Noll looks the value bet to wallop rivals
Do we stick with the tried and trusted, or do we search for something new? That's the question surrounding the outcome to the Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas (3.45) at The Curragh this afternoon.
In the tried-and-trusted corner are four horses which are closely matched on form. Precious little separates Canford Cliffs, Xtension and Fencing Master on their running in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas three weeks ago. And Steinbeck, a scant nose behind Fencing Master in last season's Dewhurst, is plainly in their orbit.
The formbook declares Canford Cliffs to be narrowly the best of them. Richard Hannon's colt had a length in hand of Xtension at Newmarket, with Fencing Master a further length in arrears. Yet Xtension and Fencing Master, both of which lacked the benefit of a recent run, are entitled to come forward here.
The equation is further complicated by Steinbeck's obvious potential. He raced a shade too freely in the Dewhurst after a five-month break from his debut victory, and ended up isolated on the unfavoured stands' rail. Johnny Murtagh prefers him to Fencing Master and it's easy to envisage him improving on those bare bones.
Whether he can find upwards of two and a half lengths to match Canford Cliffs is debatable, however. Yet Canford Cliffs himself looks vulnerable after the way he flattened out close to home at Newmarket. Stop that race at the furlong pole and Canford Cliffs is long odds-on to win it. Yet he comes up short, very much in the manner of one which finds a mile beyond his optimum trip.
For these reasons, it could pay to strike them all out for the promise of something new. Keredari has claims, although his runaway score last time was gained on ground very different to the fast surface he encounters today. So the vote goes to Noll Wallop, which quickened like a smart one when winning his trial last month.
That form places Tommy Stack's colt just below the level established by the tried and trusted, and he is on an upward curve. Noll Wallop won with authority at Leopardstown, when the ground was soft, but connections have always maintained that the son of High Chaparral will be at his best on a quicker surface. He will have those very conditions today.
maiden has class to spring surprise
On a fascinating weekend at The Curragh, Stack saddles a similar sort to Noll Wallop in tomorrow's Etihad Irish 1,000 Guineas (4.15) via the unbeaten Lolly For Dolly. There's simply no telling how good she may be, but it's an obvious source of concern that the inexperienced Oratorio filly faces 18 opponents in a helter-skelter renewal.
Nor can we be sure of the merits of the Newmarket equivalent, when heavy rain handed a distinct advantage to low-drawn runners which raced close to the stands' rail. Gile Na Greine was among them: she was denied by a nose and a head, yet Music Show, beaten a further five and a half lengths after racing down the unfavoured centre of the course, is preferred by the layers today.
At 7/2, Music Show disputes favouritism with Anna Salai, a recent Godolphin recruit from France with smart form in the book. At the respective odds, however, it is worth taking an each-way chance with Blue Maiden, about which 20/1 is freely available.
This one finished just a half-length behind Music Show at Newmarket last month after losing her pitch and closing with an eye-catching flourish. And while she finished further behind Music Show in the 1,000 Guineas, she would not have cared for the rain-lashed surface. Back on faster ground, and with Kieren Fallon aboard, Blue Maiden can spring a surprise.
On the same card, Jan Vermeer attempts to book his Epsom Derby ticket in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes (2.40), but he faces an opponent of equal promise in Shintoh. Furthermore, the Jim Bolger-trained son of Giant's Causeway is bang in form.