O'Brien's Due Diligence can get big year off to flying start
Sruthan will strive to record a second successive victory in the Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes at the Curragh tomorrow but the game five-year-old faces a stiff task.
Paul Deegan's stable star failed to make the frame when stepped up in class for the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in 2014, but he was placed in each of his three starts thereafter.
He is a rock-solid performer that will doubtless win at Group level again, and his chance in tomorrow's €62,500 seven-furlong contest will be done no harm by the fact that the excellent Chris Hayes is riding the crest of a wave.
However, this is a really competitive renewal of the race, with three English-based challengers among the 11-strong field. Sruthan will need a career-best if he is to prevail.
Dandy Nicholls' race-fit Sovereign Debt is possibly the pick of the raiders, while Alkasser will be a threat in first-time blinkers for the insatiable Dermot Weld, having just failed to see it through on his recent return at Tipperary.
Ger Lyons's Brendan Brackan shares the second top rating of 111 with Sruthan, but Andrea Atzeni's mount tends to find one or two too strong over seven furlongs.
The one that appeals as being the best horse in the race is Due Diligence. Aidan O'Brien's American import progressed steadily during his first season at Ballydoyle last term, atoning for a defeat on his debut at this trip to twice win over six at Naas, latterly with a touch of style in Listed company.
On his only subsequent start, Due Diligence ran a blinder in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, flashing home late to be second to last season's top sprinter Slade Power.
If he replicates anything like that standard of Group One form now that he steps back up to seven, he really ought to take a bit of stopping under Joseph O'Brien on his reappearance for what could be a big season for him.
The father-and-son combination also get the nod to land the day's nap vote with Los Barbados in the 10-furlong maiden that brings they day's proceedings to a close.
Weld's Time To Inspire is a fascinating newcomer in this, as he is a Galileo half-brother to the Curragh stable's massively exciting and still unbeaten stayer Forgotten Rules.
Market signs will tell a tale as to what's expected of Pat Smullen's mount, but Los Barbados showed enough on his debut at Leopardstown over a mile in October to warrant keeping on side.
Another Galileo colt, he came through from the rear on that occasion to grab third behind stablemate Giovanni Canaletto.
It was a hugely encouraging turn, so the Derby entry should be hard to beat now that he steps up in trip.
The elite stable's disappointing Geoffrey Chaucer is on duty in the Alleged Stakes. Jim Bolger's Parish Hall sets a fair benchmark in the 10-furlong Listed race, but preference is for Weld's progressive filly Massinga.
Since being denied by Apache Trooper on her Roscommon debut last June, this daughter of Selkirk has hit the target three times - stretching clear to see off higher-rated rivals in a similar race over 12 furlongs at Cork last month.
While Massinga has undoubtedly more on her plate here over a shorter trip on better ground, the Aga Khan's four-year-old might not be done improving just yet.
In the fillies' maiden, Ken Condon's Shanghai Beauty gets the nod to build on her promising juvenile campaign with a breakthrough win. Shane Foley's mount ran three times at two, finishing up with a game turn to be second to Red Ivy at Navan in October.