Gleneagles tops bill at Curragh
The first domestic Classics of the year spearhead what promises to be an enthralling weekend's racing at the Curragh.
Gleneagles is the single most compelling attraction on this afternoon's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas spread.
Aidan O'Brien's talented son of Galileo was sensational in the original of the species at Newmarket and has all the attributes that you would look for in a potential star miler.
The Guineas apart, the two-day meeting has a whole lot more to offer. In today's Group Two Landwades Stud Stakes, Dermot Weld re-introduces Brooch, an unbeaten filly that could develop into a Group One contender.
Precocious two-year-olds Washington DC, State Of Emergency and Round Two put their reputations on the line in the Marble Hill, while the Greenlands features a rare home skirmish between globetrotters Sole Power, Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek.
Throw Weld's 2014 Irish 2,000 Guineas third and Royal Ascot winner Mustajeeb into the mix, and the European Pattern Committee will find it easier to justify upgrading the six-furlong dash to a Group One than not when it convenes later in the summer.
History suggests that the outcome of today's Classic will be one of two things - a triumph for Ballydoyle or a foreign runner.
It is 29 years since something else transpired, and Richard Hannon has conceded which eventuality is likely to ensue after he saddles his Newmarket third Ivawood and the outsider Lexington Times.
"The odds are stacked against us," Hannon admits, "but we think Ivawood has improved again since the Guineas and, though we are not claiming we will beat Gleneagles, who looked a proper horse at Newmarket, we have always loved our fellow."
Ger Lyons and Pat Shanahan are home-based handlers who will vie for their respective first Classic wins today. Tomorrow, Found is another solid market leader for the O'Brien and Moore firm in the 1,000 Guineas.
However, the fillies' version looks that bit more open. Lyons is again represented by Plus Ca Change, and he will be joined in the quest for a Classic breakthrough - unless he secures today's Group One - by Willie McCreery, Mick Halford, Michael O'Callaghan and Jessica Harrington, whose Bocca Baciata and Jack Naylor have been nibbled at in the market all week.
Both have some choice form, so the prospect of Harrington emulating Frances Crowley, who won with the Mick Kinane-ridden Saoire 10 years ago, by becoming just the second female handler to saddle the winner of an Irish Classic is no forlorn hope.
"Bocca Baciata won the Salsabil Stakes so she has just been ticking over since then, just getting her there," Harrington said yesterday.
"Jack Naylor was meant to run in the Blue Wind Stakes about 10 days ago, but the ground was heavy so we didn't run her. I think Bocca is one of those which seems to go on any ground.
"I've never actually worked them together. All Jack's form is good, she beat Legatissimo giving her 5lbs and has also beaten Agnes Stewart, but she hasn't had a run. She's not over-big so I don't think that will worry her. We'll get over this weekend and then plan for the rest of the season."
As O'Brien prepares to trial his final Derby candidate Giovanni Canaletto in today's Gallinule Stakes, he chose to leave Gleneagles in the Epsom contest at the latest forfeit stage.
He has said that the premier Classic is not on the agenda for the colt, but he was left in alongside Giovanni Canaletto, Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro.
Weld's Zawraq is also among the remaining 16. Frankie Dettori will have his first Derby ride since 2011 after it was confirmed that he will take over from William Buick on John Gosden's Dante winner Jack Horn. The 2/1 favourite will be supplemented on June 1, while Buick could be on Gosden's Dante runner-up Jack Hobbs, after Godolphin bought a share in the colt.