Tuesday 28 March 2017

Midday has star quality to steal show

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

In the seven years since the Stobart Ireland Pretty Polly Stakes was upgraded to Group One status, it has never boasted a line-up of such immense quality as it does today.

The 10-furlong showpiece on day two of The Curragh's Irish Derby Festival features the winners of no less than 13 Group Ones, including the box-office raiders Midday and Snow Fairy. Two of the best Flat mares of recent times, the heavyweight duo face a very live threat from the Classic generation here in the shape of Misty For Me.

Aidan O'Brien's filly recorded a third top-level success of her career when swooping late to claim the 1,000 Guineas in May. That was also her third win at headquarters, but it was followed by a below-par fifth in the Epsom Oaks a fortnight later.

If the reason for that reversal was that she simply didn't handle the track or get the mile-and-a-half trip, then Misty For Me cannot be discounted this afternoon. That said, she would still need to improve if she is to compete with her elder standard bearers.

For all that the Epsom and Irish Oaks heroine Snow Fairy achieved last year, Ed Dunlop's filly could find it hard to topple Midday in this eight-runner, €120,000 spectacle. Snow Fairy landed her fourth Group One in brilliant fashion when she beat her male rivals in the Hong Kong Cup in December, but this is her first run since then.

Even more significant is that she was outgunned by Midday over this trip on their only previous clash at York last year, and Henry Cecil's filly is much more comfortable over the distance.

Since the York race, Midday's only defeats came when she failed by just three parts of a length to reclaim the Breeders' Cup race that she won in 2009, and when she ran St Nicolas Abbey to a length at Epsom last time.

If she continues in that vein of form now, Tom Queally should add a first Irish Group One to the 15 that he has won abroad since 2009. The Waterford native's only other ride on the card is the John Dunlop-trained Times Up in the At The Races Curragh Cup.

Having won the mile-and-six-furlong Group Three with Tactic in 2010, Dunlop is bidding for two in a row now.

His five-year-old is certainly the one to beat. Times Up has won three of his last four, hosing up in the same Listed race at York in May that Tactic won in en route here.

Of the eight-strong field, Address Unknown is another with claims. Dermot Weld's lightly raced charge has some very smart form, and routed a small field on his reappearance at Dundalk in April.

However, with the weights as they are, a speculative punt is advised on Admiral Of The Red. The twice-raced Ballydoyle colt won a good maiden in eye-catching fashion at Leopardstown last month, and he receives 15lbs from six of his rivals today.

authority

In the day's other Group Three, the Grangecon Stud Stakes, Experience is fancied to confirm the authority of her victory at Navan 10 days ago. Just touched off on her debut, David Wachman's filly won in the manner of a smart horse that day.

The English challenger Dam Beautiful is a bit of an unknown quantity here, while the form of Aaraas' earlier triumph at Navan has held up really well. Still, Experience's winning display oozed class, so she ought to prevail under Wayne Lordan.

Later on, Headford Lady can take advantage of the drop back to seven furlongs in the Barrettstown Cannonball Run EBF Handicap.

James Halpin's six-year-old was just run out of it on the line in the 10-furlong Ulster Oaks last week, but this is a trip that she has won over twice, and the prospect of slow ground would aid her cause.

Irish Independent

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