O'Brien's Queen scares off raiders
Mick Channon's Samitar is the sole remaining British entry in either of Sunday's two Group One races at the Curragh.
Given that there is over €500,000 in cumulative prize money on offer for the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, such a cool overseas response will no doubt be a source of great disappointment to sponsors and the racecourse executive.
With ground conditions forecast to be perfect for Flat racing, why two prestigious and generously endowed contests have essentially been ignored by the international community is a question for another day, but the potency of the home challenge doubtless has something to do with it.
Since 2008, both feature events have been shared exclusively by either a Coolmore-owned or Dermot Weld-trained representative and these two venerable institutions are again to the fore.
Ballydoyle's Homecoming Queen, a runaway winner of the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, was initially installed the 6/4 favourite by Paddy Power yesterday to confirm that 25/1 triumph was no fluke in Sunday's Irish equivalent.
However, she was soon clipped to 5/4, with Aidan O'Brien also responsible for the second-favourite Maybe, last year's Moyglare Stakes heroine that suffered a first defeat when third at Newmarket.
Weld's Dr Ronan Lambe-owned Yellow Rosebud, successful in the Guineas trial at Leopardstown on her reappearance, is next best at 10/3 for the one-mile Classic.
Following Ger Lyons' announcement that Lightening Pearl will instead wait to drop in trip at York in July, it is 7/1 or more about Kevin Prendergast's La Collina, fifth at Newmarket, and other Ballydoyle contenders After and Devotion. Samitar is available at up to 20/1.
The Tattersalls Gold Cup has gone the way of four long odds-on shots in the past six years and a desperately one-sided book again seems likely. So You Think, a ready winner at odds of 1/7 in 2011, is one of six Ballydoyle entries among a potential maximum of nine.
St Nicholas Abbey, twice a runner-up since scorching to victory under Joseph O'Brien at the Breeders' Cup in November, also features, though he is expected to try for back-to-back Coronation Cup triumphs at Epsom on Friday week instead.
Weld's seven-year-old Famous Name, third last year, would be the only semblance of a threat to the Ballydoyle contingent were he to go in search of an elusive first Group One win.
Saturday's Abu Dhabi 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh is set to attract a weighty foreign challenge. Hermival, which led home the far-side group when third to Camelot in the Newmarket equivalent, has been confirmed an intended runner by his French handler Mikael Delzangles, and will be joined by Trumpet Major, fourth at Newmarket for Richard Hannon, as well as Bryan Smart's Foxtrot Romeo.
"He's going to travel," Delzangles said of Hermival, which vies for favouritism at 5/1 for the colts' Classic with Jim Bolger's Parish Hall.
"It was a very good run at Newmarket. He did nearly two furlongs on his own on the far side and for an inexperienced horse like him, it was a bit difficult. He did his last piece of work on Monday and everything went well."
Meanwhile, senior jumps handicappers have allotted Kauto Star the highest steeplechase rating for a fourth time in six years, and a seventh in all.
The 2011/2012 Anglo Irish Classifications reveal that the 12-year-old knocked his old foe Long Run off the top spot after an awe-inspiring season that saw him claim a fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock and a record fifth King George VI Chase at Kempton.
His rating of 180 was 12lb more than that which the ill-fated Gold Cup winner Synchronised earned, while Sizing Europe (172) relinquished his top two-mile status to his Cheltenham conqueror Finian's Rainbow (173).
Willie Mullins' Hurricane Fly (170) shared the honours in the two-mile hurdling division with the Champion Hurdle victor Rock On Ruby.
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