Five Irish Ascot aces
The Irish burst out of the traps at Royal Ascot last year. Remember? Declaration Of War, Sole Power, Dawn Approach and War Command in a quickfire rat-tat-tat-tat volley in the first four races of the meeting that made it feel like Cheltenham 2013.
And it is difficult to imagine that the winner of the fifth race last year, Well Sharp – owned by a Limerick man, trained by a Cork man, ridden by a Kildare man – could have been any more Irish while registering one for the home team. At least the JP McManus green and gold hoops continued the Cheltenham theme.
Inevitably, that breakneck pace could not be sustained through the meeting, but eight Irish-trained winners for the week was a huge haul, matching 2012’s tally. We have come a long way since the barren years of 1989 and 1990 and 1994 and the singles of 1997, 1998 and 2003.
This year, the Irish team looks at least as strong as it did last year. Sole Power is back seeking to win another King’s Stand Stakes, while his stable companion Slade Power is shaping these days like the Group 1 sprinter that Eddie Lynam has always believed him to be. Last year’s Queen’s Vase winner and subsequent St Leger winner Leading Light is a worthy favourite for the Gold Cup, in which there is a strong supporting Irish cast, and it looks like John Oxx will finally get to release My Titania’s potential in Friday’s Coronation Stakes.
Here are five more Irish horses who might be of interest from a betting perspective.
Perhaps a little unusually for a lone Ballydoyle raider in a Group 1 race in Britain, Guerre may be a little under the radar in Tuesday's King’s Stand Stakes.
Winner of his maiden and second in a listed race at The Curragh last year in two runs as a juvenile, Aidan O’Brien’s colt was really impressive in beating Maarek in a listed race at Naas on his only run this season to date. He picked up like a good horse when Joseph O’Brien asked him to come clear of top-class older seasons sprinters, and Maarek came out and won the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes on his next run.
That was just Guerre’s third ever run, his seasonal debut and his first run over the minimum trip, so it is reasonable to expect that he will improve for it at least a little. He may lack the experience for a King’s Stand Stakes against hardened older sprinters, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for in potential and, as long as he handles the preliminaries okay, he could out-perform odds of around 12/1 by a fair way.
It is interesting that Dermot Weld has decided to wait until Wednesday’s Jersey Stakes rather than allow Mustajeeb take his chance in the St James’s Palace Stakes on Tuesday. Actually, it is more interesting that the trainer left Hamdan Al Maktoum’s colt in Tuesday's Group 1 race until final declaration stage.
Mustajeeb has always been highly-regarded by Weld. He won the seven-furlong two-year-olds’ maiden at the Galway Festival last year that his trainer always wins, and he landed the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown on his debut this term.
That was a really impressive performance. He travelled into the race well, he made nice ground from the rear, and he picked up in the style of a talented individual to take it up inside the final furlong before coming clear of the useful older horse Brendan Brackan, who was in turn clear of the remainder. It was a really impressive performance from a three-year-old against his elders so early in the season in a race in which the Classic generation have historically not done well.
The Nayef colt was beaten by Kingman and Shifting Power on his next run in the Irish 2000 Guineas, but there was no disgrace in that, the three of them had it between them from the two-furlong pole, and he was clear of the fourth horse. The drop down in trip to seven furlongs should not be an inconvenience, he has plenty of pace, and he should run a big race.
All the Prince of Wales’s Stakes talk is of Treve, and that is understandable. She looked just about unbeatable when she won the Arc last year, and it was asking an awful lot of her to beat the under-rated superstar Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix Ganay on her debut this term. That said, she is not unbeatable. She has never travelled beyond France’s boundaries, and very fast ground would be an unknown for her. She has never run on anything faster than good, and her Arc win was on soft ground.
Magician may not be as far behind Criquette Head-Maarek’s filly as the betting suggests. Winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas last season, you can easily put a line through his run in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year off an interrupted preparation. He put that run well behind him when he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on his next run, showing a lightning turn of foot on the fast ground to come from near last to get up and catch The Fugue deep inside the final furlong.
He did all that was required to beat the useful Parish Hall in the Mooresbridge Stakes on his first run in Europe this season, and he found the soft ground all against him when he got to within a length and a quarter of Noble Mission in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last month. He will be much more at home on the faster ground that the weather forecasters say he will encounter on Wednesday. It is interesting that Aidan O’Brien fits a tongue-tie, and he could push the filly harder than the betting suggests he will.
Peace Burg, Fiesolana and Purr Along make up a strong three-pronged Irish challenge on the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday, and it may be that the Johnny Murtagh-trained Purr Along will represent the best value of the triumvirate.
The Mount Nelson filly was a high-class juvenile two years ago when trained by William Muir. She won a Group 3 race at Deauville in August, then followed up by running subsequent Fillies’ Mile winner Certify to a head in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster the following month, the pair of them clear.
She shaped encouragingly in the early part of last season, running well in the Coronation Stakes on her debut and then finishing a close-up fourth of four behind Elusive Kate, Sky Lantern and Giofra in that messy Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket’s July meeting.
It was mildly disappointing that she was not able to build on those performances last season, but she ran a cracker on her debut this term – her debut for Qatar Racing and her debut for Murtagh – when she sprang a 20/1 surprise in a Group 3 race at The Curragh on Guineas weekend under a perfectly-timed ride from Jamie Spencer. That was on soft ground, but the ground was a worry for connections beforehand. All her best form at two and three was on good or fast ground.
She beat Fiesolana by a half a length at The Curragh, and she will be 2lb worse off with her on Wednesday, so there should not be much between her and Willie McCreery’s evergreen filly. However, Purr Along has slightly more scope for progression, and a stiff straight mile should suit her ideally.
Great Minds will be of interest in the Wokingham on Saturday if the rain manages to make its way back to Berkshire by then.
Tommy Stack’s horse did really well to win a big six-furlong handicap at The Curragh on Guineas weekend from stall one, historically the worst draw on the straight track at The Curragh, especially when the track is at its widest, as it was on Guineas weekend, and especially on soft ground.
Wayne Lordan did really well to bounce his horse out of the gate and move across to the middle of the track, thus mitigating the negative impact of his draw a little. Even so, the Bahamian Bounty gelding still had to do a lot of running to get into a position from which he could challenge, and he did really well to keep on as well as he did to win with more in hand than the three-parts-of-a-length winning margin. Interestingly, the four horses who chased him home were drawn, respectively, 18, 27, 17 and 21, and the first six home in last year’s renewal of that race were drawn in stalls 24, 26, 23, 22, 25, 21 respectively.
But it isn’t just his latest performance that makes Great Minds an interesting horse. He went close in two of his three runs last season, including in a maiden at Redcar on the last of them, and he was impressive in winning a six-furlong handicap at The Curragh on his debut this season, all the while appearing to improve with racing and with experience.
He appears to be on a significant upward trajectory, having raced just five times in his life, and he could prove to be better than a handicapper in time. He has never run on anything faster than yielding ground, so fast ground would be a concern, but he may not be allowed to take his chance if Tommy and Fozzy Stack deem the ground to be too fast on Saturday.
He is 20/1 with Sky Bet at present. Expect that price to fall if the rains do.
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