Apprentice star Andrew Slattery aiming for first Group race victory

Davy Russell returns to action with five Navan rides

Andrew Slattery (green and red) guides Kastasa to victory in the Petingo Handicap over ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ at the Curragh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Leading apprentice jockey Andrew Slattery will try to maintain his rapid career progress with a first ever Group race success at the Curragh on Saturday.

Slattery is fighting it out with Oisín Orr for the apprentice title and Dermot Weld has kept faith with the 18-year-old rider for Kastasa for the Group Three Holden Loughbrown Stakes.

The partnership overcame a wide draw in the Petingo Handicap over ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ and Weld now ups the filly to two miles.

He might have expected not to run into an Irish Derby winner but Capri sporting first time blinkers indicates he isn’t the same as in his classic 2017 pomp.

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The impression Slattery has made this year however is illustrated by Weld keeping him on Kastasa despite not being able to use his apprentice claim.

He also can’t use it when teaming up with the remarkable Gordon Lord Byron in the earlier Group Three AES Renaissance Stakes. This will be the stalwart 11-year-old’s 105th start and the first time Slattery takes the mount.

If he can get the triple-Group One winner to win for the first time in over two years it will be a hugely popular victory although Speak In Colours could spoil that outcome.

Slattery should have a leading chance on Cityman in the five-furlong handicap where another Group One veteran Maarek could surprise a few given testing conditions and a mark of 75.

Jump racing returns to Navan on Saturday and Davy Russell also reappears having not ridden since the Galway festival.

The renowned champion jockey took the chance to rest some lingering injuries but can look forward to five rides for Gordon Elliott.

Russell's campaign might wind up with a historic Grand National hat-trick on Tiger Roll in April but Saturday's conditions hurdle could favour Elliott's Black Tears more than Lethal Steps.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column