Sport Horse Racing

Monday 20 August 2018

Flag-bearer O'Brien can make it a dozen

O’Brien looks to collect his 12th Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh today. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
O’Brien looks to collect his 12th Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh today. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

All eyes will be on Aidan O'Brien as the Ballydoyle maestro looks to collect his 12th Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (4.10) at the Curragh today and the first Irish Classic of the season is filled with intrigue.

English 2,000 Guineas fifth Roaring Lion advertised the strength of Saxon Warrior's form when romping home in the Dante last week and now the horses which finished either side of him at Newmarket get their chance to shine.

Mark Johnston's Elarqam was fourth on the Rowley Mile with O'Brien's Gustav Klimt just over a length and a quarter back in sixth but it would be no surprise if that form was turned on its head on this occasion.

The Ballydoyle contingent are rarely at their best for their season-openers so improvement is expected and Elarqam is not a punting prospect at a shade of odds against given O'Brien's monopoly of this race with seven of the last ten winners.

Gustav Klimt looked the first choice for Newmarket before Saxon Warrior scorched to success but Ryan Moore's decision to partner stablemate US NAVY FLAG is significant after the pair stumbled with three furlongs to race in the French 2,000 Guineas.

Beaten just three lengths in fifth, Moore obviously feels there's a lot more to come from the son of War Front - which is officially rated 1lb superior to English raider Elarqam and 4lbs better than Gustav Klimt.

A dual Group One scorer last season in a busy two-year-old campaign - winning the Middle Park Stakes and the Dewhurst - Moore's mount will love the quick ground and can make it a perfect dozen for his trainer in the €400,000 showpiece.

Of the others, the unbeaten Zihba is of interest for Fozzy Stack and Chris Hayes but might be just short of this grade, while it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for maiden Would Be King to make the frame at a big price for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane.

A brilliant eight-race card also sees Australian recruit Merchant Navy tackle the Group Two Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes (3.35) for O'Brien after winning five of his eight runs Down Under, including once at the highest level.

While Moore has sided with him over stable companions Spirit Of Valor and Intelligence Cross, it would be a surprise to see the three-year-old score on his Irish debut and William Haggas' TASLEET is marginally preferred over another English challenger Brando for Kevin Ryan.

Second in three of his last four runs - all of which were Group One fare - Tasleet is an ultra-consistent sort and the slight drop in class should see him go close in the hands of Jim Crowley.

The other Group Two sees HYDRANGEA make her reappearance in the Lanwades Stud Stakes (4.45). Having chased home Winter for most of last season, the daughter of Galileo came good towards the latter end of the season winning on Champions Day at Ascot.

With nearly a stone in hand to her nearest rivals, anything other than a smooth success would be a surprise but Dermot Weld's Making Light can make a decent race of it.

Michael O'Callaghan has two promising sorts with Evasive Power and Recon Mission in the Listed Cold Move Irish EBF Marble Hill Stakes (3.0) but VAN BEETHOVEN can hit the right note for O'Brien and Moore.

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