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Steinbeck leads Ballydoyle bid

Aidan O'Brien dominated the 20 entries left in at the five-day stage for the opening Classic of the Irish season as the master of Ballydoyle left nine in for the Curragh's Abu Dhabi 2000 Guineas on Saturday.

O'Brien's Steinbeck heads the betting with Boylesports at 5/2 following his narrow defeat behind stable companion Beethoven in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October, his last public appearance having gone without a prep run for Saturday's feature.

Five remain in from across the Irish Sea and that quintet is headed by the Richard Hannon-trained Canford Cliffs who was a fast finishing third in the English equivalent at Newmarket earlier this month.

Hannon, who won last Saturday's feature with Paco Boy, will have the assistance of Richard Hughes as he bids for a third win in the race, and the trainer was quietly confident about his chances. "Canford Cliffs has been fine since Newmarket, and we hope that he will show everyone in Ireland what a good horse he really is," said Hannon.


"We know what he can do on the gallops, and Royal Ascot racegoers saw for themselves in last year's Coventry. But you want them to do it again in their Classic season, and, though things did not go to script at Newbury (in the Greenham) or Newmarket, he is in great nick and we can't wait for the race."

Hannon also remarked on the impressive record of British runners landing Ireland's opening Classic with Cockney Rebel the last to bring the honours out of Ireland in 2007 with Aidan O'Brien winning the last two renewals.

Hannon added: "They tell me that the Brits have won six of the last 10 runnings, I hope it will be seven from 11 after Saturday, and that our fellow is the one bringing home the trophy. We think Canford Cliffs is a star, and let's hope he can prove it."

The Clive Cox-trained Xtension ran a blinder on his first run of the season to finish fourth in the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and while he does have ground to make up on the aforementioned third place Canford Cliffs, Cox is delighted with the preparations and the ground conditions at the Curragh.

Cox said: "I'm pleased we've not got the benefit of a run under our belts now. The ground in Ireland looks as if it's going to be good at the moment with a warmer forecast as well, so we are looking forward to travelling over.

"We've been very happy with him all the way through. He had trained really well prior to the English Guineas. It's going to be a very hot race as you'd expect for a Group One.

"We've got every race covered with him and our next step is the most important one at the moment and we'll take it from there," he concluded.

Another lively contender is the Tommy Stack-trained Noll Wallop who is a course and distance winner from his juvenile season and set himself up for a tilt at this by claiming the 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown as Tommy and son Fozzy bid to complement a magnificent start to the season with a winner at the highest level.

Jim Bolger supplemented Kitty Kiernan for the curtain raiser, the Group 3 Greenland Stakes, for which she will face a maximum of 16 rivals including Air Chief Marshall, Alfred Nobel and Rain Delayed, who were amongst the five-day entries.

2000 Guineas, Boylesports bet: 5/2 Steinbeck, 3/1 Canford Cliffs, 5/1 Xtension, 7/1 Fencing Master, 7/1 Noll Wallop, 8/1 Keredari, 12/1 Jan Vermeer, 20/1 Viscount Nelson, 25/1 Dynasty, 25/1 Free Judgment, 25/1 Shintoh, 33/1 Bar, E/W 1/4 1, 2, 3.