stakes is today’s most eagerly anticipated race, with the return of Sir Dragonet   who finished fifth in the Derby.

He was beaten just less than a length in the Epsom Grade 1 and finished his campaign with a third in the Doncaster St Leger. He’s miles clear of this field and, if he’s fit enough to do himself justice, should win as he likes.

I do, however, often question how fit these big stars are when they run for the first time in March and April. It’s a long old season and his best days will surely be ahead of him.

Numerian was a solid handicapper last year and progressive in each of his runs. If he’s improved during the winter, he could chase the favourite home.


The Park Express Stakes is the feature race on the card and the Grade 3 has attracted a decent field.

Even So  was so impressive on her second racecourse start when she made light work of a field at Gowran Park. She looks the type who will thrive at three years old. Granted normal improvement, she should take all the beating here.

Lemista   was also a heavy-ground winner at Gowran Park at the back end of last season and, if she’s improved from two to three, could also run into a place.


The final race on the card is a maiden race for three-year-olds and over and, again, the market will speak volumes. Newcomers can often win this contest, with two stables excelling in recent times.

Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger have won this race three times each in the last 10 years and their horses (Emiyn and Timourid for Weld and Legal Reform for Bolger) should be watched closely in the betting.

It does look as if the Aidan O’Brien-trained Russian Emperor will go off as favourite following his eye-catching third on his only start last term. He was green as the grass he ran on that day but started to learn his task as the race progressed.

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