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Excelebration can show star quality

As the Ballydoyle juggernaut continues to gather pace ahead of the first Classics of the year in a fortnight's time, Excelebration can crank things up another notch at the Curragh tomorrow.

An immensely exciting acquisition by the Coolmore conglomerate that has the potential to go right to the very top over a mile, the Exceed And Excel four-year-old makes its debut for Aidan O'Brien in the Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes under the trainer's son Joseph.

Throughout his six-race three-year-old campaign for Marco Botti, Excelebration's only defeats came when he finished second to Frankel in the Greenham and the QEII and third behind Henry Cecil's superstar in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

In between, he hacked up by seven lengths in the German 2,000 Guineas, did likewise in a Group Two at Newbury in August, before gaining a deserved Group One in the Moulin at Longchamp.

At this point, he stands out as the best mile prospect among O'Brien's older horses and even has the scope to be the Rosegreen handler's smartest older horse, bar none.

Dandy Nicholls travels Beacon Lodge, second to Excelebration in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, but none of the five challengers should prevent this €60,000 Group Three going to O'Brien for just a second time following Giant's Causeway's win 12 years ago.

With plenty of the all-powerful stable's horses clearly needing a run, considering the way so many have lately progressed to score at the second or third time of asking, the lack of a previous outing might be a concern if the gulf in class wasn't so great.

ability

A similar comment applies to Nephrite in the Anne Brewster Memorial Loughbrown Stakes. Nephrite's stablemate Requisition, Willie McCreery's recent course and distance winner Coolnagree and Michael Mulvany's once-promising Tough As Nails obviously all have ability.

Nonetheless, it was Nephrite that produced a telling turn of foot to foil Born To Sea at Leopardstown in October. Bred for sprinting, the son of Pivotal is as low as 8/1 for the 2,000 Guineas, so this seven-furlong Listed event should be within his range on his reappearance.

Infanta Branca, second in the race that Thursday's Tipperary winner Katchy Lady finished fourth in on its Cork debut, can get the day off on the right foot for the Ballydoyle team in the opening juvenile maiden, while Ansaab is napped in the Finlay's For Volvo Handicap.

The top five in the weights in this nine-runner contest all have chances of some sort, with autumn scorers Park Ranger and Midnight Music probably the most potent threats to the selection.

A winner over tomorrow's 10-furlong trip at Dundalk in October for Kevin Prendergast and Declan McDonogh, Ansaab was a creditable second to Sharestan in the Irish Lincoln on his seasonal bow. Given how close Sharestan ran Famous Name last week, that is solid form.

Earlier Zaminast, ridden by Pat Smullen, can secure Dermot Weld a second successive Alleged Stakes following Unaccompanied's defeat of St Nicholas Abbey in 2011.

David Wachman's Park Express heroine Chrysanthemum is respected but won't find it easy to concede weight to Famous Name's returning half-sister, which won a similar Listed race at Leopardstown in October.

Irish Independent