Irish Eyes: Shine the Light
Last week we highlighted the superb form of Dermot Weld’s team and he again must be commended following another five winners (and two seconds) from 11 runners over the past seven days, highlighted by a stakes races treble at Leopardstown last Sunday.
That included a winning 5/2 nap for this column in the shape of Irish 2000 Guineas hopeful Mustajeeb.
He is a horse that punters should keep towards the forefront of their thoughts wherever he turns up next as he is only the second three-year-old colt in over 20 years to beat his elders in a European Group race over the first three months of the season (March-May).
The first one proceeded to win his next two races, including a Group One, so Mustajeeb has to be taken seriously especially given the potent turn of foot he displayed last Sunday.
Moving on to Navan today and the ground is key to many of the races. The course has managed to escape all of the overnight rain that fell in the west of the country and even if it spreads eastwards to reach thm later this morning, it should not make a huge impact. The track looks like riding good-to-soft at worst.
Considering what was said about the Rosewell House team in the opening paragraph, it may seem odd to go against their favourite Pale Mimosa in the featured Group Three Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes and not only that, but to nap one against them!
However, following much consideration, Aidan O’Brien’s St. Leger hero Leading Light gets that nap vote. The current form of a stable is crucial and there is littledoubting the fact that Weld can do no wrong whilst O’Brien’s have had a patchy start to the season.
That said, so too is the class of the animals involved and although Leading Light has to concede 8lbs to the Weld-trained morning favourite, he remains one pound well in with her on official ratings. This race is one that O’Brien and Weld have shared over the past three years.
Fame And Glory won it twice, narrowly beating Weld’s Unaccompanied by a neck two years ago, before Weld unveiled last year’s Irish St. Leger heroine Voleuse De Coeurs to beat O’Brien’s El Salvador in the 2013 renewal.
So, for the third consecutive year Weld turns up with a decent filly to take on an O’Brien colt but they key here is the Ballydoyle challenger. First of all Leading Light is much better than last year’s O’Brien-trained beaten favourite – 12lbs better to be exact.
However, more crucially, having seen Leading Light at The Curragh, it is obvious that he is not a big gross horse like O’Brien’s past winners of the race who have improved dramatically for their reappearance in the race, such as dual winners Yeats and the aforementioned Fame And Glory.
Consequently, he is likely to strip much fitter for his seasonal debut than the former Ascot Gold Cup winning pair and should be much better equipped to fight off the Weld-trained Pale Mimosa. At 15/8 with Skybet, he appears to be very generously priced indeed.
Weld does get the next best vote however, in the shape of the Calumet Farm-owned Araner in the two-year-old maiden.
Despite 33 winners this season, Weld has only racked up one juvenile winner, (coincidentally also at this track) but to be fair, that was from a limited number of just five runners thus far.
One of those was Araner who ran well at Cork to finish third after running a little green early. The stiff 5 furlongs here should suit him today and connections will be hoping he justifies their decision to enter him in Europe’s first Group One race for two-year-olds, the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh.
Norville gets a speculative each-way vote at 12/1 in the 3.35 with Skybet. He is now 19lbs lower than when last winning for David Evans in the UK off a mark of 94. He ran a cracker on his penultimate start at the Curragh when finishing second to the useful Srucahan and has finally been given a chance to run at 5f, having never been over the minimum trip in 53 previous lifetime starts!
The Tommy Stack-trained Great Minds beat the aforementioned Srucahan at The Curragh and whilst the runner-up was desperately unlucky on that particular occasion, Stack’s charge must be given credit for winning a competitive handicap on his first start outside of maiden company. He could be a massive improver but Norville is worthy of a small each-way interest.
Nap: Leading Light, 4.05 Navan
Next Best: Araner, 3.05 Navan
Each-way: Norville, 3.35 Navan