| 17.5°C Dublin

Fort Knox napped to put Murtagh in the money

Close

DUBLIN, IRELAND - APRIL 14: Johnny Murtagh riding Fort Knox win The Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown racecourse on April 14, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

DUBLIN, IRELAND - APRIL 14: Johnny Murtagh riding Fort Knox win The Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown racecourse on April 14, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Getty Images

DUBLIN, IRELAND - APRIL 14: Johnny Murtagh riding Fort Knox win The Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown racecourse on April 14, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The gambled-on Magician remains the bookmakers' favourite to carry Joseph O'Brien to a third successive Irish 2,000 Guineas victory at the Curragh this afternoon, just two days after the towering champion jockey turned 20 years of age.

In 2011 and 2012, O'Brien scorched to glory on Roderic O'Connor and Power, both horses having warmed up with woeful turns at Newmarket. Magician, on the other hand, burst readily clear of his Dee Stakes rivals over 10 furlongs at Chester last time.

The Galileo colt is still an unknown quantity, and, in reverting to a mile, he is trying to achieve something that no winner of this €300,000 Group One has achieved in recent times. Time will tell if he is up to the task in the Tattersalls-sponsored Classic, but he is one of many Ballydoyle colts to have already vanquished their juvenile form.

Aidan O'Brien saddles four in his bid for a remarkable ninth triumph, with George Vancouver out to emulate Roderic O'Connor and Power by leaving behind a dismal Newmarket run. Gale Force Ten and Flying The Flag come here on the back of defeat in the French equivalent, Gale Force Ten's determined fourth there no bad effort.

Incredibly, since 1987, the Guineas has either gone to Ballydoyle or for export and the Richard Hannon-trained pair Havana Gold and Van Der Neer have the potential to land another blow for the raiders.

Jim Bolger tries for his first win with the Dante runner-up Trading Leather, but it is a uniquely ambitious fledgling trainer that might end the non-Ballydoyle drought for Irish handlers in the prestigious event.

Johnny Murtagh, who also saddles outsider Ask Dad, kicks off his new career on the big stage with Fort Knox, after formally taking over from Tommy Carmody.

CREDIT

As we have seen over the last year, the Pollardstown stable is going places in a hurry and Fort Knox didn't get the credit he deserved for last month's Leopardstown trial win.

A facile maiden victor for Hannon last year, he was ridden like a good horse by Murtagh at the Foxrock venue and duly picked up to score going away. Granted, he may not have beaten anything special and he isn't in Dawn Approach's league, but the manner of his victory suggested that he could yet prove extremely smart.

That is something that Sheikh Mohammed also recognised, as evidenced by his recent acquisition of the son of Dubawi, which won this in the Godolphin blue eight years ago.

Today's forecast quick ground is the one significant unknown for Fort Knox. On the assumption that he will cope adequately, he is trusted to justify nap status by getting the unlikely new partnership off to a flyer under the double-jobbing Murtagh.

With the ground as it is, Maarek is opposable in the Weatherbys Greenlands Stakes. Again, since 2006, this Group Three sprint has gone to Rosegreen or England, with last year's winner Tiddliwinks one of three raiders among the 17-strong line-up.

Eddie Lynam's Slade Power might buck the trend. Wayne Lordan's mount is a fast ground-lover that improved to win three times last term, and he ran an encouraging race when not beaten far behind Maarek on soft going at Ascot in October.

He needs to step up again, but he is an unexposed four-year-old that has the scope to do so if Lynam has chosen to wind him up for this.

Others that appeal on the excellent eight-race spread at headquarters are Ger Lyons' Lily's Angel and Burn The Boats, which is fancied in the mile handicap after catching the eye at Newbury a week ago.

Recent Lingfield winner Lily's Angel faces a stiff task in the Group Three Abu Dhabi Stakes. However, she is a game, consistent mare, and has more than a fighting chance against a number of less resolute rivals under the ever-impressive Gary Carroll.

Irish Independent