Alice Springs in strong position
Triple Group One winner Alice Springs kicks off her campaign in the Gladness Stakes at Naas today. The Aidan O'Brien-trained filly broke her duck at the highest level when landing the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last July and went on to secure the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown before returning to Newmarket to win the Sun Chariot.
She drops to seven furlongs and takes on the boys in the Group Three contest, but is still likely to go off a hot favourite.
O'Brien said: "She's done very well and physically seems to have improved a lot, but, because of that, she'll probably improve a good bit from the run.
"It's seven furlongs, and obviously she stays further than that, but it's a nice place to start her off.
"She obviously likes nice ground, but for her first run, it will be fine."
Blue De Vega won his maiden over this course and distance as a juvenile and went on to finish third in last year's Irish 2,000 Guineas.
The four-year-old disappointed at Royal Ascot, but bounced back to chase home Sovereign Debt on his most recent start at Leopardstown in October.
Trainer Michael O'Callaghan said: "I'm very much looking forward to getting him started. We had a bit of a stop-start season with him last year, which was frustrating. He had a couple of setbacks which meant he didn't run until late October.
"I felt he probably needed the run against Sovereign Debt, but he showed his old spark and he's been training well and has done very well over the winter.
"The plan after Sunday is to bring him back to six furlongs in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.
"Fingers crossed, we have a clear run with him and we can step him up to the top level again."
Tom Hogan's admirable veteran Gordon Lord Byron must concede weight to Alice Springs and his other three rivals.
Jim Bolger's Smash Williams and Diamond Fields from Fozzy Stack's stable complete the line-up.
Sunday Indo Sport