Thursday 14 December 2017

Hermival can prove Power backers wrong

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

In light of what happened last year, it is maybe no surprise that Power is the horse that punters have latched on to ahead of today's Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas.

This time 12 months ago, Roderic O'Connor was the Aidan O'Brien-trained Group One-winning two-year-old that arrived at The Curragh after finishing tailed-off under Ryan Moore in the English edition.

Joseph O'Brien took over, and the horse that led from flag-fall to deliver him a famous triumph was a different beast from the one that ran at Newmarket.

Roll the clock forward, and it is Power, the 2011 National Stakes hero, that tailed off on the Rowley Mile under Moore.

Sure enough, the trainer's recently-turned 19-year-old son steps in again now, and the money that has seen the Oasis Dream colt halve in price from 8/1 to 4/1 since Tuesday would suggest that his seasonal debut should not be taken at face value.

Power's stablemate Wrote, victorious at the Breeders' Cup in November but twice beaten over 10 furlongs since, also reverts to a mile under Seamie Heffernan, while the Kentucky Derby flop Daddy Long Legs (Colm O'Donoghue) and Reply (Fran Berry) complete a four-strong Ballydoyle contingent.

Given that the quartet represent the only Irish-based handler to win the prestigious €300,000 feature since 1989, you couldn't discount any one of them supplying O'Brien with what would be his eighth win in the first domestic Classic.

The remaining four local contenders in the 11-runner contest are headed by Parish Hall, which looked set to shade overnight favouritism.

Beaten three times in Group company after landing a Leopardstown maiden last term, Jim Bolger's Teofilo colt accounted for Power when taking the Dewhurst on his last start in October, and he will relish this fast ground.

A durable sort that Bolger hopes to run in the Derby next Saturday, he could well be up to making a successful reappearance in a renewal that, on paper at least, looks far from vintage.

Born To Sea, one of two John Oxx representatives alongside the Johnny Murtagh-ridden Takar, sports a first-time hood, having ruined his chance at Newmarket by racing freely.

A three-parts brother to Sea The Stars, Pat Smullen's partner remains a horse of some potential.

However, the three-strong foreign challenge is significant, with Hermival and Trumpet Major, third and fourth respectively behind Camelot at Newmarket, of most interest.

Hailing from a yard that has won this three times before, Trumpet Major, a ready winner of the Craven Stakes first time up, demands serious respect for Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes.

On the other hand, Hermival had his measure in the Guineas, and is taken to shade this for the upwardly mobile French operator Mikel Delzangles and jockey Gregory Benoist.

A staying-on third to the Guineas runner-up French Fifteen over seven furlongs in the Prix Djebel in April, his Newmarket third confirmed that line of form definitively.

Indeed, given that Hermival led home a small group that was perceived to be at a disadvantage on the far side, that performance was all the more creditable, so victory here would not be undeserved.

In the TRI Equestrian Stakes that follows, Oxx's Alanza is passed over in favour of Dermot Weld's Emulous.

A total of nine do battle for this Group Three contest, but the other eight have bundles to find on official figures.


While Alanza won three pattern races on the spin last term, she came up well short when pitched into Group One company for the Falmouth Stakes in September.

Emulous made a similar leap when going from two Group Three wins to a tilt at the Matron Stakes a few weeks earlier, though that was a task that she proved equal to in ready fashion.

With Nephrite out of the Greenlands Stakes, Cecil Ross' Six Of Hearts is a tentative fancy to keep that Group Three sprint at home for just a second time in nine runnings, while the selection's rider Sam James can double up on Gunner Lindley in the mile handicap.

Infanta Branca, meanwhile, gets the nod for Ballydoyle in the Marble Hill.

Jessica Harrington's Liberating, which had both Infanta Branca and Katchy Lady behind when obliging on its Cork debut in April, will doubtless prove a formidable opponent in this.

Nonetheless, the evidence of Infanta Branca's subsequent course-and-distance win suggested that he had improved significantly for his first outing.

If he maintains that rate of progression now, he is the one they all have to beat.

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