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The Budweiser Irish Derby weekend kicks off this evening with the apprentices' Derby, after which the young riders are likely to assailed with torrents of questions about 'What's the ground like?'

Nobody will be more interested in their answers than the connections of Holding Court, who have splashed out £85,000 to supplement their horse into Sunday's big race and are hoping desperately that some rain will be splashing on to the Curragh soon.

The ground forecast at headquarters is currently 'good to firm' and, although showers are forecast, the Curragh has been known to dry out very quickly. First-hand experience of the state of the going will be denied Michael Jarvis due to the Derby's noon declaration today, but his concerns about the ground are comparatively good news for the Sinndar camp who can take the first 'Derby' of the weekend.

John Oxx saddles two Aga Khan-owned fillies for the race over the classic mile-and-a-half and, with the former champion apprentice Shane Kelly on her back, preference more or less has to be for Hariya.

The 95 rated filly impressed with an eight-length success at Navan recently, a race that indicated Hariya is on the improve. Indeed it could emerge that her stable companion, Alaya, is the main danger, as her only start was a promising one behind Narratuer, and Mary Williamson is a very competent rider.

The feature this evening is the Goffs £100,000 Challenge which features three cross-sea horses trying to follow up Bally Pride's success last year.

Mick Channon's Spirit Of Song has fourth placings at Newbury and lowly Bath to her credit. Pounce has a fourth over seven at Sandown and would appreciate rain, according to her trainer, while Pharoah's Gold's success came at Nottingham by a neck.

It's hardly form to scare the home team, the best of which looks to be Elbader. The Machiavellian colt should have no problems with fast going and has caught the eye with two efforts behind the Ballydoyle duo, Beckett and Darwin.

Dermot Weld saddled his first two-year-old winner of the season on Wednesday, so the juvenile team are starting to hit a little form, and, with a field of 11, Elbader's outside draw should not be critical.

With Stephen Craine suspended, the top Australian rider Damien Oliver picks up some rides for Kevin Prendergast and can make it count on Sarraaf in the Funky Friday Handicap over a mile.

Sarraaf is a double winner over the trip and, although disappointing last time, he did run an encouraging fourth to Mrs Evans on the course before that and is worth taking a chance with now. The Clonmel winner Awesome Strike looks the danger.

It should be worth waiting until the last race, however, for the best investment of the evening. Imperial Light steps up to 10 furlongs after runner-up placings over seven and a mile, and with a 94 rating is the benchmark for the likes of Pillars Of Society and Nordic Cloud to hit. It's worth betting they miss.

Curragh trainer Jim Gorman is on the seven-winner mark for the season, just one short of his total for the whole of last season, and Miracle Ridge can emphasise the yard's good form with another course and distance win under 10st in the sprint handicap.