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QUALITY FLAT LAUNCH PUTS IRELAND IN FRONT OF THE RACING GAME: Hush! You can’t hear a betting ticket drop! But somehow Ireland has managed a top-class card in the confines of Naas today: with a Group-3, the return of the English Derby favourite, potential quality in the two-year-olds and three sprints in a row to baffle the draw nerds and sure-of-themselves bloggers.

GO FLAT OUT FROM NOW ON: DAQMAN HAS THE NEW SEASON COVERED: Though Irish Flat-racing season starts today, you still get mainly Jumps meetings. Every day when there are no meetings, or Jumps only, Daqman will reveal facts about the Flat, generally or in Heads Up about future racing, plus some of his own betting secrets.

⚠️ HEADS UP Here’s the Irish-racing schedule for this week: Today Naas (Flat); tomorrow Clonmel; Wednesday Dundalk (AW Flat); Thursday Cork; Friday Navan; Saturday The Curragh (Turf Flat); Sunday Limerick. Today ‘s headlines:

🔹 LIPIZZANER LEADS FOR O’BRIEN
🔹 BOLGER’S BRAVADO BEST DRAWN
🔹 SEND MY LOVE TO THE FAR SIDE
🔹 DRAGONET! DON’T DARE CAVE IN
🔹 23.0 BAYO A BETDAQ WILD CARD


LIPIZZANER LEADS FOR O’BRIEN

They’re off! But the sound of the start of Flat racing on turf will be a hollow echo in the empty stands at Naas today.

It will echo the industry’s thanks for good Irish grit and organisation to carry on but, as horses of Classic quality are unwrapped for the season in these muted circumstances, it hides subdued questions: will there even be any Classics this year; if so, when?

Naas today launches the season for last year’s Derby favourite plus the first Group race for fillies and mares, who have so dominated racing in recent years. Will it enable another?

⭕ 2.00 Naas The day starts with two-year-olds who remind us of a great past as we wonder what the world holds for their future.

Run for the last three seasons at Naas but before that was part of the opening card at the Curragh where Jim Bolger won it three years running, including with one first time out who then completed seven in a row.

That was subsequent Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner, New Approach, and the betting will tell you whether Bolger will launch a star today in Poetic Flare or Allagar.

New Approach is Poetic Flare’s grandad, and the filly Allagar’s is Teofilo, one of Gentleman Jim’s finest two-year-olds.

Aidan O’Brien, who has had a winner already this year, a nap for me, United Front, on the AW, runs five in different races today, starting with Lipizzaner in this one.

This is not an O’Brien race but the half-brother to Australian is the likely favourite and, if you oppose him, you have to guess which one of Bolger’s will beat him. Nothing new there then.


BOLGER’S BRAVADO BEST DRAWN

⭕ 2.30 Naas Bolger again! He and Kevin Manning have won this three times in the last seven seasons, and Aidan O’Brien three times in nine.

Three-year-olds always win it; favourites rarely do (1-10). But the market is helpful in that seven winners have been in the SP range of 6-1 to 10-1, so something just beyond the front of the market.

The action is usually down the middle of the track but something biding his time down the far side often sneaks up between the pack and the rail. Watch the first to see how the far side is travelling.

Yet another from the family of New Approach, Knight Of Malta, who ran well here on his only start, looks exposed in 19, where Grizzly (in 14) and Misterio (17) should go well for trainers in form Jessica Harrington and Johnny Murtagh

I think Red Ball Of Fire might take them along down the middle but, down that far side, Sheer Bravado, another from the New Approach line for Jim Bolger, is well placed from gate 5 to tuck in and spurt late.

Dermot Weld likes to get a flying start to the Flat and Eshtiya ‘could be anything’, from the family of Gold Cup winners yet sired by speed ace Dark Angel.


SEND MY LOVE TO THE FAR SIDE

⭕ 3.00 Naas Another 6f race in which the low draws of Sendmylovetoyou (1) and Dark Vader (gate 3) could be useful. This column was on when Vader was victorious at Dundalk 10 days back, and Dylan McMonagle retains the ride, taking a useful 7lb off.

The last three winners of this first handicap of the season came from stalls 3, 3 and 1, all four-year-olds.

No wonder stalls 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 were five of the eight market leaders this morning but be alert to any new approach required: if the far side hasn’t worked out in the first two races, put a euro chip on big offers among the high numbers.

You might also want to flip a coin in that direction for another reason: the far side could get churned up in the mud. You really need to watch these races (with your Daq up).

⭕ 3.30 Naas Aidan O’Brien hopes to perform the same winning trick as last year, when he dropped a Listed two-year-old into a three-year-old handicap. Ditto with Group performer Hong Kong.

But I will be telling you all about three-year-old handicaps in my series on the Flat, starting tomorrow. I’ll also put you in the picture about ‘nearly horses.’


DRAGONET! DON’T DARE CAVE IN

⭕ 4.00 Naas The 2019 Derby favourite Sir Dragonet was overhauled and became a nearly horse after an early eight-lengths Chester Vase victory in a 2-2 start.

Now’s the time to catch him, before he thinks about it, and before strong opposition comes along in the shape of new kids on the block.

He’s probably 10lb clear of Brogue and officially 13lb in front of Numerian and 20lb on Nickajack Cave at this stage.

A Frankel colt, Brogue is unexposed. But Ger Lyons 3-4 this year (75% strike rate) with AW four-year-olds-plus suggests that Nickajack Cave, also a winner first time last season, will be ready and willing, if not quite able.


23.0 BAYO A BETDAQ WILD CARD

⭕ 4.30 Naas (Park Express Stakes) Even So is the money filly, odds on in places but a shade better than evens in the BETDAQ orange.

Impressive maiden winner at Gowran Park, though the 12 behind that day in September have only ONE win of their own to share among them!

Stablemate Lemista won on the same track in the October mud, turning over an odds-on shot. Another winning Raven’s Pass filly, Raven’s Cry, was then well behind Blissful in a Listed, but on good ground at Leopardstown, where Hamariyna was a Group-3 winner.

I’ve been told to keep an eye on Jim Bolger’s first Dansili winner, Cerro Bayo, which he trains for Godolphin; could be anything. Trip probably too short today but I’d rather have a bit of win and place at 23.0 rather than 2.16 to win Even So. They’re mares and fillies and unpredictable at this early stage.

DAQMAN’S RACE-BY-RACE ONE-TWO
2.00 Lipizzaner (Poetic Flare)
2.30 Sheer Bravado (Knight Of Malta)
3.00 Sendmylovetoyou (Dark Vader)
3.30 HONG KONG (Justina)
4.00 SIR DRAGONET (Nickajack Cave)
4.30 Lemista (Cerro Bayo)
5.00 Russian Emperor (Lough Cutra)
* horses in capitals are for Daq Multiples

DAQMAN’S BETS

3.00 Naas (win 10 each)
BET 3.25pts win DARK VADER
BET 1.5pts win SENDMYLOVETOYOU

3.30 Naas (win 20)
BET 5.5pts win HONG KONG

4.00 Naas (supernap)
BET 20pts win SIR DRAGONET

4.30 Naas (win 20)
BET 2.25pts win LEMISTA
BET 1pt win and place CERRO BAYO


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