Sindarban is on the up at Wexford
A week after saddling a winner and four placed horses from seven runners at the Curragh, Mick Halford is trusted to deliver with the nap selection, Sindarban, at Wexford this afternoon, the final domestic fixture before Galway's seven-day extravaganza gets under way on Monday.
Of the five horses that have already run in the Littlewoods Ireland Ladies' Day Maiden that Sindarban contests, Hurricane Volta and Focas Mor have also been placed, with the former behind Sindarban when they met at Navan recently.
While Hurricane Volta was making its seasonal reappearance for David Wachman following two fair outings last year, it was Sindarban's track debut, and he was possibly unlucky not to win.
Shane Foley couldn't get him out of a pocket in behind the leaders in the straight, but when the Teofilo colt eventually saw daylight a furlong out, he kept on.
All told, it was a hugely encouraging performance against more experienced opposition, so the partnership is fancied to go one better now.
In first-time blinkers, Hurricane Volta is also sure to be sharper, but Sindarban ought to have that bit more room to improve.
Of the others, Dermot Weld's newcomer Renown is one to monitor in the market, because Khalid Abdullah's homebred is a three-parts brother to the stable's former star, Famous Name.
Pat Smullen continues to maintain a healthy advantage over Joseph O'Brien in his bid to regain the champion jockeys' title that he last won in 2010, and he is tipped to add to a lead that stood at 15 prior to last night's activity when he partners Johnny Murtagh's Bwindi in the Audrey McGrath Memorial.
The High Chaparral three-year-old was just outpointed by Gun Shoot on its handicap bow at Fairyhouse two weeks ago. While it wasn't the greatest race, it indicated that Bwindi has the scope to win off a mark that is now three pounds higher, with first-time blinkers also sure to help.
Meanwhile, Magician, at odds up to 5/1 is the one that the layers have underestimated most for today's feature at Ascot, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Under the peerless Ryan Moore, Telescope, the runaway winner of the Hardwicke Stakes, will go close if he copes with the slower ground, but if there is a horse capable of thwarting him it is surely the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magician.
On a literal reading of their respective early season defeats to Noble Mission, there won't be much between the two over this more suitable 12-furlong trip, but the rain-softened ground is a concern for both.
It was fast when Magician slammed The Fugue in the Breeders' Cup Turf in November, while he emerged from his Royal Ascot defeat to the same mare with great credit. Over 10-furlongs there, Joseph O'Brien had to take the race to the field turning in.
The partnership ultimately then had no answer to The Fugue's turn of foot, but Magician found again close home to repel the late surge of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Arc heroine Treve.
It was a hugely satisfying effort ahead of this more suitable target, and it's not insignificant that Mukhadram was back in fourth, as he franked the form at Sandown, for all that he got the run of the race.
Trading Leather finished second that day and Jim Bolger's back-to-form four-year-old also looks value for a place here at up to 12/1.