Matchbook Ambassador Donn McClean casts his eyes to the Curragh this weekend for the Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival.
The Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas was an intriguing race even without Too Darn Hot in it. It’s always good when the 2000 Guineas from Newmarket runs at The Curragh, so it’s great that Magna Grecia is here. And the Newmarket third Skardu, who did best of the group that raced down the centre, and seasonal debutant Phoenix Of Spain, who was only a head behind Magna Grecia in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster last October the last time he raced.
Add a few lightly-raced and progressive three-year-olds in Decrypt and Shelir and Old Glory and I Am Superman, and you have the makings of a really interesting contest.
Now parachute Too Darn Hot in on top. There’s the intrigue.
Too Darn Hot’s path – second in the Dante – to the Irish 2000 Guineas is not a well-trodden one. But there is no doubting his class. He was last year’s champion juvenile colt, he won the Champagne Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes, he was unbeaten in four.
The automatic reaction after the Dante was that he didn’t stay the 10-and-a-half-furlong trip.
That is why his trainer John Gosden said directly afterwards that he would drop back down to a mile for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He is dropping down in trip all right on Saturday, but three and a half weeks earlier than was originally suggested.
The Dubawi colt has been strong in the market in the last few days. He has usurped Magna Grecia as favourite. He is a popular horse. But he has not had the ideal preparation for the Irish Guineas.
The Dante was only nine days ago, and he had a hard race there probably on the back of a rushed preparation.
Remember, he wasn’t ready on time for the Guineas at Newmarket.
Magna Grecia is more solid.
Aidan O’Brien’s horse was only beaten a head by Persian King in the Autumn Stakes last year, and then he went to Doncaster and won the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy.
He won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket too on his debut this season. Much was made on the day about the fact that just three of the 19 runners raced towards the near side, and two of them finished first and second. That runner-up King Of Change was a 92-rated 67.0 shot. That Magna Grecia might have been advantaged by racing on the near side.
He might have been, we don’t know for sure, but King Of Change was probably under-rated by the market and the handicapper going into the race, and Magna Grecia won with so much in hand that it is difficult to argue that he wouldn’t have won regardless of where on the track he had raced.
The Invincible Spirit colt is a top-class colt, he has had a nice break since Newmarket, and the stiff mile at The Curragh should suit him well. He is trained by Aidan O’Brien, and he will be ridden by Ryan Moore.
He should be favourite for the race.
That said, Decrypt may be the over-priced horse of the race. Paddy Twomey’s colt has run just three times in his life. He won his maiden at The Curragh over six furlongs at the second time of asking last season, and he was impressive in winning over seven furlongs at Cork on his only run to date this season.
He looked very good that day. He travelled like the most likely winner from a long way out, he showed an impressive turn of foot when Billy Lee asked him to pick up, and he kept on well all the way to the line.
The third, fourth and fifth from that race have admittedly been beaten since, but the runner-up Manjeer hasn’t run again yet, and the sixth Western Frontier ran well for a long way in the Group 3 Lacken Stakes at Naas on Sunday.
That said, it was as much the style as the substance of Decrypt’s performance that impressed. He couldn’t have been any more authoritative in victory than he was.
The Dark Angel colt has lots to find on ratings with the top two. He is officially rated 21lb inferior to Too Darn Hot and 15lb inferior to Magna Grecia. However, he has raced just three times in his life, he has bags of scope for progression. Also, he hasn’t yet run in the races in which he could gain a very high rating. He will need to be much better than his official rating of 105 if he is going to be involved in an Irish Guineas, but he could be.
His stamina for a mile is a little bit of a worry on breeding, but he was strong in the finish over seven furlongs at Cork, shaping as if he has every chance of getting a mile. And his trainer Paddy Twomey has his horses in tremendous form. He has had three winners from just five runners in the last two weeks. Decrypt could out-run his odds by a fair way.
Sunday’s Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas has depth too.
Hermosa was a game winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and, as with Magna Grecia in the Colts’ race, she deserves to be favourite.
Aidan O’Brien’s filly’s position at the top of the market is under threat, however, from Qabala, who didn’t have a lot of luck in-running in at Newmarket. Roger Varian’s filly was only beaten just over a length by the winner in the end, after switching towards the far side in order to deliver her challenge.
But Just Wonderful didn’t have a lot of luck in-running at Newmarket either, and she could be the value of the race.
A stable companion of Hermosa, she raced in the rear through the early stages of the race, and towards the near side. That was not ideal in a race in which it was probably an advantage to race prominently and towards the far side.
It appeared that she didn’t handle the Dip that well at Newmarket, but she stayed on well back up the hill to finish within two and a half lengths of the winner.
The Dansili filly is a classy filly. She won the Group 3 Flame Of Tara Stakes at The Curragh last September, over the Guineas course and distance, and she beat this year’s Fred Darling Stakes winner Dandhu in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket four weeks later. She could get a lot closer to Hermosa at The Curragh on Sunday than she did at Newmarket three weeks ago.
Tom, Donn & Deasy look at the Irish 2000 & 1000 Guineas and the return of Battaash in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. There’s also a couple of longshots across Saturday and Sunday thrown in as a bonus!