By Luke Keena (@lukekeena1)
On the eve of Arc weekend Dundalk takes centre stage on Friday night with an exciting eight race card. Racing gets underway with the Crown Plaza Hotel Race over five furlongs. The Johnny Murtagh trained Urban Beat appears to have found a nice opportunity to get his head in front for the first time this season. He has finished second behind the talented Make A Challenge in Listed company twice this season. He was also second in a Listed contest at Doncaster early last month behind Tarboosh. On ratings he is the one to beat. He drops back to five furlongs after finishing fifth in a Group 3 at the Curragh last weekend over six furlongs, which should suit. The visor is applied and Shane Kelly takes off a valuable three pounds. If he runs up to his mark of 105 he will take a lot of beating.
The second on the card is the Irish Stallions Farms EBF Legacy Stakes over five furlongs for two year olds. Fourteen runners head to post, this the first of two Listed races on the card. The Johnny Murtagh trained Measure Of Magic is the favourite. The horse I think will run better than their odds suggest is the Jospeh O’Brien trained Dense Star. It took her seven runs to break her maiden but did bump into a few group performers like Miss Amulet and Elysium along the way. She made no mistake when winning her maiden by six lengths at Navan on her penultimate start. Last time out she was sent off 13/8 favourite in a Listed Race at Fairyhouse and ran below par. After the race jockey Declan McDonogh reported that she struggled on the slow ground. She has a few pounds to find on ratings but I think she will go close at a double figure price with Shane Crosse in the saddle.
Race three is the Crown Plaza Hotel Dundalk Apprentice Nursery Handicap over seven furlongs. Flight Zone is the warm favourite and I think he will be very hard to beat. He showed a great battling attitude last time out when he fended off Hype and Preamble at Naas over six furlongs.Preamble has since came out and won his maiden at Fairyhouse. He has the assistance of top apprentice Sam Ewing who claims four pounds. The step back up to seven will suit and I think he will take a lot of beating.
The second of the Listed Races is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Star Appeal Stakes over seven furlongs for two year olds. Admiral Nelson created a big impression when winning his maiden at the Curragh back in June. Eight days later he went off favourite in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished down the field. He then finished fourth at Goodwood behind subsequent Group 1 winner,Supremacy. Last time out he was well beaten by Lucky Vega at the Curragh. He looks to have had a break since that run in August. I think the step up to seven furlongs will suit and he can go close for Derby winning jockey Emmet McNamara.
Race six is the Michael Cooney Memorial Handicap over a mile with a maximum field of fourteen heading to post. Eddie Lynam has the favourite, Chagall but I like Sarah Lynam’s horse Irish Ambassador. He has been banging on the door his last three runs, not finishing out of the top four. He ran a very nice race last time out to be fourth to an improving horse of Andrew Kinirons, after an 196 day break. If he comes forward for the run I think he could go very close at 8/1 with Chris Hayes in the saddle.
The final race on the card is the Hollywood Bets Handicap over one mile and a half. War Diary showed a return to form last time out when finishing behind the well handicapped Springbank at Gowran Park, giving the winner one stone. Springbank since went on to finish fourth in a premier handicap at Leopardstown on Champions Weekend. Michael Halford and Ronan Whelan always go well over the winter months at Dundalk and I think he is a horse who could pick a few prizes over the coming months, he is relatively unexposed and hopefully he will finish the night with a winner.