Irish Eyes: Same again please
Our Irish Eyes column is back with the very best bets for the opening day of the Flat season at the Curragh.
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The Flat action returns at the Curragh this afternoon and trainer Paul Deegan is the man to watch with his string in fine form.
Deegan enjoyed an excellent season last year and already has six winners on the board in 2014 from just eight runners, giving him an enviable winner to runners strike rate of 75%. Granted the opening day of the Irish Turf season at the Curragh is likely to prove significantly tougher than Friday nights at Dundalk but nevertheless, it's difficult to ignore a team in form.
Deegan's Srucahan was a winner on the same card for this column last year and he bids for a double in the €20,000 six furlong handicap. He ran off 84 last year when beating the useful Joe Eile by one and a half lengths and is in off a pound lower this time.
Granted he didn't win again in 2013 but the ground went against him on some occasions and he ran better than his finishing position on others. This looks a slightly stronger renewal than last year but he has won twice over six furlongs at this track and will love the ground. All the headgear is on today and he won't lack from assistance in the saddle with Jamie Spencer on board. He should go close again and gets the nap vote.
Achnaha gets the each-way vote for Deegan in the Group Three Lodge Park Stakes. She finished second to another contender in this race, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Dance With Another here last season and it was arguably greenness that beat her that day.
She proceeded to run second to O'Brien's colt Mekong River in a Listed race at Leopardstown on her final start at two the week before the Ballydoyle-trained horse finished fourth in the Group One Criterium de Saint-Cloud. As one of only three 3yo's in the race, she gets a massive sixteen pounds from the older horses (nineteen from Euphrasia!) and that will tell in the prevailing conditions.
Furthermore, the race has been annexed by a filly from the classic generation six times over the last ten years so the weight allowance is evidently very important. She is a fine big filly who will go through this soft-to-heavy and has been working very well of late.
Wannabe Better is the deserved favourite as on ratings/weights she emerges near the top, has been working well down in Golden, will love the ground and consequently should take plenty of beating and merited consideration for the nap vote today. However, at the forecast prices there is not much value in Wannabe Better whilst at 16/1, Achnaha is simply too big and this German Oaks-entry warrants our each-way support.
The five furlong juvenile opener on the card has been farmed by Jim Bolger in recent seasons (Dawn Approach took it in 2012) and he is chasing a fourth successive win today. Bolger has two representatives today but on pedigree, both his fillies are likely to need better ground than they will encounter today, so they are passed over on this occasion.
There was plenty of talk in recent weeks about the Dermot Weld-trained Initial but Weld has failed to win any of the last eleven running's of the race so it might pay to look at the other two talking horses, Dancing Zafeen and Beach Belle. Dancing Zafeen is trained by the aforementioned Paul Deegan and has reportedly been working well but a chance is taken with the Kevin Prendergast-trained Beach Belle.
Bred by her owner, Lady O'Reilly, Beach Belle is the second foal of her dam, Beach Bunny whom Prendergast also trained to finish just a short head behind Dar Re Mi in the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes at this track. She is the dam's second foal (the first won as a two-year-old for Marco Botti last year) and is a daughter of Invincible Spirit, last season's Leading Sire of juveniles. Beach Belle has reportedly been working well on The Curragh and she might just shade Dacing Zafeen and in turn become the first filly to take this event since 2008.
Next Best: Beach Belle, 2.10 The Curragh.
Each-Way: Achnaha, 3.40 The Curragh.