Lyric has toughness to call tune in Guineas
In a high-class renewal of the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket tomorrow, Maybe leads the Irish challenge for Ballydoyle.
Ger Lyons' hope of securing a first Classic with the Johnny Murtagh-ridden Lightening Pearl has seemingly been undermined by the testing conditions, while Jim Bolger, whose Finsceal Beo was the last raider to plunder the £213,513 winner's prize, is represented by Alla Speranza.
Although Bolger's filly acquitted herself credibly when beaten by Call To Battle in a Leopardstown Listed race last November, it's hard to see her being good enough for this Group One, and a similar comment applies to Kevin Prendergast's Phoenix heroine La Collina.
Maybe twice accounted for La Collina as a juvenile and O'Brien's filly is a justifiable favourite to stretch her unbeaten run to six under the trainer's son Joseph. A doughty daughter of Galileo that concluded her two-year-old campaign with success in the Moyglare, she goes on any ground and always does what's required.
That said, there is an array of talent on display in tomorrow's one-mile showpiece, so odds of as low as 5/4 in such an open contest are off-putting. Lyric Of Light, the chosen mount of Frankie Dettori from Godolphin's potent team, could be the one.
In three starts last year, the daughter of Street Cry proved herself equally tough, rounding off her own unbeaten run with a game success at Group One level in the Fillies' Mile in September. On that occasion, she travelled with consummate ease under Dettori, before knuckling down to overhaul Samitar in the shadow of the post.
Samitar did her bit for the form by landing a valuable sales race back at Newmarket in October, so Lyric Of Light, having scored in slow ground on her racecourse bow in August, appeals at odds of up to 7/1 now.
In the preceding Group Three, Izzi Top, last year's Epsom Oaks third, also gets the nod to collect on her reappearance.
Outsider to note
Maarek should have a big say at decent odds under Joseph O'Brien in the wide-open Qatar Handicap at Newmarket tomorrow.
David Nagle's five-year-old has been brilliantly consistent over the past two seasons, completing last year with a valuable win at The Curragh. This time round, he finished second to Croisultan at headquarters, before denying Gordon Lord Byron at Naas.
With Gordon Lord Byron following up at Tipperary on Thursday, that form looks solid, and a five-pound penalty may not be enough to stall Maarek's progress on ground he handles really well.
Newmarket 2.35 -- Izzi Top
Newmarket 3.15 -- Lyric Of Light
Newmarket 3.50 -- Maarek
Gowran Park 2.30 -- The Westener Boy
5,000 Euro reward that the Turf Club is offering for information on the identity of unauthorised gallopers on The Curragh yesterday morning.
3 The number of Group One hopefuls on duty today that emerged from Grove Stud in Fermoy. Coupe De Ville and Hermival tackle the 2,000 Guineas having been sold as yearlings, while Went The Day Well flies the flag in the Kentucky Derby.
Quote of the week
"They say we disobeyed an instruction, the jockeys are supposed to walk around at the start, but the problem is all the riders have an idea where they want to be in the race -- inner, middle or outer -- and what are you supposed to do if you are on the outer and want to be on the inner when you're called in? It's like musical chairs. If I'd been hanging off at the back, what do I say to my owners if I get left 20 lengths?" -- Veteran jump-jockey Andrew Thornton defends his colleagues after officials blamed 40 riders for the false starts in this year's Grand National.
Three things we
learned this week
1 There is no end to the British Horseracing Authority's cheek. Having already seriously undermined the Aintree Grand National's good name by pandering to narrow-minded special interest groups, this week the BHA issued a statement that blamed each of the 40 riders that took part in last month's race for causing two false starts. There was no mention of a complete lack of authority on the part of the starter or the farcical scenes that saw a bunch of grown men twice struggle to manually reconnect the tape. Instead, they laid the blame squarely at the feet of the jockeys for trying to get a decent position and a good view of the first fence in the most famous race in the world. It was an inexplicable cop-out on the BHA's part.
2 Falls on the flat are frightening. As the summer campaign gathers pace, full-time Flat observers will need no reminding of just how treacherous unexpected spills can be, but it was the National Hunt world that saw two amateur riders rushed to hospital with back injuries after a bumper at Ballinrobe on Tuesday. While Marc Byrne was subsequently released with just severe bruising, Gwen Daly remains in the Mater Hospital after fracturing several vertebrae and damaging her spinal cord. Thankfully, although her injuries are obviously serious, it is hoped she will make a full recovery.
3 It could be another wet summer. After Punchestown had to perform miracles to race last week, monsoon-like downpours have taken a toll on cross-channel fixtures this week, and today we will have a rare soft ground 2,000 Guineas. Joy.
Monday: Curragh, Down Royal, Bath, Beverley, Kempton (AW), Warwick, Windsor
Tuesday: Punchestown*, Catterick*, Exeter*, Fakenham, Newcastle
Wednesday: Punchestown*, Chester, Ffos Las*, Kempton* (AW), Southwell (AW), Stratford
Thursday: Clonmel*, Chester, Goodwood, Kelso*, Newton Abbot, Wincanton*, Yarmouth*
Friday: Cork*, Downpatrick*, Ascot*, Chester, Hamilton*, Lingfield, Market Rasen, Nottingham*, Ripon*
Saturday: Kilbeggan*, Ascot, Haydock, Hexham, Lingfield, Nottingham, Thirsk*, Warwick*
Sunday: Leopardstown, Killarney, Plumpton, Uttoxeter, Worcester
* Denotes evening meeting