Saturday 20 January 2018

Queen Catrine can emerge from abyss

Trainer Ger Lyons
Trainer Ger Lyons

Chris Wilson

The Irish Flat season gets under way at the Curragh, with the twin features being the Lodge Park Stud EBF Express Stakes and the Tote Irish Lincolnshire. Both races look difficult, as one might expect at this time of the year, but it might pay to side with Queen Catrine in the Express Stakes.

She very nearly achieved big things for Charlie Hills, but slipped into the abyss last year and was transferred to Ger Lyons' yard last October. The switch yielded immediate dividends as the daughter of Acclamation seized Listed honours at Naas with a really engaging display. With Queen Catrine back in training and back in the groove, Lyons will be keen to make a clear statement of intent with a horse who has often flattered to deceive.

Richard Fahey sends a few good horses across the water and could have long had the Irish Lincolnshire in mind for Gabrial's Kaka. The six-year-old gelding is on a lengthy losing run, but he has slithered down the weights as a result and is a capable operator when the mood suits.

Fozzy Stack is hoping for a bold show from Onenightidreamed. The Footstepsinthesand gelding claimed the €100,000 prize 12 months ago before going on to land the Group Three Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown on his only subsequent outing. Testing conditions are key to the five-year-old and the ground is currently soft for the seasonal curtain raiser.

"He's a lot higher than last year and it's a tough ask but he seems in good order," said Stack. "He'll appreciate the ground and he is a Group Three winner, so he's the class horse in the field. But we go there more in hope than expectation."

Willie McCreery is hoping the application of blinkers can spark a big run from Rivers Of Babylon in the mile contest. The Holy Roman Emperor filly won twice last season but failed to make an impression when stepped up in grade subsequently.

"We're just going to try her in blinkers. She started off last season very well but she petered out a bit and seems to be keeping a bit to herself," said McCreery. "The big field might suit her. She won her two races from the front, but we'll have to cover her up with the blinkers and hopefully she'll come home strong. The more it dries, the more it will suit her as she's a good moving filly, but she has run well in different types of ground."

The Dermot Weld-trained Ashraf looks set to go to post as favourite for the race. The Aga Khan-owned colt won his maiden in impressive fashion at the same meeting last year and was fourth in Listed company on his only subsequent start last October.

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