15:05 Wednesday

Illinois heads the market as one of four strong candidates for Aidan O’Brien in this stamina test for three-year-olds, but it could well be that supposed second string, HIGHBURY (best price 10-3), gains the stable bragging rights if, as expected, he finds the necessary improvement on just his third career start.

A massive eye catcher on his debut at Cork when shaping like he needed the run both mentally and physically, the son of Galileo was extremely strong in the market to take advantage of a golden opportunity at Leopardstown next time out.

Although it may have appeared to be a mandatory victory on paper, the numbers he posted along with the subsequent form of those in behind suggested it was a better performance than it seemed at first glance. 

Looking a strong stayer at 1m4f at the Dublin venue, the step up to 1m6f should see him to even better advantage and with Wayne Lordan having ridden him twice, there are more positives than negatives. 

Having already accounted for Highbury, it would be churlish to write off BIRDMAN (best price 11-2) and he deserves small interest just in case the wheels come off the main selection. 

He too, was having his first career start at the Mallow track, so he was in the same boat as his old rival and, if anything, he was just as impressive when accounting for the well-fancied Gasper De Lemos at Navan next time.

A lovely, strapping son of Free Eagle, he represents a yard that always deserve plenty of attention with their runners at this meeting. 

HIGHBURY – 1-point win @ 10-3

BIRDMAN – 1-point win @ 11-2

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17:05 Wednesday

Based on the Day 1 action, there didn’t appear to be any massive bias on the straight track, so the safest option is to play one on either side in this typically competitive mile handicap. 

METAL MERCHANT (best price 16-1) has all the hallmarks of a horse who should go well in a race of this nature and, as a result, he is must for any shortlist drawn over towards the far side.

A good winner of one of the best rials for this race, The Spring Cup at Newbury, Jack Channon’s inmate performed to another high standard when third over the same C&D on much quicker ground behind the smart Sonny Liston on his return visit last time out and with proven track form, it would be disappointing if he couldn’t fill one of the extra places offered by the layers. 

Of those at a much bigger price, FANTASTIC FOX (best price 33-1) is worth a small speculator to back up the view he has been a shade unlucky on his last two starts.

A fast-finishing eighth in the Victoria Cup over today’s course two starts ago, the way he hit the line that day pointed towards a horse who would be seen to better effect over further and even though that view didn’t come to pass at Epsom last time, he did well to finish fifth under the circumstances, once again, coming home with a degree of purpose.

Back over a track that often plays into the hands of deep closers, and potentially well drawn only two horses away from the stands side rail, odds of 33-1 are well worth accepting in the hope of a positive show.

METAL MERCHANT – ½ point each-way @ 16-1

FANTASTIC FOX – ½ point each-way @ 33-1

18:15 Wednesday

Richard Fahey looks to have a useful bunch of juveniles at his disposal this season, none more so than SHADOW ARMY (best price 11-2), and he rates a strong choice to back up the view he is a Group 1 horse in a listed race. 

Well touted prior to his debut at York, things weren’t looking too bright when he found himself some way off the speed at halfway after a slow beginning but to his great credit, he came through strongly at the business end to capture an unlikely success. 

Not only was the overall time figure useful on the Knavesmire, his final three furlong split of 34.3 was a second quicker than the older horse Group 2 affair won by Mill Stream and based on those findings, it’s clear we are dealing with a very sharp two-year-old. 

A scopey sort with the promise of more to come, a cleaner break this time around should mean he has less of a deficit to make up and with today’s stiffer track likely to play into his strength, confidence is high he can show his star quality.

SHADOW ARMY – 1-point each-way @ 11-2