Sunday 22 April 2018

Lolly can cash in for Stack


No sooner has the euphoria of the Cheltenham Festival died down, than the flag is raised on the Irish Flat season at The Curragh today.

You might argue it's a bit early for two-year-olds, five-furlong handicaps and Group races, but Aidan O'Brien and company have been quietly getting their strings ready over the past few months, and with just six weeks to the Newmarket Guineas races, it's full steam ahead from today.

It was at this stage last season that the talk was all about one horse, Ballydoyle's St Nicholas Abbey. And it's a similar story this time round, with Henry Cecil's Frankel seemingly the next superstar in waiting.

Of our own, Jessica Harrington, fresh from the ultimate up and down feeling in racing at last week's Festival, will be looking forward to sending out Pathfork, another potentially top-class three-year-old. A winner of all three of his starts last season, the son of Distorted Humor, like Frankel, looks to be the real deal and is the pick of the Irish classic generation at this early stage.

Today, we have enough in a quality card at The Curragh to whet the appetite, with the Group Three Park Express Stakes and a typical ultra-competitive Irish Lincolnshire the highlights.

The Park Express Stakes, a one-mile race for fillies and mares, looks like a fine opportunity for Tommy Stack's Lolly For Dolly to get off the mark early in the season. The four-year-old daughter of Oratorio won the Group Three Athasi Stakes in the early stages of last season, and wasn't far off Bethrah here in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

Stack traditionally has his string more than ready early in the season and especially at this meeting. He trained the first four winners here last season and he's represented by one of those, Blue Dahlia, in the six-furlong handicap today.

Perhaps the most interesting contender is Kevin Prendergast's Termagant, which hasn't been seen since a disappointing run in the Guineas last season. She looked like a very promising prospect as a two-year-old, winning the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes. Soft ground may be the key to her and it will be interesting to see how she goes today.

The Lincoln sees a strong challenge from British trainers. The pick of the four raiders could well be Richard Fahey's Our Joe Mac, which showed good form in winning a decent handicap at Haydock last season.

Any sort of soft ground would be in his favour and he showed a willing enough attitude last season to suggest he could be well up to winning a decent race like this.

Of the home team, Photo Opportunity looks to have a leading chance for Dermot Weld. The son of Zamindar ran a cracker to finish fourth to Hujaylea in the September Handicap on only his second ever run.

Jessica Harrington is represented by Gimli's Rock, which is bound to be fitter than most of these given that he has been running over hurdles, and looks like one with a decent chance.

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