GOWRAN PARK Sat: Gowran Park hosts an eight-race card this Saturday, with the feature being the Group 3 Rathbride Stakes for fillies and mares. The going is likely to be testing at the County Kilkenny course.
⭕ A 7f fillies’ maiden (12:55pm) begins proceedings. The eight fillies that already have the benefit of experience – Tartaraghan looks the best of them – don’t set an insurmountable standard here and this may go to one of the newcomers. It’s slightly off-putting that Joseph O’Brien’s daughter of Kodiac, Miss Alaska, wears a tongue tie on debut and instead a chance is taken on the Noel Meade-trained Always Wondering, who is a half-sister to a Listed winner over this trip.
⭕ Next up is a competitive 7f handicap (1:25pm). It may be worth giving another chance to Andy Oliver’s At Long Last. This lightly raced four-year-old didn’t show much on handicap debut over 6f at Naas earlier this month, but it’s interesting that her best form in maidens came on a soft surface and over this trip. Gary Carroll takes over in the saddle and a better effort can be expected.
⭕ In the second division of the 7f handicap (1:55pm), it will be disappointing if Flaming O’Hara doesn’t produce a vastly improved effort on her handicap debut. Dermot Weld’s filly has been well beaten in two maidens this season, but showed a fair bit of ability on debut on heavy ground back in October, when staying on to take fifth over 5½f at Navan. A similar surface can be expected at Gowran and she shapes as though this trip should be in range, so is expected to be in the shake up off an opening mark of 60.
⭕ The feature of the day is the Group 3 Rathbride Stakes (2:30pm) over 1m1f. Goldana has run some good races in defeat in recent times and has form on testing ground, so she must be respected. However, the form angle to follow might be the contest at Navan back in April, where Village Voice narrowly got the better of Jackie Oh at the end of 1m2f on heavy ground. Both disappointed at Royal Ascot, but Village Voice probably had more of an excuse after being posted wide throughout in the Ribblesdale from a draw in stall 14. Jessica Harrington’s runner is taken to confirm Navan form with Jackie Oh here and secure a first Group race win.
⭕ Race five is a maiden (3:02pm) for fillies and mares over a mile. Ger Lyon’s Dumb Love showed enough on debut at Killarney last week to suggest she could be capable of building on her sixth-place finish there. She never really got racing room after they turned into the straight and is likely to be better positioned in this smaller field under Colin Keane.
⭕ A fillies’ and mares’ handicap (3:32pm) over a mile follows, where the eye is drawn to recent Ballinrobe maiden winner Green Sky. She starts life in handicaps off a mark of 81, but the drop back in trip from 1m1½f is a bit of a concern judging by how strong she was at the finish that day. That could leave things open for Jim Bolger’s Machnamh, who also makes her handicap debut after getting off the mark at the sixth attempt in maiden company last time.
⭕ A field of 17 stand their ground for the penultimate race, a 1m1½f handicap (4:05pm) for apprentice riders. This doesn’t look a strong race, so the consistency of Game Nation is a positive. While this four-year-old is still a maiden after 14 starts, he probably ran his best race to date when second over 1m2f at Navan when last seen. That was only his second start for trainer Eric McNamara and there could be more to come. A draw in stall eight is better than many of his likely market rivals.
⭕ The lucky last (4:40pm) is a race for horses aged three or above and is run over a trip of 1m1½f. Helvic Dream stands out on form here and should relish the soft conditions, which are a negative for main danger Didn’thavemuchtodo.