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FOCUS shifts from England to Ireland this weekend with the Irish 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas across a two-day meeting at the Curragh, and there is little doubt that colt’s classic (Saturday,3.20) looks done and dusted with the Newmarket runner-up NATIVE TRAIL sure to go off a short priced favourite.
I thought that punters and pundits alike didn’t give this fine stamp of a colt the credit he deserved when he came from the wrong side of the track to run his stablemate, Coroebus, to three quarters of the length with the Godolphin pair well clear of Ballydoyle’s Luxembourg.
Although he doesn’t look like a middle distance colt, you could easily see this son of Oasis Dream going further than a mile later on in the season. But for the time being, eight furlongs at this stiff track should be right up his alley.
Of his rivals, Aidan O’Brien’s Ivy League and outsider Atomic James look the most likely source of an upset should the British raider run below par on his third start of his three-year campaign.
The fillies go to post on Sunday at 3.45 and this looks a much more open contest, with O’Brien’s Tuesday likely to lead the market following her promising third to Cachel at Newmarket. I just thought she looked short of pace that day and that the fast ground was hindering her striding out properly as well.
The key race when trying to locate the winner of this famous classic could be the 1,000 Guineas’ Trial at Leopardstown at the beginning of April.
On that occasion, HOMELESS SONGS showed a rapid turn of foot from one-and-a-half furlongs out under Chris Hayes to record a length success over the front-running Agartha.
That was only the selection’s fourth run of her career and her three-year-old debut, and if Chris can get her hidden in the pack to preserve that turn of foot again, then she should prove too strong for a field that has plenty of strength in depth to it.
The third home that day, Villanova Queen, may get a bit closer after being outpaced two-and-a-half furlongs out, before putting in some good work in the final 220 yards to be beaten a length-and-three-quarters. The quicker they go, the better she will run, a remark that also applies to Salsabil Stakes’ heroine Concert Hall.
The big supporting race at the Curragh on Saturday is the Group Two Greenlands Stakes over six furlongs at 2.45. The first, second, fourth and sixth from the 2021 renewal will all cross swords again in this valuable affair, and I suspect that GUSTAVUS WESTON has been laid out for the defence of his title by Joseph O’Brien after beating Make A Challenge comfortably 12 months ago.
The six-year-old ran down the field in the Listed Woodlands Stakes last time out over five furlongs, which should have put an edge on him, and this extra yardage will play more to his strengths.
On the mainland there are some good prizes up for grabs, and it is quite hard to predict the going at Haydock, Goodwood and York with patchy rain up and down the country.
What we do know is that fast ground will not be the order of the day, and that will be music to the ears of several owners and trainers in the 0-105 handicap at York (1.40) in which there are no less than five horses rated on three figures by the handicapper.
Just below them in the weights is TOMFRE, and although more rain would be perfect for this mud lover as long as there is some give in the ground, he looks bound to go close off a very attractive handicap mark of 99 following a promising comeback at the Chester May meeting.
On that occasion, the five-year-old ran way too freely under Rob Hornby and despite having every chance a furlong-and-a-half from home, he had shot his bolt at the business end.
Normally a confirmed hold-up horse, I expect Hornby to drop him and come with a sustained run down the long home stretch and hopefully get the better of top weight Path of Thunder and the Tim Easterby outsider Snash.
Later on at the Knavesmire, the three-year-old seven-furlong handicap can go to Distant Light who has a lovely pitch in stall six, while the big five furlong handicap at 2.55 could well go to the 16/1 shot at the bottom of the handicap in the form of course and distance winner SHOWALONG.
A winner off a mark of 83 at the course last year, the four-year-old will get to race off 82 here and with pace all over the track, his draw in box number five shouldn’t hinder him.
At Haydock Park, there are a number of top class handicaps and a couple of Group Two prizes up for grabs.
The Sandy Lane Stakes at 3.10 should see the unbeaten El Caballo make the market at around the 2/1 mark, but he may well be better on an artificial surface and the nod goes to CATURRA.
The Clive Cox trained colt ran a nice warm-up for this when a close up second in the Prix Sigy, a Group Three race at Chantilly. A close-up fifth in the Middle Park Stakes last year, I expect the son of Mehmas to prove too classy for his 10 rivals.
Some 35 minutes later, the feature Temple Stakes can go the way of the Karl Burke trained LAST CRUSADER.
Some 8lbs shy of the best of these on official ratings, the lightly raced son of Oasis Dream still has a modicum of improvement in him and I thought was very impressive when making all in the Listed Westow Stakes at York earlier this month.
Although he needs a career best here, I think he can make this next step forward and see off Winter Power and King’s Lynn.
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