Exciting 'Cook' can make Moore merry
Navan winner fancied to enhance Derby credentials
The inimitable Ryan Moore flies in for the second time this year to test some of Aidan O'Brien's Classic contenders at Leopardstown tomorrow.
Of his four bookings at the Foxrock venue, his PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes mount Cook Islands appeals as the most exciting prospect. A Fastnet Rock colt that ran on strongly on its Curragh debut in September to be fourth to stablemate Hit It A Bomb, Cook Islands then won at Navan in October.
On that occasion over a mile, he raced close to the pace before striding clear. It was a good maiden rather than a great one, but it was the manner of Cook Islands' victory that impressed.
He looked a horse with real size and scope, and the turn of foot that he produced hinted at better things to come.
While heavy ground is an unknown, stepping up to 10 furlongs for this €60,000 Group Three should suit, so he appeals as nap material to confirm his enormous potential.
A 33/1 shot for the Derby, Cook Islands' price will tumble for that if he does see off the likes of Idaho and Moonlight Magic. Unbeaten in two starts last year, the Jim Bolger-trained Moonlight Magic could be anything. By the brilliant recently retired sire Cape Cross, he is sure to be a big player this season and could test the nap selection.
In what is billed as a 2,000 Guineas trial but is no such thing in reality, Moore partners Johannes Vermeer for the Ballydoyle team.
A Group One winner for Moore on its final start as a juvenile, this Galileo colt is the most exposed of the five runners in this mile Listed race, but the chances are that he is also the best. Again, Bolger's once-raced winner Stenographer could be the danger. He knuckled down to lead late on his track bow at the Curragh last month, but, if Johannes Vermeer turns up in anything like the shape he was in last season, he should win.
Successful three times in six starts, he was also second in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster prior to his Saint-Cloud swansong on November 1. He handled deep ground that day so conditions shouldn't trouble him, and it's hard to look beyond him here.
In the 10-furlong maiden that gets proceedings under way, the same elite partnership get the nod to collect with Housesofparliament, which ran a nice race to be fifth on its sole outing at Tipperary as a juvenile.
They combine for the Breeders' Cup runner-up Alice Springs in the 1,000 Guineas trial. The choicely-bred filly ran really well in three Group Ones last year and is the one to beat, but you couldn't be sure that conditions will suit.
Preferred at likely fancy odds is Willie McCreery's Radiantly. Billy Lee's mount won an open maiden over an extended seven furlongs at Tipperary in August, and the Aussie Rules filly finished her juvenile campaign by flashing home to be beaten less than a length by Coolmore in a Curragh Group Three in September.
The winner is seemingly among O'Brien's leading Classic contenders for the fillies' races, so it was a fair effort by Radiantly to get so close.
She has plenty of scope to train on, so she is worth a sally in this. Another that catches the eye at Leopardstown is Hidden Oasis in the seven-furlong handicap. David Wachman's five-year-old isn't drawn that well in stall 10, but she ran encouragingly to be fifth on her recent return at Cork.
Previously a soft ground winner off a rating of 101, Fran Berry's mount has been dropped another pound to a career low of 73, so should be thereabouts if she comes on for her outing.
Donnacha O'Brien has gained a slender early advantage in the apprentices' title race and he might extend it further aboard Pietro Testa at Gowran Park today.
Prior to last night's activity at Dundalk, O'Brien was the only apprentice to have ridden two winners during the new turf campaign. With his brother Joseph now retired, he could well rattle this year's championship, which his elder sibling shared in 2010 and won outright in 2011.
Pietro Testa, which is trained by their father Aidan at Ballydoyle, faces just three rivals in the 12-furlong maiden. A £2.7m half-brother to the 2010 King George victor Harbinger, Pietro Testa showed up nicely on his Leopardstown autumn debut.
Stepping up from seven furlongs will suit the son of Galileo, so he is fancied to score.
The 17-year-old might also take the apprentices' handicap aboard John Joe Walsh's Never Again.
Conqueror of the stable's classy hurdler Slowmotion at Limerick, Never Again goes in the mud and looks well handicapped.
Dermot Weld's Radanpour is the class act on duty in the finale, while Pacodeli is nap material in the seven-furlong maiden. Johnny Murtagh's colt ran well on his Curragh return and can build on it under dual champion apprentice Connor King.