Race Time: 8.05pm Meeting: Dundalk Day: Friday 23rd October
Distance: 5f Full Race Name: Mercury Stakes (Listed Race)
Dundalk are making a habit of putting on interesting Listed races of late and it’s just a shame our own all-weather tracks don’t get the chance to follow suit that often. With close to 30,000 Euros first prize the early entries have attracted a hoist of British raiders, though followers of statistics will note that the youngest winner in the seven year history of the race was a four year old, which hurts the chances of a large percentage of this field. In age order (youngest to oldest), Sir Mark Prescott has entered the juvenile Marsha (11/4) here and as she is a course and distance winner she must have chances at the very least. A daughter of Acclamation, she was runner up on her debut at Kempton first time out over six furlongs but has won both races since, one at Catterick (again over six), and then here in a juvenile event over the minimum trip which she took by over three lengths. She is clearly up against it here when you look at the calibre of her potential rivals but she does get a minimum of eighteen pounds from her rivals and on official ratings is absolutely thrown in this afternoon with Chris Hayes booked bright and early to ride her this evening.
It comes as no great surprise to see that Aidan O’Brien is responsible an interesting option here with Eisenhower (10/1) his only runner despite declaring a few more at the early stage. A son of War Front out of a Caerleon mare his breeding hardly screams sprinter to be fair but his one win from three starts was over the minimum trip at Cork but he is going to need to improve a good deal on thaty if he wants to get involved this evening.
Robert Cowell knows how to handle a sprinter and has some decent sorts to work Speed Hawk (11/2) with at home in Newmarket giving the four year old a bit of a head start on some of his rivals. Although a little hard to win with (a total of twelve races since his last victory in September 2014), he has placed behind some quality sprinters such as Kingsgate Native, Cotai Glory, and Dutch Masterpiece and ought to be more than capable of placing again this evening at the barest minimum.
Our last two options are older than the others but still seem to retain plenty of the abilities of their younger years, starting with the Yorkshire based Take Cover (5/1), now an eight year old and looking to become the oldest ever winner of this contest in it’s short history. Rated as high as 113 at his peak he is now officially four pounds worse than that (and going backwards in some eyes), he has been campaigning in the main in much better races than this at the likes of Haydock, Ascot, York, Goodwood, and Longchamp, and has seven wins to his name at up to Group Two level, though intriguingly his worst race of the season was when dropped to this class when finishing a long way last! He has run well on all-weather surfaces at both Southwell and Lingfield so no excuses we can see there, and if he returns to anything like his best form, he is another who ought to go close for trainer David C Griffiths.
To end with, it appears that Tom Hogan is seriously considering sending Gordon Lord Byron (6/1) here this evening even after his excursions at Ascot last Saturday on Champions weekend. He actually ran quite well to be beaten six and three quarter lengths in to twelfth by Muhaarar on the day and would meet nothing anywhere near to that class this evening, though surely the five furlongs is all against him? Despite a career encompassing 54 races, he has only tried the minimum on one (winning) occasion at Tipperary in 2012, and never since with wins and places over six, seven, seven and a half, and a mile suggesting this will all happen way too quickly for the son of Byron and we are surprised to see they have even entered him to be blunt.