Friday 23 March 2018

Maarek set for Curragh switch

Maarek could be set to run with Evanna McCutcheon at the Curragh on Saturday. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Maarek could be set to run with Evanna McCutcheon at the Curragh on Saturday. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

After saddling Maarek to claim a high-profile debut win at York, fledgling handler Evanna McCutcheon could bid for more glory with her crack sprinter at the Curragh on Saturday.

McCutcheon, whose father Peter heads the Lisbunny Syndicate that owns the prolific seven-year-old, only had her first runners as a licenced trainer in February.

She had worked closely with Maarek's previous handlers David Nagle and Barry Lalor, and her decision to go it alone at her Fethard, Co Tipperary base reaped a fine dividend when last year's Prix de l'Abbaye hero bounced back to its best after four defeats to claim York's six-furlong Clipper Logistics Stakes last week.

That £56,710 Group Two pot took his earnings beyond the €1m mark, a sensational feat for the 12-time winner that cost a paltry €2,500 as an unraced three-year-old out of John Gosden's yard in 2010.

McCutcheon subsequently suggested that Maarek would head to Royal Ascot for either or both of the King's Stand Stakes (five furlongs) and Golden Jubilee (six furlongs), but the prospect of unsuitably fast ground for her renowned mudlark has given her good cause for a rethink.

The official going at the Curragh ahead of the two-day Guineas festival is currently being given as yielding, so a tilt at the €65,000 Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes is now being considered.

"We've not ruled it out," McCutcheon said of the six-furlong Group Three. "There's very little rain forecast before Ascot when you look at the long-range forecasts – there could be some warm weather.

"He has come out of York fine and there's a bit of rain forecast at the end of this week at the Curragh, which would suit him down to the ground.

"Whether he runs this week or not will not affect whether he goes to Ascot – there's still plenty of time. There's a race in France for him in early June but that might be a bit close. The way he won at York, giving a lot of weight to a Group One winner, you'd have to say it was one of his best runs."

The Greenlands has gone for export each of the past five years, but Maarek is one of a number of classy speedballs that have revitalised the Irish sprinting division.

Eddie Lynam's Slade Power, which won the Champions Sprint at Ascot in October that Maarek won in 2012, is a possible starter, likewise his unexposed stablemate Viztoria, which finished third in the Ascot Group Two.

Aidan O'Brien, the last Irish-based handler to win the Greenlands in 2008, has five to choose from, including Darwin and the exciting Guerre, conqueror of Maarek at Naas last time. Dermot Weld could run his smart 2,000 Guineas entry Alkasser, while Kevin Ryan's Hamza, second to Slade Power and Dutch Masterpiece at the track last August, is the sole cross-channel entrant this time.

O'Brien, of course, is also the only domiciled trainer to get his name on the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas roll of honour since his Ballydoyle predecessor and namesake Vincent won with Prince Of Birds in 1988. John Gosden's Newmarket runner-up Kingman is odds-on to send it for export once more and deny O'Brien a 10th win in the race with a team likely to be led by War Command. Gosden's Invincible Spirit colt is owned by Khalid Abdullah, whose racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe is upbeat about the prospect of his securing a first Group One triumph in the €300,000 showpiece.

"He was broken-in over in Ireland so he's not going to be a total stranger," Grimthorpe said of the issue of Kingman having to cross the water. "I wouldn't be too concerned about that.

"I don't think anyone would want to see it being run in a bog, but he certainly won't mind any juice in the ground – in fact I'm sure he'll relish it. He came out of the race at Newmarket very well and has trained straightforwardly and worked very nicely on Saturday on the Limekilns."

Meanwhile, 39 jockeys involved in the controversial start of the Aintree Grand National will discover if they were in breach of the rules of racing at a hearing on June 11.

A British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel will determine whether the riders "attempted to line up and/or take a position for the start before being instructed to do so by the starter".

The penalty guideline recommended by the BHA is a one-day suspension, but there will be no disciplinary action against any jockey who refused to attend the completion of the original inquiry at Aintree.

Irish Independent

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