Matt Brocklebank highlights the six key eyecatchers from Sunday's first Flat fixture of the year at Naas, where T For Tango made a decent impression.
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Capel At Dawn – 5th in 1.30 Naas, Sunday
It would possibly be too much to ask for the very first race of the 2019 Irish Flat turf season to produce any superstars but Red Epaulette skipped clear of his rivals to post a very pleasing debut win.
Trained by Mick O’Callaghan, the colt showed quite a striking turn of foot given the soft conditions and looks a horse of interest going forward, especially as connections feel adamant he’ll be even more effective on a sound surface.
The one to take from the race in behind him is possibly Adrian Keatley’s Capel At Dawn, one of two fillies in the race. She showed plenty of potential despite looking a little raw early on and it was encouraging to see her stay on past the tiring favourite Captain Corcoran late in the day.
She probably wasn’t ideally drawn towards the outside in stall nine but performed well in the circumstances and should come on a bundle for the run. She’s one to look out for in a fillies’ maiden over the next couple of weeks.
Born In The U S A – 7th in 2.00 Naas, Sunday
There’s a good horse waiting to emerge from Born In The U S A and gelding him over the winter may just have unlocked the potential.
This was a big improvement on the form of his two starts at two and Oisin Orr was clearly under instruction to give him the sort of ride that will aid his education – holding him up from his wide draw (16) before passing rivals late on.
With fourth placed Empire State rated 85 coming into the race, it will be fascinating see what kind of mark Born In The U S A is allotted as he’s now more than likely to head down the handicap route.
That could prove productive if able to build on his seasonal reappearance run, with a step up to seven furlongs potentially in his favour as the season goes on.
T For Tango – 5th in 2.35 Naas, Sunday
T For Tango did best of those drawn high in the big six-furlong sprint handicap and that doesn’t even do him justice.
His rider, Wayne Lordan, was obviously aware of the seemingly quite significant track bias that had emerged earlier on the card as he looked to get across more towards the centre to far rail after a sluggish start out in stall 12.
He was a bit short of room just after halfway before keeping on well despite having to angle back out to the centre in the final furlong.
Sent off 5/1 favourite here on his first run of the year, he’s clearly thought to be well treated from a mark of 78 (rated as high as 90 in his youth) and should be followed closely this year when getting a little ease underfoot, which he appears to prefer.
Crockford – 3rd in 3.05 Naas, Sunday
Crockford has been quite an expensive horse to follow so far but there’s no doubting his ability and the big-field handicap scenario appeared to bring out the best in Joseph O’Brien’s Camelot colt.
Beaten when 5/4 favourite in a Dundalk maiden over a mile on his comeback, he showed a better level of form here despite only managing third.
He came from a long way back having been posted in stall 16 and didn’t get the clearest run through but certainly made up the ground in good style and would have gone close had he been positioned a little more prominently.
Returning to a mile won’t do any harm and nor will a bit of spring ground, on which he’d probably be suited by a step back up to a mile. There is a nice pot to be won with him this year.
Hand On Heart – 2nd in 3.40 Naas, Sunday
Hand On Heart clearly goes well fresh, having won her first two starts last season, but she looks to have improved again as a four-year-old and can claim Group-race honours before long.
She didn’t make the grade in two Listed outings (1m1f and 1m2f) last year and was sent off 20/1 for her seasonal debut in what looked her toughest test to date.
But the drop back to a mile on testing ground almost saw her return to winning ways as she was gaining rapidly inside the last 200 yards to go down by just a head.
The obvious conclusion is that she requires a return to 10 furlongs but her form over a mile now reads 112 and, providing the ground isn’t too lively, the daughter of Mastercraftsman looks well up to staying seriously competitive at this distance for now.
Globe Theatre – 5th in 5.20 Naas, Sunday
Globe Theatre doesn’t really have Classic potential (entered in Irish Guineas) but he’s well up to winning races for Aidan O’Brien and this first run of the season was more than satisfactory.
On the bare form, it probably wasn’t a huge step up on what he showed when a relatively close fourth to Excelcius at Dundalk in October, but it smacked of a colt in need of a run.
That wouldn’t be untypical for an O’Brien-trained three-year-old and, being a son of War Front, he’s going to benefit from the ground drying up over the next month or so.
There’s tons of stamina on the dam’s side of his pedigree and though he’s been kept to seven furlongs in his three public appearances so far, it wouldn’t be surprise to see him move up in distance, especially now he’s qualified for handicaps.