Found ready to show just why she heads Oaks market
In-form Ryan Moore flies in to ride Ballydoyle's fancied 1,000 Guineas defector Found in the Athasi Stakes on this afternoon's Curragh bank holiday spread.
It isn't a bad renewal of the €75,000 seven-furlong Group Three, but the ante-post Oaks favourite should still be good enough to give Aidan O'Brien his first win in the race since 2004.
Tommy Stack's Alive Alive Oh sports first-time blinkers having run well to be second to Fascinating Rock on its Leopardstown reappearance, while Dermot Weld's ready Cork winner Shahzeena has the scope to progress into a very useful filly.
However, Found is likely to be among the smartest three-year-old fillies in Ballydoyle this season. Successful at headquarters on her debut in August, she emerged with plenty of credit when a close third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes on just her second start, running greenly behind Cursory Glance and Lucida, with Osaila and Qualify among those behind her.
She then progressed to storm home in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp, Group One form that makes her stand out in this company. Granted, seven furlongs in deep ground probably isn't ideal, but O'Brien clearly feels this is a suitable starting point for Found as he strives to get a race into her ahead of Epsom.
O'Brien has no runner in the Mooresbridge Stakes, a Group Three that he has been unbeaten in since 2010 with odds-on shots Fame And Glory, So You Think, Camelot and Magician, as well as 66/1 shot Windsor Palace in 2012, when St Nicholas Abbey was turned over. Instead, Moore partners Stack's Waltzing Matilda, which John Magnier shares with Paul Shanahan.
Jim Bolger's rock-steady Parish Hall is a real player, but Fascinating Rock is trusted to build on his Leopardstown triumph for Weld and Pat Smullen in this. The Fastnet Rock colt left behind a couple of disappointing Derby outings to win in style over what was an inadequate mile trip on his reappearance. He handles testing ground well and returns to what is possibly his optimum trip of 10 furlongs, so he could take some stopping.
In the Listed Tetrarch Stakes, Moore and O'Brien combine for The Warrior. The Exceed And Excel colt ran a fair race recently when a staying-on third in a competitive Newmarket event over six furlongs, so this step up to seven should help his cause.
Weld's Tombelaine - second to Gleneagles and John F Kennedy last year - is another with great potential, but Endless Drama might be one to keep on side for now. A facile winner on his Naas debut in the autumn, Ger Lyons' son of Lope De Vega found only Weld's Derby prospect Zawraq too strong in Leopardstown's Guineas trial.
That was a solid performance, so Endless Drama is fancied to overcome the drop to seven furlongs under Gary Carroll. In the juvenile winners' race, Lyons' Blood Moon, which beat the subsequent runaway winner Washington DC on its Dundalk debut, is a live contender, though State Of Emergency gets the nod for Michael O'Callaghan.
Emmet McNamara's mount made light of similarly deep ground when overcoming trouble in running to win here back in March, form that has been franked by the runner-up Bebhinn since winning with real ease.
The day's nap vote goes to Iffraja in the concluding six-furlong maiden.
While this is wide-open, Eddie Lynam's son of Iffraaj caught the eye when third here to Penny Pepper on his seasonal bow, having run once last term. If he builds on that now for Wayne Lordan, he is going to be hard to beat.
At Down Royal, Flaxen Flare is the star name on duty. Gordon Elliott's 2013 Cheltenham Festival hero tackles seven others in the beginners' chase on his fencing bow. With Davy Condon now retired, Barry O'Neill takes over, and the experienced amateur would be as good as most professionals for the job of introducing a horse to this job.
The partnership should collect, though the same duo are taken on in the conditions hurdle when they combine for Knight's Parade. Preferred in this is Tony Martin's Marinero.
Ruby Walsh takes over on the Gigginstown Stud runner, which fell at the last when in contention at Aintree. The son of Presenting is top-rated of six here and should justify that status.