The €100,000 Tote Irish Lincolnshire is the feature race on the opening day of the 2019 Irish flat racing season, there will an eight-race card at Naas on Sunday.
The ageless Aussie Valentine will be looking to extend a remarkable sequence which has seen him reach the frame in the Tote Irish Lincolnshire for the last four years. Twelve months ago the Aido McGuinness inmate was third to On The Go Again while he has finished second in the race in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
“Aussie Valentine is in great form,” McGuinness said on Tuesday morning. “He had two nice prep runs in Dundalk and he’s had a couple of grass gallops, he galloped after racing at Leopardstown and worked very well so we are very happy with him.”
“He has a few pounds higher than he was last year but he likes that type of race. He’ll be very fit from his runs in Dundalk so that will be a big help to him.”
McGuinness, who won the race in 2005 with Victram and could also be represented by the smart Master Speaker, added: “We are stepping Master Speaker up in trip. He finished strongly in Galway last year over seven furlongs.”
“Hopefully he’ll run a nice race. Sprinters don’t really go for Lincoln’s but the owners are keen to run so we are going have a shot at it. He ran a cracker in the Cambridgeshire and he is older and stronger now so we are going to take a punt in the Lincoln with him as it is a nice pot.”
A total of 32 horses have stood their ground for the Tote Irish Lincolnshire with the weights headed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Marshall Jennings who was a course and distance winner last May.
Sundays card also includes the Group 3 Park Express Stakes which has attracted a number of high class fillies. These are headed by the Ger Lyons-trained Who’s Steph who won a pair of Group 3 contests last spring and signed off with a second in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend last September.
Who’s Steph, who will be bidding to give her trainer a first win in the race, faces strong opposition with fellow Group 3 winner Yulong Gold Fairy amongst the twelve strong entry as she looks to give Dermot Weld back to back victories in the first pattern race of the season.
Further interest is supplied by the former Group 3-winning juvenile Ellthea, who has joined Fozzy Stack from Karl Burke, while the Galway maiden winner Delphinia could attempt to give Aidan O’Brien his first victory in this race since 2005.
The first staging of the Listed Devoy Stakes has attracted a fascinating entry in Aidan O’Brien’s Amadeo Modigliani. This one time classic hopeful has been off the track for almost 600 days and would be making his first appearance since he bolted up in a two-year-old maiden at the 2017 Galway Festival.
Significant interest always accompanies the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden for two-year-olds and Brendan Duke, Michael O’Callaghan and Jim Bolger, who have all won the race in recent years, are represented this time.
Elsewhere 24 three-year-olds are engaged in the Naas Business Club Madrid Handicap. This race was used as a stepping stone to classic glory by Awtaad in 2016 while last year’s renewal featured the subsequent Cheltenham Festival hero Band Of Outlaws.