On the eve of next week’s Punchestown festival, domestic weekend action is confined to a pair of flat fixtures on Saturday where a mix of proven Group 1 winners and potential top-flight stars line up at Navan.
The dual-Irish Leger heroine Search For A Song takes on the popular 2020 Prix du Cadran winner Princess Zoe for a first time in the Vintage Crop Stakes.
With Joey Sheridan suspended, Gavin Ryan takes the mount on Princess Zoe, who failed to fire in her last start in Saudi Arabia in February.
Search For A Song has her first start since finishing fourth in the Prix Royal Oak in October.
Up against both is last year’s winner Baron Samedi, while the unknown quantity of the race is Aidan O’Brien’s Kyprios, who is having just a third career start.
It is that sort of untapped promise that will be examined in the earlier Salsabil Stakes where some Oaks credentials are tested.
Those credentials are already faultless in pedigree terms for Concert Hall whose dam Was scored at Epsom a decade ago.
The daughter of Dubawi is a 16-1 shot for the Oaks and will have to concede a penalty for winning a Group 3 last year to all but one of her eight rivals.
Another filly with classic hopes is Cairde Go Deo, a daughter of Camelot who won her maiden in impressive style at the Curragh but subsequently failed to justify favouritism in the Moyglare.
Ger Lyons has made no secret of having Group 1 ambitions for Cairde Go Deo who is bred to only improve as a three year old.
Saturday’s third Listed contest at Navan is the Committed Stakes where Lyons drops the 111-rated Straight Ansser back to sprinting.
On the back of a blistering Blenheim Stakes victory, Straight Answer lined up for the Dewhurst last season but failed to make any impression.
His opposition now includes a trio of Ballydoyle runners including Ryan Moore’s mount Cadamosto.
Moore could have better luck later in the day on Newfoundland, a brother to the ill-fated Snowfall, who should appreciate a step up in trip from his debut.
Saturday's other meeting in Limerick sees Gordon Elliott send a couple of runners and it will be intriguing to see if Business can translate his winning form from the all-weather to the turf in a mile handicap.
In other news the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has stood over its penalties in relation to cocaine use by jockeys, insisting “our sanctions are stern.”
It was commenting on the back of suspensions this week to three riders who tested positive for the illegal drug.
They included amateur jockey Luke McGuinness who, tested positive for a third time at Limerick in December. He cannot reapply for his licence until 2026.
In 2020 the IHRB introduced an entry level ban of five years for any jockey who tests positive for cocaine.
The practice though has been for most of any ban to be suspended, subject to riders carrying out certain conditions.
McGuinness was given a six-year ban for his second offence in early 2020. But having complied with strict conditions was allowed return to riding in December. He tested positive for a third time on December 27th.
Asked on Friday if perhaps jockeys were getting too much benefit of the doubt, an IHRB spokesman commented: “Our sanctions are stern and they are being handed out. Each of the cases is dealt with individually.”
He said: “The anti-doping programme in for riders within the IHRB remains robust with 367 tests carried out between the racecourse and point to points in 2021. All four positive tests were for cocaine.”
He added: “These cases all have a personal story behind him, from occasional recreational users to those suffering from addiction.
“Cocaine is the substance we are finding most which is a direct reflection of the scourge this drug is placing on our society and jockeys are no different in how they socialise and the circumstances they may find themselves in.
“However, as a licensed jockey, the use of illicit substances is simply not an option at any time.”