Sport Horse Racing

Monday 19 February 2018

Cliffs faces O'Brien battalion

Marcus Armytage

AIDAN O'BRIEN has won the last two runnings of the Irish 2,000 Guineas and trains nine of the 20 entries in Saturday's Curragh showpiece as he seeks the hat-trick.

His contingent includes smart two-year-olds Jan Vermeer and Steinbeck, which Paddy Power make their 11/4 favourite, but O'Brien has yet to confirm him as a definite runner.

Richard Hannon, who has now been second in both the English and French 2,000 Guineas with Dick Turpin, attempts to go one better at The Curragh with Canford Cliffs.

In the past, Hannon has plundered the Classic, now sponsored by Abu Dhabi, with Don't Forget Me (1987) and Tirol (1990).

While those two landed the Newmarket equivalent, Canford Cliffs was third to Makfi. "Canford Cliffs has been fine since Newmarket, and we hope he'll show everyone what a good horse he is really is," said Hannon yesterday.

"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 didn't go to script at Newbury (in the Greenham) or Newmarket, he's in great nick and we can't wait for the race.

"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 our fellow is the one bringing home the trophy.

"We think Canford Cliffs is a star, and let's hope he can prove it," he added.

Xtension is another raider making his way across the Irish Sea and his trainer Clive Cox believes his horse will be suited by the course after finishing fourth at Newmarket.

"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," said the Lambourn trainer.

The three other possible British challengers are Ralph Beckett's Oasis Dancer and the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained pair of Morana and Zaahy.

O'Brien, who's seeking a seventh success in the colts' Classic, has entered a team that also includes Fencing Master, Air Chief Marshal, Dynasty, Encompassing, Fighting Brave, Purple Heart and Viscount Nelson.

Ladbrokes last night reported plenty of support for stablemate Fencing Master, which was backed into 5/1 from 8/1. Riding arrangements for the Ballydoyle team will be confirmed later in the week.

Irish 2,000 Guineas betting -- Paddy Power: 11/4 Steinbeck, 3/1 Canford Cliffs, 5/1 Fencing Master, 6/1 Xtension, 10/1 Jan Vermeer, Keredari, Noll Wallop, 20/1 bar.

Irish Independent

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