Curragh date for Soprano
BROG DEAS and Midnight Soprano, two of the season's most improved handicappers, could be pitted against each other in elevated company at the Curragh on Sunday.
On a programme that is being utilised to promote trade links between Ireland and China, both have been entered in the Coolmore-sponsored Silver Stakes, a €42,000 Listed race that will spearhead proceedings.
While it is a relatively modest prize in the greater scheme of things, it has attracted a number of smart animals among an initial 15-strong entry, and neither Brog Deas nor Midnight Soprano would have had it on their agenda at the season's outset. Having finished 12th of 30 in a Curragh maiden on his Curragh reappearance for Pat Flynn, the three-year-old Brog Deas went on to land a Gowran Park handicap off a mark of just 65 on his handicap bow.
He has since completed a hat-trick under Danny Grant, boasts a revised rating of 91, and now has the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot as a potential target.
Paul Deegan has revealed no such grand plan for his prolific mare Midnight Soprano -- which also has the option of the Saval Beg at Leopardstown on Friday -- other than to acquire a bit of valuable black type to smarten her pedigree. Latterly successful off 91 at headquarters on Guineas weekend, the five-year-old landed her first handicap off 80, with four wins on the spin leaving her on a lofty 100 now.
Neither horse owes their respective connections anything, but a Listed triumph would further embellish their intriguing success stories.
Standing in their way might be the Ballydoyle bandwagon, with last year's Royal Ascot winner Await The Dawn, the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial runner-up Tower Rock and former smart two-year-old Learn all engaged.
Poet, which began its career with Aidan O'Brien but represents Clive Cox these days, is a possible British raider.
David Wachman has put in the hat-trick-seeking Tannery, John Oxx has engaged his Irish Lincoln hero Sharestan, while Dermot Weld has given last year's smart three-year-old Sapphire the option of making her reappearance in the 10-furlong contest.
The Curragh has also announced that Dubai Duty Free will extend its sponsorship of the Irish Derby for a further three years. One of the world's leading airport retailers, which has Galway-born Colm McLoughlin as its chief executive, Dubai Duty Free has promoted the showpiece Classic since 2008, and has the option of adding another two years beyond the race's 150th anniversary in 2015.
This year's €1.25m Derby will switch from its traditional Sunday slot to a Saturday for a first time since 1987 on June 30, when it is set to form the climax of the card at 7.40.
Meanwhile, Bryan Smart's Foxtrot Romeo, second to Power at odds of 33/1 in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Kildare venue last month, could reoppose the O'Brien-trained colt in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot.