Prepare for some Curragh magic
Alex Hammond previews the weekend's action in her latest column and she's keen on Magician in the Irish Guineas.
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It's been a week of mixed news in the racing world with the yet more corruption investigations resulting in lengthy bans from the sport for leading a few individuals including jockey Eddie Ahern.
At the time of writing the return to the saddle of Frankie Dettori doesn't appear to be imminent and finally Sir Michael Stoute's leading Derby hope Telescope has been ruled out of next weekend's Derby having worked moderately at Lingfield after which it transpired he is suffering from sore shins.
So let's focus on some top class action on the track this weekend as we have got classic action in Ireland to look forward to and a classy sprint to sort out at Haydock.
The Irish 2000 Guineas takes place at the Curragh on Saturday and Aidan O'Brien is responsible for four of the 10 runners in his bid to win the race for a ninth time. Magician was a horse that impressed me enormously at Chester's May meeting and I fancy him to follow up his Dee Stakes win over this shorter trip in the Guineas this weekend.
He showed an impressive turn of foot that day and has come in for steady support in the run up to this contest. I can't see the drop in trip being an inconvenience and it will be interesting to see if he goes to Epsom for the Derby next weekend if all goes well here.
He looks like he has the potential to improve further on his second start of the campaign.
O'Brien also saddles Flying the Flag, George Vancouver and Gale Force Ten. Richard Hannon has a couple of chances with Van der Neer and Havana Gold and he doesn't have a bad record himself in this race.
Van der Neer was third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and immediate reaction afterwards was that he would be stepped up in trip for the Dante before a crack at the Derby. His pedigree has plenty of speed in it though and the stiff finish at the Curragh will also play to his strengths.
Havana Gold was scuppered by a wide draw last time out in the French Guineas, but he ran well despite that and he's a hardy sort who should handle being turned out again a couple of weeks later. It would be a great start to Johnny Murtagh's training career if either Fort Knox or former Hannon inmate Ask Dad could win.
He rides the former, who was bought by Sheikh Mohammed after his last win for owner Andrew Tinkler. He won the Guineas trial in Ireland last time out and is a brother to a former second in this race, Dubawi Gold.
Jim Bolger has never won this race and he runs Trading Leather who drops in trip having finished second in the Dante last time out. I'm sticking with Aidan O'Brien's Magician and I'd love to see him head to Epsom next weekend too if he comes out of this race okay.
Moving onto Sunday's Irish 1000 Guineas and at the time of writing declarations have yet to be made for the fillies classic.
Just the Judge is the horse I tipped to win the English Guineas and I hope she gains compensation here having just been touched off by Sky Lantern. The fledgling training career of Charlie Hills is going well and a classic win would be just the job for the Lambourn handler to enable him to come out of father Barry's shadow.
That run was her first of the season and with likely improvement from that run should take all the beating here. Aidan O'Brien will be doing his best to stop him though and although he has Moth in the race she's in the Oaks and is more likely to run at Epsom where the trip looks more suitable on pedigree.
Dermot Weld's Big Break is an interesting runner. Earlier in the week Weld suggested she needed a drop of rain in order to take her chance and at the time of writing it is good to firm at the track. I don't think she needs a bog, just good safe ground. She is a sister to the hardy and talented Famous Name and has just had the three starts as a juvenile.
This is her starting point this term and should give a good account. Aidan O'Brien also has Guineas 5th Snow Queen on track for the race and the horse who finished one spot behind her at Newmarket, Maureen, represents Richard Hannon. Harasiya represents John Oxx and she was last seen finishing behind Sky Lantern in the Moyglare last Autumn and her stable have been slow to come to hand this term, they have been amongst the winners recently though. Viztoria made a winning reappearance for trainer Eddie Lynam who thinks she's a special filly.
She had the option of the Newmarket Guineas, but this track is expected to suit her better. I tipped Just the Judge for the English Guineas and I'm going to stick with her to gain compensation here.
It's a shame that Pearl Secret doesn't run in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday as I've been looking forward to seeing David Barron's star sprinter run this season.
He will now wait for Royal Ascot having scoped dirty in the run up to this race. Sole Power won the race 2 years ago and was just touched off by Bated Breath twelve months ago. He ran a superb race to win the Palace House Stakes last time out he will be popular to win the race once again.
He wants fast ground to be seen at his best and at the time of writing it is described as good. I'd be keen if it dries out a bit from that description though. Reckless Abandon is an interesting opponent for Clive Cox.
The colt was unbeaten in five starts as a two year old and this is his first run since his win in the Middle Park last October. Connections have decided to stick to sprinting trips this campaign when they realised he was unlikely to stay the classic trip of a mile.
It's tough for three year old sprinters against some of their battle hardened opponents, but he has plenty of class and can make up into a top class performer over 5 and 6 furlongs.
Swiss Spirit is an interesting runner for John Gosden having made his debut for the trainer with a respectable 7th in the Duke of York, he should strip fitter for that outing. Kingsgate Native showed he retains plenty of ability when 2nd to Sole Power at Newmarket last time out, but his last win came in this race 3 years ago and he isn't a reliable betting proposition nowadays.
His trainer Robert Cowell is doing agreat job with him though and he should win again. Spirit Quartz, like Kingsgate Native, is trained by Robert Cowell and runs in the colours of Qatar Racing. He has some decent form to his name including a second in the Nunthorpe, but again isn't the easiest and may want fast ground. Ballista beat Masamah at Chester last time out but it was said afterwards that he likes a turning track and it could be that Haydock won't suit as well although he did win his maiden at the track.
Although it's tough for three year olds I think Reckless Abandon will make up into a top sprinter this season and I'll go with him unless the ground is very fast, in which case Sole Power will be hard to beat.
Staying at Haydock and the Silver Bowl looks a tricky handicap to sort out. This mile contest has been won by some smart performers in the past including Gabrial who won it 12 months ago for Richard Fahey who has Gabrial Kaka in this year's race. Andrew Balding's Here Comes When is one of the protagonists. He has been improved for the fitting of a hood and could be a horse for something like the Britannia at Royal Ascot of he continues to progress. He won over seven and a half furlongs at Cheter last time out on just his four start and shouldn't have any problems with the extra 100 yards here. David Barron's Newstead Abbey is another on the upgrade although he is more exposed than the Balding horse. Hay Dude is one of a couple in this for Elaine Burke and their team continue in great form - Georgian Bay is the other. Richard Hannon has a couple of interesting runners too with Baltic Knight and Alhebayeb. The former looks to be first string and steps up to a mile for the first time having run a creditable third behind Dundonnell at Newmarket last time out. He runs as if the extra distance will suit. Hannon's other runner has top weight to shoulder in this handicap having run in some top races as a juvenile. His first handicap outing came in the Free Handicap behind Garswood in April where he was beaten off the same mark he runs off in this. It's a wide open race, but Andrew Balding's Here Comes When must have a great chance off his current rating.
Magician in the Irish 2000 Guineas @ 9/4 with Sky Bet
Just the Judge in the Irish 1000 Guineas @ 11/4 with Sky Bet
Reckless Abandon in the Temple Stakes @ 3/1 with Sky Bet
Here Comes When in the Silver Bowl at Haydock