Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ballydoyle to strike on Curragh's return

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile

Thomas Kelly

There's a welcome return to racing at the Curragh today when headquarters puts its ongoing refurbishments on hold for the first of a two-day weekend meeting.

Aidan O'Brien has been carrying all before him in the big races on both sides of the Irish Sea this past week and he should be among the winners again, with U S Navy Flag taken to follow up on his eye-catching debut at Naas in a juvenile maiden over six furlongs.

In the following six-furlong handicap for three-year-olds, O'Brien and jockey Seamie Heffernan could well complete a quickfire double with the help of Alphabet. This daughter of Lawman won a maiden at Naas before finishing fourth in a decent Listed contest at Navan.

The O'Brien filly appears to be on an upward curve and despite carrying the steadier of 9-10, she looks to have enough scope for improvement to deny the Jim Bolger-trained Treaty Of Vienna.

The Ballydoyle maestro saddles two three-year-olds in the feature, the Blue Wind Stakes over ten furlongs, but neither Butterflies nor Key To My Heart look good enough to land this Listed contest.

Strictly on form, Laganore looks the one to follow here. When Tony Martin's consistent mare finished third to O'Brien's progressive Somehow at Gowran a fortnight ago, she had three of today's rivals - Beautiful Morning (fourth), Creggs Pipes (fifth) and Turret Rocks (sixth) - and Pat Smullen's mount is taken to confirm her superiority.

Smullen should also be on the mark 35 minutes later aboard Night Of Glory in the ten-furlong maiden. Michael O'Callaghan's charge ran a race full of promise on its debut when a fast-finishing second at Navan and can put the experience to good advantage.

Across the water today, O'Brien should land yet another trial when he runs Sir John Lavery in the Betfred Derby Trial at Epsom's topographical twin, Lingfield. He won his Gowran Park maiden by seven lengths on soft ground in October and should enjoy the trip and the unexpected cut in the ground.

There are three English runners in the French 1,000 Guineas at Deauville today. William Haggas has two runners - Cristal Fizz and Sea Of Grace - while Simon Crisford sends Asidious Alexander.

Rivet represents Haggas in tomorrow's French 2,000 Guineas, and will be joined by Andrew Balding's South Seas while Michael Dodds has a rare Classic runner with Kings Gift. Godolphin's Salsabeel (Charlie Appleby) is the fourth British raider. O'Brien has Peace Envoy (Moore) and Orderofthegarter (Seamus Heffernan) engaged.

Tomorrow's action at home takes place at the Curragh, where the first running of the Sole Power Sprint Stakes takes centre stage, and Killarney which stages a jumps card.

The feature at headquarters has attracted seven English raiders, but O'Brien's Acapulco and the Ger Lyons-trained Ardhoomey will put up a strong home defence with preference for the latter which has the benefit of a run this season.

Down in the Kingdom, O'Brien's son Joseph can get punters off to a flying start by landing the opening maiden hurdle with Le Richebourg, a promising runner-up in a Leopardstown bumper back in January.

Elsewhere, the long-absent Solow has been ruled out of a return to Royal Ascot next month with trainer Freddy Head still not happy with his brilliant miler. The seven-year-old enjoyed a spectacular campaign in 2015, claiming Group One victories in the Dubai Turf at Meydan, Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp, Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the QEII back at Ascot.

However, he made just one appearance last season, winning a minor conditions event on the Polytrack at Chantilly in early March, and has not been seen since. Head said: "His progress is slow. He's not that well and we have had a few problems. He's not going to be running in the near future and he won't be going to Ascot."

Irish Independent

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