O'Brien brothers hoping to steer 'Ship' home safely
It's a heavyweight clash between Godolphin and Aidan O'Brien as an impressive opening course of the five-day Killarney July Racing Festival swings into action tomorrow.
The Listed Cairn Rouge Stakes (3.30) headlines a seven-race Flat card at the Kerry track, with the boys in blue and the Ballydoyle maestro both triple-handed in the €55,000 contest.
Fillies and mares take centre-stage as Belle Boyd (Willie McCreery), Panstarr (Jim Bolger) and Petticoat (Michael Halford) represent Sheikh Mohammed's operation.
Petticoat makes the trip south from Kildare with much optimism having collected a valuable handicap pot at the Curragh on Irish Derby Day when O'Brien's re-opposing Most Gifted was back in second.
Most Gifted benefits from a 6lb swing at the weights, but is unlikely to turn the tables on that decisive defeat while Hence - a close third in the Group Three Brownstown Stakes at Fairyhouse last week - and Clear Skies also take their chance. Clear Skies has been unreliable since flopping in Lingfield's Winter Derby, however, and O'Brien may again be undone by his sons Joseph and Donnacha, who combine with SHIP OF DREAMS.
Second in the Group Three Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial before a creditable sixth in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot, the Qatar Racing-owned three-year-old is clearly on an upward curve. While only getting her head in front once in seven runs, the 9lb age allowance she receives is a huge help and the daughter of Lope De Vega can spring a mild surprise.
It is preceded by the Killarney Avenue/Munster Joinery Handicap (3.0) and Denis Hogan bids for back-to-back wins in the race, this year with Atlas - who makes a quick reappearance from his Leopardstown fourth on Thursday while David Marnane also has an outstanding record with four wins in the past decade and the Tipperary trainer saddles top-weight Elleval.
Both may have to play second fiddle to Ger Lyons' TONY THE GENT, however, as the five-year-old has been knocking on the door in decent handicaps this summer and may finally get his head in front.
There's no shortage of action on these shores today and the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race (4.05) is an intriguing affair despite just four runners.
None can be discounted but Joseph O'Brien's MING looks open to more improvement than the competition having won two of his three starts and disappointed at Group Three level on the middle run.
Racecourse experience is always a huge benefit when analysing the prospects of a two-year-old and there's a lot to like about Ger Lyons' SAKURA in the Foran Equine Irish EBF Fillies Auction Maiden (2.30) over the minimum trip of 5f.
Her debut effort when third in a Naas maiden easily makes her the one to beat under champion jockey Colin Keane, while the appetite of jumps enthusiasts is also sated at Limerick today.
The Cliona Hagan Plays Live July 26th Chase (4.25) boasts quality over quantity with a quartet of contenders and Willie Mullins will hope CHILDRENS LIST can book his place in the Galway Plate with victory under Paul Townend, although Henry de Bromhead's Nick Lost will prove a tough nut to crack.