It’s a bumper weekend of action on both sides of the Irish Sea, with the Irish 2000 Guineas taking centre stage at the Curragh on Saturday. The ITV racing team are bringing us racing from Haydock, York, Goodwood and the Guineas from the Curragh in an action-packed day.
The speedsters are out in force in the Temple Stakes with the somewhat brittle Battash looking to land back to back renewals. I have dissected the key races on Saturday and hopefully picked a few nice winners.
Silver Bowl Handicap
This is historically won by a nice horse, it’s just a matter of finding the “nicest” horse amongst a field of improving and unexposed three-year-olds. The well-bred Awe has shown very steady improvement with each start and was slightly unlucky not to win on reappearance at Ascot when carried left late on. If he gets a bit of luck and keeps progressing then he’ll have a good future.
Oasis Prince has won his last three starts including a narrow victory over course and distance on seasonal debut. He’s four pounds higher now and faces the Mick Appleby trained Loch Ness Monster once again and I think he can upload the form.
The Richard Hannon trained Masaru has won three from four and although he won over the mile the last day I’m not convinced he totally stays this trip. I’m sure he’ll be bang there in the final furling but I think he may just struggle with a seven-pound penalty.
Sandy Lane Stakes
Some very smart horses, most notably Quiet Reflection and Harry Angel have taken this race in recent years and there looks to be another very sort this year with Calyx. John Gosden’s three-year-old was vying for favouritism for the Guineas but had a setback and looks more like a speedster. He was very impressive on reappearance in a Group 3 at Ascot and I see nothing other than a fourth straight victory for Calyx and Rob Havlin.
Of the remaining three runners Hello Youmzain who was a Group 2 winner as a juvenile looks most likely to chase Calyx home.
This race has often been used a prep for the King’s Stand Stakes, with Profitable the last horse to complete back in 2016. Battaash took this contest twelve months ago and although he was slightly disappointing in his final two starts last season, a recent wind operation could be the answer to that and he’s undoubtedly the class act in the race.
Mabs Cross had a great 2018 finishing in the places in multiple Group 1 races before winning the L’Abbaye at Longchamp. He was weak in the betting on seasonal reappearance in the Palace House Stakes but showed plenty of sparkle to get her head in front. She comes her race fit and could prove the pick of these today.
Kachy has been in great form on the all-weather including when winning on all-weather finals day. He’s a very smart horse that comes into the race in the form of his life but has been beaten on all three runs in this race and looks vulnerable again.
Of the others, Alphini Delphini was a shock winner of the Nunthorpe last season and is an interesting contender.
Selection: Mabs Cross
Irish 2000 Guineas
It seemed like the Too Darn Hot bubble burst in the Dante but he did travel well and just got outstayed by Telecaster. It’s surprising to see him turned out again so quick by connections but not surprising that he drops down in trip. He looks set to leave the stalls as the favourite for the first Irish classic of the season and if showing no ill-effects for his Dante run he’ll take plenty of beating.
Magna Grecia bids to land the 2000 Guineas double having taken the English equivalent three weeks ago. He raced on the stand’s side that day where there seemed to be a big advantage. Ryan Moore takes over the steering duties now and on form he’s the one to beat.
Skardu’s run in the 2000 Guineas can be marked up as he finished first in his group that raced on the far side. That was only his third career start and he doesn’t need to find too much improvement to reverse the form with Magna Grecia.
Paddy Twomey has been making waves in recent season with his small string and seems to keep sourcing classy two-year-olds in particular. He is represented by Decrypt in this classic and although it was only an egg and spoon race he won at Cork he did it easily and shouldn’t be underestimated.
This race was only introduced to the calendar last season and was won by John Gosden who could make it 2-2 this year with Enbihaar. The lightly raced four-year-old looked good in a listed race at Warwick on seasonal reappearance and looks like the type to keep improving.
Pilaster looked like one of the better stayers in training when winning the Lillie Langtry last season but wasn’t quite as good in two prior starts especially on Champions Day. She was very poor when a beaten favourite on her seasonal bow at Nottingham and needs to recapture her form to feature.
Of the remainder, Maid Up and Dramatic Queen need to put bad runs behind them if they have any chance here.
Anybody looking at this race will be instantly drawn to Leodis Dream given that he’s won his last five starts and in truth was probably most impressive most recently at Chester. I don’t think a six-pound rise is overly harsh and he could make the step up to win against these seasoned sprinters.
One of the more experienced horses is El Astronaute who drops back to handicap company following a fine run in a Group 2 at York when last seen. Jon Quinn’s charge seems to be as good as ever this season and will be hard to beat with the very capable Dylan Hogan claiming a valuable five-pounds off his back.
Copper Knight has had a great start to the season and stayed on well when winning a York. He got a five-pound penalty for that victory but he’s a hose on an upward curve and he should once again run his race now in the Middleham Park colours.
The final horse of note is Duke Of Firenze who took advantage of a falling handicap mark last week at Thirsk and off only three-pounds higher he should be competitive.
Selection: El Astronaute
Vintager had been disappointing since joining the Godolphin operation but showed much more off top weight in a handicap at HQ earlier in the month. He’s the second highest rated in the field and should be up to winning a race of this nature
Extra Elusive ran pretty well in the Gordon Richards at Sandown behind Crystal Ocean but needs to find more if he’s to win this. The application of blinkers might help and he should go close.
The Mark Johnston trained Elarqam hasn’t won a race since 2017 but showed plenty enthusiasm to finish fourth in the Group 3 Earl Of Sefton when last seen. This was his first run following a wind surgery and I think he could be the one here.