Michael O'Leary always insists the principal focus for his Gigginstown Stud team is Grade One success but the champion owner looks set to try to continue his run of valuable handicap victories in Sunday's JT McNamara Munster National at Limerick.
This year’s €100,000 feature commemorates the much missed former top amateur jockey who died in July. Unsurprisingly Gigginstown dominate the 30-strong entry with eight potential starters for a race they have won once before with Mossbank in 2007.
The weekend contenders include a trio of horses who have already secured major handicap success in 2016. The Galway Plate hero Lord Scoundrel tops official ratings and both last month’s Kerry National winner, Wrath Of Titans, and the 2015 Kerry National victor Rogue Angel, are also in contention to start.
Rogue Angel memorably went on to land the Irish National last Easter, shortly before Rule The World recorded the ultimate handicap victory for Gigginstown in the Aintree Grand National in April. The 2015 Irish National winner Thunder And Roses is also a Limerick option for O’Leary.
Henry De Bromhead
trained Sadler’s Risk to win the Munster National a year ago and he has four options this time, including Stellar Notion. Ground conditions at Limerick are currently “yielding to soft”.
The Curragh will have its own €100,000 handicap on Sunday with 30 contenders also remaining in the Tote Irish Cesarewitch after the five-day declaration stage. They include four Tony Martin-trained horses that also figure in Saturday's English Cesarewitch at Newmarket, topped by Pyromaniac.
There are five cross-channel entries for the Curragh marathon contest which was won by Brian Ellison’s Montefeltro in 2013, while last month’s Amateur Derby winner, Theo’s Well, is set to line up for Cork trainer, Mick Winters.
“We were expecting a big run the last day and he’s a horse who is definitely better on a big galloping track,” Winters said.
“He’s a horse who doesn’t take a lot of work. It’s a big ask going into this race with the quality of the opposition but it’s great to be in it.”
One of Sunday’s black type attractions will be the Staffordstown Stud Stakes, a race won by the subsequent 1,000 Guineas heroine Homecoming Queen in 2011.
A total of 24 fillies have been left in the race this time and significantly they include Godolphin’s Sobetsu, a ten-length maiden winner at Newmarket who has been on top of the betting for Friday’s Group One Dubai Fillies Mile. She is among five entries from Charlie Appleby’s stable.
Aidan O'Brien has seven options for the Listed event while Dermot Weld has two, including impressive Gowran maiden winner, Queen Anne's Lace.
Perhaps the most noteworthy entry for the newly-titled Brown Panther Stakes on Sunday is Johannes Vermeer, a Group One-winning two year old in 2015 when successful in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.
The son of Galileo hasn’t run since but features among 15 potential hopefuls for the mile and a half event.