Fran Berry concludes his Irish horses to follow series with half a dozen horses trained by Aidan O'Brien expected to make a splash in 2021.
To conclude my list of 30 Irish Flat horses to follow this year, here are my thoughts on the best of Ballydoyle, topping up my 30 with Aidan O'Brien runners that you just can't miss - even if they're not yet too prominent in the betting for the Classics.
If you don't want to put them all in your My Stable tracker (why not?) - then be sure to take note of my star picks, highlighted by this 🌟 symbol.
I hope you've enjoyed the series and good luck to all our readers throughout the season.
LORD OF THE MANOR (Galileo – Wave, 3yo, OR -)
LORD OF THE MANOR ran with definite promise on debut on testing ground at the Curragh over nine furlongs in a race where he made the running from stall one. They got racing plenty early enough and it was to his credit that he kept on in third on the day. He’s by Galileo, related to Cliffs Of Moher, and he looks to have the potential to develop into a nice middle-distance horse.
🌟 INTERPRETATION (Galileo – Daldiyna, 3yo, OR -)
INTERPRETATION finished just behind Lord Of The Manor in fourth in the same maiden won by Cleveland. He’s a really interesting horse. Again, he was a real eyecatcher on the day after being held up, as he made good progress into the race to be fourth without being knocked about and he could be anything. He’s by Galileo out of a French Aga Khan family and is well worth following.
WORDSWORTH (Galileo – Chelsea Rose, 3yo, OR -)
WORDSWORTH is a full-brother to Kew Gardens from a really good family and he was the stable first string when beaten on debut by High Definition, who is now the Derby favourite. He shaped very well save for getting mugged by the winner late on and the horse that was a head behind him in third, Flying Visit, went onto win a Group 3 afterwards. It looks very good form and he looks a Classic candidate. I’m looking forward to seeing which route he takes.
🌟 QUEEN’S SPEECH (American Pharoah – Paradise Playgirl, 3yo, OR -)
QUEEN’S SPEECH made a sparkling debut when winning by five lengths at the Curragh on testing ground in early November. She’s somewhat in the shadows of higher-profile stablemates like Santa Barbara at the moment but I’d say she’s equally exciting. By American Pharoah, it will be fascinating to see which way Aidan O’Brien takes her trip-wise, but she was a very taking winner of what I consider to be a good maiden so she’s another with enormous potential.
MADONNA (Galileo – Sumora, 3yo, OR 73)
MADONNA will be very interesting this season off a mark of 73. She wasn’t beaten too far on her last start in November on heavy ground but showed more promise on her debut at Navan and then again at Thurles on her second start. Despite making the running she raced extremely greenly in front and looked all at sea on the track, and I’d say she’s had legitimate enough excuses on all three starts to date. I’d be very interested in this full sister to Barbados and Maybe if she ran in a handicap up in trip off a mark of 73.
KHARTOUM (Pioneerof The Nile – Up, 3yo, OR 92)
KHARTOUM, by Pioneerof The Nile, ran well showing promise on debut at Naas in September and was then an impressive winner over seven furlongs at the Curragh on his last start. He has an interesting pedigree, he’s out of the Galileo mare Up, and he’s definitely a horse that could well step up this season. He holds an entry in the Craven Stakes next week – an intriguing pointer possibly regarding his trip, while he’s also in the Dante and Derby as well as the Irish Guineas – but it looks like he might be starting out over a mile. He’s one to watch.
🌟 ISLE OF SARK (Kitten’s Joy – Endless Fancy, 3yo, OR -)
A three-year-old by Kitten’s Joy, ISLE OF SARK won a trial at Dundalk last summer and was subsequently bought by Joseph O’Brien. He didn’t make the track until mid-November, back at Dundalk, in a median auction maiden and he won very impressively by four lengths after travelling strongly throughout and quickening up well. The second and third both won afterwards at Dundalk and Isle Of Sark is a big, imposing, individual who is only going to get better as a three-year-old. He could be high-class, for all that he could be a work in progress, so we might not see the best of him until midsummer. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do on turf and he’s entered on Sunday at Leopardstown.
🌟 FEDERAL (Zoffany – Zee Zee Gee, 3yo, OR -)
FEDERAL created a very good impression when winning on his track debut at Leopardstown on July 31 last year. We haven’t seen him since, and while that maiden form could’ve worked out better, I was very taken by the visual impression he made that day. He finished off strongly down the outside under a hands and heels ride to win by a length and he’s from a family that have excelled over a variety of trips. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in among Joseph’s team this season.
MARIESQUE (Lawman – Mireille, 3yo, OR -)
An eyecatcher from the Joseph stable, given that his debutants tend to improve for an outing, is MARIESQUE for Ballygallon Stud. She ran a nice race on debut at the Curragh in November on very testing ground, finishing off strongly from a rear position to finish fourth of 16. She was very much the horse to take out of the race and she’s on the radar for at least a maiden success.
IRWIN (Australia – Sugar House, 3yo, OR 85)
A handicapper to watch is IRWIN, by Australia, colt who caught the eye on the debut when he ran a very nice race over a mile at Dundalk. Despite being green he finished his race off strongly for third and then he duly built on that to win by a head over the same track and trip, doing his best work at the finish to win by a head. He’s a big horse who will do better over middle distances in time and his mark of 85, given his breeding and Irish Derby entry, could well capitalise on that mark over 10 furlongs on turf. He’s entered on Sunday at Leopardstown in a 10-furlong handicap.
MOON DAISY (Australia – Holy Alliance, 3yo, OR 75)
MOON DAISY should be capable of exploiting her rating of 75 this season. She was sent off 9/2 on debut in the Federal maiden and she ran okay in sixth, but she stepped up on that run in pure form terms on her second and third starts at Leopardstown and Cork where she was fifth on both occasions. A daughter of Australia, she’s going to be interesting stepping up in trip to middle distances in handicaps off a mark of 75. She’s also entered at Leopardstown on Sunday.
TERESA MENDOZA (Territories – Ceoldrama, 3yo, OR 97)
TERESA MENDOZA looked a very promising filly on her first two starts as a two-year-old and it’s well worth forgiving her disappointing run on good ground in the Moyglare on her final start as a juvenile. On debut she beat Monaasib, who went onto be second to High Definition, and after that she was second to New Treasure who has been running well out in Saudi Arabia and Meydan. Her Moyglare run came not long after she had a hard race in heavy ground in the Round Tower and I’d say she’s far better judged on her first two runs. She could be a sprinter, but it will be interesting to see which way she goes trip-wise this spring.
CLAONADH (Alhebayeb – Cliodhna, 3yo, OR 90)
Willie McCreery had a first-time out winner at the Curragh called CLAONADH last November and she’s an interesting filly for sprints this year. She created a good impression when winning over five furlongs on testing ground on her debut at the backend of last season, beating a couple of subsequent winners who had experience. I liked how she quickened through the field and found plenty for pressure, especially considering the stable debutants don’t generally win. I liked how she shaped on her seasonal debut after switching around the whole field, she ran extremely well on that handicap debut and looks the one to take out of the race.
🌟 CATENA ZAPATA (Vadamos – Pretty Priceless, 3yo, OR 88)
Henry De Bromhead is a very capable trainer on the level, as well, and I think at least one of his is worth following this season. I’ll go with CATENA ZAPATA, who trialled extremely well at Dundalk last summer and then had excuses when seventh following a very wide trip on debut in October. Six weeks later he came back to beat an 80-rated rival giving him 10lb in very good style, and then last month he ran a good third in what looked a deep conditions race. Rated 88, I’m excited to see him on grass midsummer when he fills his frame out. He looks progressive and he could be one for high-class 3yo handicaps over middle distances in the summer.
🌟 ROSA WOODSII (Wootton Bassett – Dazzling Rose, 3yo, OR -)
ROSA WOODSII had two runs last year, running in a midfield position on debut over six furlongs in late July, and then wasn’t seen until mid-September where she finished off strongly in the last furlong to snatch second stepped up to seven furlongs. She was no match for the experienced winner on the day, but it looked a good race – a few winners have come out of it – and stepping up to a mile can see her in an even better light.
EBENEEZER PERRY (Territories – Folly Bridge, 3yo, OR -)
This horse hasn’t been seen since July last year, where he made his debut over seven furlongs. He created a very good impression on the day when running on well from a wide draw in stall 12 despite showing signs of greenness. He’s another one that can progress with racing and should be up to winning at least a maiden. He should be worth following as the year goes on.
SAFARI QUEST (Australia – Lucy Diamonds, 3yo, OR -)
SAFARI QUEST is from a very good family and is related to Roca Roma, Roca Rojo and Roca Tumu (now Beauty Flame in Hong Kong). He ran in what I think is a maiden to follow at Leopardstown in October on his sole start. Drawn out in stall 12, he was very green and took nearly the whole length of the straight for the penny to drop before he was switched to the inside – at which point he ran on with promise to be 10th, beaten eight and a half lengths. Given his pedigree and that glimmer of ability, he’s horse that should be interesting stepping up to 10 furlongs.
EBASARI (Lope De Vega – Ebayya, 3yo, OR 76)
EBASARI shaped better than the finishing result on his second start last year. He was ridden quite aggressively on heavy ground and faded into eighth in what looked a strong maiden (won by Cleveland) in November. He then caught the eye on his comeback at Dundalk at the end of March, as he was well-supported into 4/1 second-favourite for what was a competitive maiden and I just got totally taken out of his comfort zone over a mile on that track. He’s better than that and an opening mark of 76 looks workable once he steps up in trip – he’s entered in that 10f handicap at Leopardstown on Sunday, as well.
🌟 TAIPAN (Frankel – Kenzadargent, 3yo, OR -)
A once-raced Frankel colt whose form has already got a boost this turf season - the horse he beat on his sole run at Naas, Team Of Firsts, won at Navan last week. TAIPAN was a €500,000 purchase as a yearling and he was extremely green on debut where he looked to be going nowhere two and a half furlongs out, but once the penny dropped he flew home. He made up three or four lengths in the final furlong, it was a very taking debut, and he has to be of interest this season on the back of that, especially given it looks strong form already. He could go for a spring Classic trial.
AESOP (Make Believe – Sadima, 4yo, OR 84)
An extremely well-bred horse, AESOP is a half-brother to Youmzain and Creachadoir. A ready winner of a Leopardstown maiden on his fourth start last year, he also ran well in two premier handicaps in the Ulster Derby and at Gowran Park. He’s dropped 3lb over the winter to a mark of 84 and, most importantly, has been gelded. He looks the type to do better as a 4yo in middle-distance handicaps and has interestingly been bought by OTI Racing. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. He’s due to run at Cork on Saturday over 10 furlongs – but I’d expect him to improve on whatever he does this weekend when he steps back up in trip to 1m4f.
GOODNIGHT KISS (Fastnet Rock – Sweet Dreams Baby, 3yo, OR -)
GOODNIGHT KISS is a filly that caught the eye on debut at the backend of the year, behind my Cazoo Oaks fancy, Willow. It was a mid-October mile maiden at Leopardstown and Goodnight Kiss was the stable second-string on jockey bookings, she was 50/1 and quite green, not having a lot of room before getting a gap late on, finishing off very nicely. With the benefit of that run and being by Fastnet Rock you would imagine she’ll come into her own as a three-year-old.
LOCH LEIN (Invincible Spirit – Ashley Hall, 3yo, OR 99)
LOCH LEIN was second to St Mark’s Basilica in a soft-ground maiden at the Curragh on her second start after a promising debut run at the same track. She then went to Cork on contrasting good to firm ground on the straight track, where she was a deeply impressive winner, beating subsequent winner Queens Carriage by six lengths. That maiden form has worked out extremely well and, looking at her breeding and the speed she showed at Cork, she could be a nice sprinting prospect.
MY MINERVINA (Holy Roman Emperor – Are You Mine, 3yo, OR 77)
MY MINERVINA could potentially be well handicapped despite not winning a race last season. She shaped very well, particularly on her second start where she showed good speed throughout before fading in the final furlong behind Santa Barbara. She didn’t perform on bad ground in the sales race at Naas and she ran well enough after that when second in a maiden at Dundalk. A rating of 77 might well underestimate her as she moves into handicaps.
🌟 SUNNIYRA (Zoffany – Summaya, 3yo, OR -)
SUNNIYRA shaped very nicely on her debut when running on extremely well late on to be third at the Curragh in the race won by Queen’s Speech, who could be a Classic contender for the Aidan O’Brien team. Sunniyra was the one to take out of the race, with the exception of the winner, as she was a real eyecatcher, and with that experience under her belt she could progress this campaign over a mile and upwards.
PROBE (Kingman – Tested, 3yo, OR -)
PROBE made his debut at the Curragh on the first day of the turf season and was beaten two and a half lengths behind Horoscope after being backed into 5/2 on the day. He didn’t get a clear run two furlongs out and shaped better than the bare result, with Colin Keane going fairly easy on him after the interference. He’s a future maiden winner at least and by Kingman, from a decent Juddmonte family, he’ll be interesting as the season progresses.
VARIO (Kingman – Variable, 3yo, OR -)
Kingman filly VARIO has had just the one run in a fillies’ only Listed race on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. Given she was making her debut against experienced rivals in tough company she ran extremely well in fourth. She was green before keeping on well in the last furlong and the way she shaped suggests to me she has the makings of a smart filly. She could well develop into a pattern-class filly once she steps up in trip.
🌟 CHICAGO BEAR (Siyouni – Ebalista, 3yo, OR 83)
CHICAGO BEAR looked to win a strong maiden when he beat Shackleton Hero and Diderot at Dundalk on November 23. He was extremely green when beaten on debut but he clearly sharpened up an awful lot for the run, keeping on well after showing a smart turn of foot to get up and win by a neck. By Siyouni, from a middle-distance Aga Khan family, he should progress with experience and he’s interesting going into the turf season, particularly considering an opening mark of 83.
OTTOMAN EMPEROR (Excelebration – Ibiza Empress, 3yo, OR -)
A recent eyecatcher for the Johnny Murtagh team was OTTOMAN EMPEROR who has an interesting profile. He ran well in two trials at Dundalk last summer and was subsequently bought by OTI Racing and they will have been delighted with how he shaped on debut. He was green and lacked a gear in a steadily-run race, but he should improve markedly off the back of that and I fancy him to progress on the grass over middle-distances throughout the year.
SOILSE (Teofilo – Gleigeal, 3yo, OR -)
SOILSE made her debut on the first day of the turf season at the Curragh and she definitely shaped better than the bare result that saw her finish sixth, beaten six lengths. Drawn on the wide outside in stall 23 over the seven-furlong trip, she went forward to get a good position, but she had no real cover and at the two-furlong marker she looked like she might go and win her race before weakening quite markedly in the last furlong. Given that promise, she’ll be of interest on her next start in maiden company, especially granted better conditions being a daughter of Teofilo.
🌟 MEHNAH (Frankel – Asheerah, 3yo, OR -)
This one could be an exciting filly. MEHNAH has a superb pedigree, a Frankel half-sister to Awtaad, and I’d expect her to be out soon maybe at Leopardstown on the Guineas trial card the Sunday after the Grand National. She created a deep impression when making a winning debut at Dundalk in September, coming from stall 14 to beat Fantasy Lady, who went on to win a Listed race after that, and the 95-rated Sister Rosetta, who has also won subsequently. It looked a deep race and it was won in great style by Mehnah despite a slow start, as she picked up very well and galloped on through the line strongly. She looks a high-class prospect for her octogenarian trainer. She looks the real deal.