Dunboyne class to deny Dubawi Gold
The form of Frankel's devastating 2,000 Guineas triumph comes under the microscope for the first time at The Curragh today, with Dubawi Gold, his closest pursuer at Newmarket, set to tackle the Abu Dhabi-sponsored Irish equivalent.
While the depth of quality of last month's Group One has been questioned, that Dubawi Gold and Native Khan -- which finished third -- had between them been unbeaten in three previous trials speaks volumes. What's more, there was a yawning 11 lengths back to the fourth home, Slim Shadey.
With that in mind, Dubawi Gold is a deserved favourite for the €188,500 showpiece. A son of the 2005 winner Dubawi, he is an honest, straight-forward horse, and the Richard Hughes/Richard Hannon partnership is undoubtedly the one to beat again, following Canford Cliffs' facile success 12 months ago.
As ever, Ballydoyle is represented in multiples in the one-mile contest. Roderic O'Connor, tailed off at Newmarket, is the pick of the stable's three runners, with Joseph O'Brien taking the reins on last season's Criterium winner for the first time.
The apprentice jockey's father Aidan is seeking a seventh victory in the season's first domestic Classic.
Slim Shadey and Zabarajad -- the maiden charged with delivering John Oxx an elusive first win in the race -- are others that hold outside chances.
Dunboyne Express, however, is fancied to justify some strong market support in recent days.
Kevin Prendergast's exciting son of Shamardal's sole defeat came when he was fifth to Casamento at Doncaster in October. On his return at Leopardstown in March, he did just enough in a messy three-horse race, so he is open to improvement now under the guidance of the assured Declan McDonogh.
With rain expected to ease The Curragh turf, which is officially good to firm, Dunboyne Express's preference for a bit of givemight yet help his local handler to bridge a 35-year gap since his previous Guineas triumph with Northern Treasure.
The remainder of the seven-race programme is chock-full of decent quality heats. In the Group Three Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes, Sing Softly can land another coup for the Classic generation.
Aidan O'Brien's filly will have to overcome familiar campaigners such as Croisultan and Snaefell, as well as the English-based pair Tiddliwinks and Hitchens, if she is to score. Still, it may well be within Sing Softly's compass to do so, not least because she receives weight allowances of up to 15lbs on reverting to six furlongs.
A field of 10 go to post for the TRI Equestrian Stakes. Termagant could go close in this if first-time blinkers spark a revival in her form, while Emulous ought to be a more potent proposition after her reappearance sixth behind Lolly For Dolly in April.
That said, there is no reason why Emulous should turn the tables on Lolly For Dolly here. Having been beaten last time, Tommy Stack's stable star now steps back up to the one-mile trip that she so impressed over on her seasonal debut in March.
In the opening two juvenile contests, Remember Alexander and Tough As Nails appeal. Remember Alexander faces three Ballydoyle newcomers in the Brandon Hotel Tralee Maiden, but Jessica Harrington's Teofilo filly showed promise when second to Power first time up.
Power himself is likely to be popular in the subsequent Marble Hill Stakes, though the drop to five furlongs from six nay not suit. Tough As Nails, a runaway winner at Tipperary, has already proven himself comprehensively over the minimum distance.