Lyons aims for high notes with classy Cappella
Ger Lyons will strive to cement his growing reputation by landing a breakthrough Classic triumph with Cappella Sansevero in the 2,000 Guineas or its Irish equivalent.
The Co Meath-based handler secured his sole Group One victory when Lightening Pearl won the 2011 Cheveley Park Stakes for Johnny Murtagh.
He has since continued to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with, signing off last year with a personal best tally of 48 wins for an impressive 20pc strike-rate, finishing behind only Messrs O'Brien, Weld and Bolger in the trainers' table in terms of winners trained and prize money earned.
With Lightening Pearl's increasingly influential owner Fahad Al Thani sending Lyons more and more horses under the Qatar Racing banner, he could become a serious player at the highest level in years to come. Cappella Sansevero was their best 2014 juvenile.
A close third in the Group One Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August, the Showcasing colt won for a fourth time when taking a Group Three back at headquarters next time, before flashing home to be fourth behind Charming Thought in the Middle Park Stakes over six furlongs at Newmarket.
Cappella Sansevero has yet to run over further, but he is in the Rowley Mile's opening Classic on May 2 and the domestic version three weeks later.
""He has really developed," Lyons said. "I made a mistake with him last year - I should have gone for the Dewhurst with him, and not the Middle Park. He was only getting going at the end of the Middle Park, so the Dewhurst was the race for him.
"He could go straight for the Guineas, either the English or the Irish. It's probably unlikely he will have a prep run. The Guineas will tell us where we go after that, but I've always been adamant he's a Group One horse. He has a great temperament and he's gorgeous to look at."
Cappella Sansevero is as big as 50/1 to become the third Irish-trained winner of the Newmarket contest in four years, with Ballydoyle's Gleneagles a strong market leader at 7/2.
Dermot Weld's Zawraq trades at half Cappella Sansevero's odds for Newmarket, though the Curragh handler is taking a more gradual approach with his once-raced Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt. Zawraq beat Aidan O'Brien's highly regarded Sir Isaac Newton on its Leopardstown bow in October, and Weld told an At The Races stable tour that he has the course's April 12 Classic trial in mind.
"He's after doing very well over the winter," he said of the colt. "He's like a middleweight boxer - powerful and athletic. He has a great mind too, very laid-back. Good ground will suit him.
"He'll start off in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and that will tell us a lot about where we need to go with him. If he won the trial we'd have to seriously consider Newmarket for him, but if he was beaten and looked like he wanted further, we'd probably come back and run in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown."
Weld added that his Gold Cup favourite Forgotten Rules would return in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on May 17, and that Free Eagle had the Curragh's Tattersalls Gold Cup as a target a week later en route to marquee events like the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
"He'd compare very well with any top-class horse I've had," he gushed of the unexposed four-year-old.
Meanwhile, Willie Mullins has confirmed that Ruby Walsh will partner his Grand National entry Ballycasey.
At Ffos Las yesterday, Flintham continued a magical month for the Mark Bradstock stable when landing the staying handicap hurdle. A half-brother to Gold Cup hero Coneygree, the 11/4 shot was always prominent under 5lb-claimer Sean Bowen and looks another decent chasing prospect for the yard after galloping seven lengths clear at the line.