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Expect Classic success for Harrington


NUMBER ONE: Albigna. Pic: racingpost.com

NUMBER ONE: Albigna. Pic: racingpost.com

NUMBER ONE: Albigna. Pic: racingpost.com

Opportunity knocks at the Curragh this evening with the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas (7.15) up for grabs and 22-time Irish champion Flat trainer Aidan O'Brien seemingly devoid of his usually unstoppable battalion.

It's often a numbers game for O'Brien in marquee events with both quality and quantity but the Ballydoyle maestro relies on just a pair of runners this time around as he chases his ninth success in the Irish fillies' Classic.

Peaceful looks set to vie for favouritism under Seamie Heffernan having just been touched off in a Listed contest at Newmarket on her third start as a juvenile in November and, as always, she is open to natural improvement as a three-year-old.

The Galileo filly has 14lb to find on official ratings with Jessica Harrington's Albigna, however, while second-string So Wonderful had an ultra-consistent juvenile campaign but failed to score in her eight starts.

The Irish 1,000 Guineas has traditionally offered a chance for others to get their piece of the pie with six trainers other than O'Brien entering the winner's enclosure in the last decade and there is a decent opening for someone to step into the breach today.

His youngest son Donnacha only retired from the saddle in November and holds solid claims of landing a blow as he quickly settles into life as a trainer with the 21-year-old represented by Listed winner Fancy Blue, formerly trained by his father.

Ger Lyons has three contenders and the reliable Soul Search could run into a place at a big price, while Group Three winner New York Girl looks the best of Joseph O'Brien's pair and can make the frame under Shane Crosse.

They all face a stiff task, though, as Harrington is in irresistible form and it was clear from an early stage last season that the Moone handler would possess a seriously strong hand when it came to this year's fillies' Classics.

The Kildare trainer prevailed with the brilliant Alpha Centauri in 2018 and there are high hopes that Albigna can do likewise, also in the dark and light blue silks of the Niarchos family.

In terms of top-level experience, the daughter of Zoffany easily stands highest among the 15 contenders having landed the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on her penultimate start. That was subsequently followed by an excellent effort when finishing with a flourish from off the pace to take fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita in November and she will take all the beating if turning up in that type of form.

Albigna is rated 6lb clear of her nearest rival, O'Brien's So Wonderful, and with her trainer unable to do any wrong right now - and Shane Foley riding out of his skin - she is taken to add yet another honour to Harrington's remarkable training CV.

A cracking hour of action at the Kildare track opens with the Group Three Gladness Stakes (6.45) where it's difficult to separate Joseph O'Brien's Speak In Colours and his father Aidan's Lancaster House with the latter marginally preferred on just his fifth start.

The Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes (7.45) is a fitting finale with Aidan O'Brien's globetrotting mare Magic Wand making her 12th start in the last year under in-form Heffernan.

Having kept the best company during recent starts in Saudi Arabai, America, Hong Kong and Australia, the Group One winner should have too much for her six opponents with Paddy Twomey's Silk Forest her biggest danger.

There isn't the same calibre of action at Leopardstown tomorrow but Twomey could again be in the mix with Loveisthehigherlaw taken to land an ultra-competitive Listed Noblesse Stakes (4.10) under Billy Lee.

If the Kodiac filly has learned to settle better, she may prove best, while Dermot Weld may be the one to follow in the Listed Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes (3.0) with the unexposed Falcon Eight given the vote of confidence to turn over last year's victor Twilight Payment.