Donn McClean: Musta point
Our Irish expert Donn McClean looks forward to the both the Irish 2000 and 1000 Guineas at the Curragh this weekend.
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The first tentative steps towards forming a market for Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas late last week had Mustajeeb in as a 12/1 and a 14/1 shot.
This week, it's a different story.
Now that the market has settled down a little, the Dermot Weld-trained colt is available at no better than 13/2, and that is disappointing.
The Nayef colt is one of the most intriguing entries in Saturday’s race. Winner of the seven-furlong maiden at Galway last July that Dermot Weld just about always wins, he stepped straight into Group 2 company after that to chase home War Command in the Futurity Stakes at The Curragh in August.
That was the final occasion on which he saw him last term, but his return this season in the Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown 10 days ago was worth the wait. After travelling well in behind horses through the early stages of the race, he showed a fine turn of foot from the two-furlong pole to catch the talented five-year-old Brendan Bracken – winner of the Group 3 Solonaway Stakes at The Curragh last September – before going right away to win by two and a half lengths, with another three and a half lengths back to the third horse.
That was a really impressive run from a three-year-old colt on his seasonal debut against his elders. Not many three-year-olds run in the Amethyst Stakes these days, but not many win it. The previous three-year-old winner was European in 2003, and no member of the Classic generation had won it since it was promoted to Group 3 status in 2007.
There is no telling how high Mustajeeb could go now. That was just his fourth race ever, his seasonal debut, and the turn of foot that he showed at Leopardstown will be a potent weapon in any grade. Also, that race was run on easy ground, so the rain that has been falling intermittently and with varying degrees on intensity on the expanses of The Curragh these days should be of limited concern.
So is he value at 13/2? That’s a different question.
It is difficult to get your head around best odds of 13/2 (he is as short as 4/1 in places) when you had a fleeting glimpse of 12/1 and 14/1 a few days ago, and when you were well within your rights to expect a robust 10/1. The shape of the race has not undergone any material change in the interim.
There is also the fact that Dermot Weld and Hamdan Al Maktoum have another exciting colt among the entries in Alkasser. It is probable that Mustajeeb will be their chosen representative in the race, with Alkasser possibly re-routed to the Greenlands Stakes over six furlongs (which would also be interesting), but you can’t be certain for now.
You would never have thought three weeks ago that Mustajeeb would be a shorter price for the Irish Guineas than War Command. Aidan O’Brien’s colt won the Coventry Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes last year, two really strong pointers to the following season’s one-mile Classics, and he won the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at The Curragh in August, when he had Mustajeeb three lengths behind him in second place.
Okay, so you have to forgive him a slightly disappointing run in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but defeat at Newmarket has never been a barrier to success in the Irish 2000 Guineas for a Ballydoyle horse. Mastercraftsman finished fifth behind Sea The Stars at Newmarket in 2009 before winning at The Curragh, and Roderic O’Connor was 11th of 13 behind Frankel in the 2000 Guineas in 2011 before winning the Irish Guineas three weeks later, while in 2012, Power finished 17th of 18 behind Camelot before coming back and winning at The Curragh.
So three of the last five winners of the Irish 2000 Guineas, and three of the last four Aidan O’Brien-trained winners, had been unplaced at Newmarket. That can’t be a concern.
Very soft ground would actually be a greater concern for War Command, but he won the Dewhurst on good to soft ground, and these are drying days at The Curragh after the weekend’s deluge. As long as they don’t get any more appreciable rain, the ground should be fine. It could be good ground on Saturday.
The standard time for a mile at The Curragh is two seconds slower than the standard time for a mile at Newmarket, and that stiffer test should suit War Command. His dam won over 10 furlongs, as did his full-brother Warbird, while his half-brother Naval Officer won the Group 3 Prix de Conde over nine furlongs. Aidan O’Brien reports him in good form, and he could be the value of the race now at around 7/1.
Last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician sets a high standard in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday. The Galileo colt disappointed in the St James’s Palace Stakes on his next run after winning the Irish Guineas, but he rounded off the season with a scintillating performance to beat The Fugue in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
Beaten in the Dubai World Cup on his first run in 2014, he put that behind him when he won the Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes at The Curragh two and a half weeks ago. He only beat Parish Hall by a half a length in the end that day, but Parish Hall is a top class performer on the fast ground that he had that day, and it never really looked likely that Magician was going to lose. Furthermore, the paddock watchers reported that Aidan O’Brien’s horse would come on significantly for the run.
"Last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician sets a high standard in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday. The Galileo colt rounded off last season with a scintillating performance to beat The Fugue in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita."
He could have the race run to suit on Sunday. Mukhadram loves to jump and run, a tactic that helped him bag the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes last year, and which almost netted the Prince of Wales’s Stakes last year and the Dubai World Cup this year.
But Noble Mission also loves to jump and run these days. He jumped and ran his way to victory in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown in April, and he jumped and ran his way to victory in the Group 3 Huxley Stakes at Chester earlier this month. Those two performances were probably the two best performances that Frankel’s brother has put up in his life, he appears to enjoy himself out in front, and it is unlikely that connections are considering alternative tactics for Sunday’s race.
That presents a problem for him and for Mukhadram. Only one of them can lead and, if they both try to, they could both go too fast through the early stages of the race and compromise their respective chances. And the fast pace that they will surely set will suit the favourite well.
A fast pace will also suit Trading Leather. Jim Bolger’s horse disappointed on his debut this term in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, but he raced far too freely that day off a sedate early pace, and he actually did well in those circumstances to finish third, just four lengths behind Gospel Choir, who came out and won the Sky Bet Yorkshire Cup last week.
Fast ground would be ideal for the Godolphin recruit, and he is probably a better horse over a mile and a half than he is over 10 furlongs, but the Tattersalls Gold Cup is run over 10 and a half furlongs, he remains a high-class colt, and he loves the stamina test that The Curragh presents. His record at HQ reads 311, the latter 1 recorded in last year’s Irish Derby, and the 3 recorded in the Irish 2000 Guineas on this weekend last year, when the one-mile trip was surely short of his optimum.
Running plans for the Etihad Airways Irish 1000 Guineas on Sunday are less than solid at present, but you have to hope that the John Oxx-trained My Titania makes it to the races this time. A seriously progressive filly last season as a juvenile – she won the Group 3 C L Weld Park Stakes on her final start last term, when she had current Oaks second favourite Tarfasha six lengths behind her in third place – she was an 11th-hour scratching from the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket because of a poor scope on the Thursday before the race.
Her trainer reports the Sea The Stars filly in top form again now and, while soft ground would also be a worry for her, she deserves her shot at a Classic now.
- For more of Donn’s thoughts, visit www.donnmcclean.com