Sunday 17 November 2019

Oliver out to build on Cornerstone's success

RONAN GROOME

When the two-year-old calendar is laid out for the year, the Group Two Futurity Stakes at The Curragh at the end of August is a race deserving of red marker.

With a recent alumni list including Cape Blanco, New Approach, Teofilo and Oratorio, and the likes of Hawk Wing, St Jovite and Giant's Causeway on the roster there before, the seven-furlong event has proved a more than useful guide to determining future stars.

Indeed many trainers target the Group Two event as a stepping stone to bigger challenges ahead, with a particular focus on the Group One National Stakes. Seven of the last 10 Futurity winners followed this pattern, with the concluding form line reading 2131132. And rest assured whatever wins the National Stakes next month will go into the winter under scrutiny as a serious 2,000 Guineas contender.

Unfortunately for today's race, the horse that is already under the scrutiny of 2,000 Guineas favouritism, Dawn Approach, was scratched at the declaration stage on Friday due to the soft ground. That said, today's feature event is still full of intrigue with Aidan O'Brien responsible for three of the five runners.

Nevis, the choice of Joseph O'Brien, looked as straightforward as he did impressive when winning at Leopardstown in what may well become known as the 'Camelot' maiden in future seasons. It was a promising sign of his progression, as the son of Dansili looked a bit green on his debut.

Kingston Jamaica looked tough at Leopardstown on his previous run but there could be a lot more to come from Flying The Flag which, in contrast to Nevis, looked anything but straightforward during his debut, yet still managed to overcome a useful yardstick in Einstein's Folly. The son of Galileo could be a tough nut to crack.

However, the most intriguing runner is the supplemented First Cornerstone, which caused a huge upset when breaking his maiden at odds of 33/1 in a listed contest at Tipperary. Andrew Oliver is gradually making his ground as a trainer and a win here would be his finest achievement. The inclusion of David Simcock's Birdman, which holds a respectable rating of 108 and a form line with Richard Hannon's Olympic Glory, provides the race with a useful guide.

Outside the feature event, the reappearance of John Oxx's Manieree in the Group Three Lanwades Stud Fillies Stakes is the other notable addition to the eight-race card.

Manieree created a lasting impression when making all to win the Group Two Blandford Stakes last September and makes a belated seasonal debut here. She is likely to go off favourite but may just lack for race fitness.

La Collina, a disappointing eighth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, has something to prove now so a chance is taken on Jessica Harrington's Ballybacka Lady, which ran Matron Stakes-bound Duntle close at Leopardstown last time.

The weakness of the Irish sprinting division has been a theme for a couple of years and a perfect example is today's Group Three Flying Five Stakes, where five of the eight runners are British raiders. Saying that, David Wachman's Fire Lily should keep the prize at home.

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