First run in 1921, Saturday sees the 98th renewal of the first Classic of the Irish flat racing season, and coming 3 weeks after its English counterpart, usually attracts many of the contenders from the Newmarket Race. Starting with Right Tack in 1969, nine animals have brought off the Newmarket-Curragh double and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to make it ten with this year’s Rowley Mile Hero, Magna Grecia.
The son of Invincible Spirit certainly won the Newmarket heat on merit, coming home 2 1/2L clear of the 66/1 outsider, King Of Change, (sole success came in a Nottingham
Class5 Novices) but it did seem as if the winner and runner up did have a distinct advantage racing against the stand rails. The time, nearly 2 seconds slower than standard on Good ground, wasn’t great for a Classic, and it won’t be the greatest surprise if the 3rd Skardu, who raced up the middle of the course, finishes a lot closer on Saturday.
The Willie Haggis trained Skardu had previously won the 2000Gns Trial, The Craven Stakes, over The Rowley Mile in workmanlike fashion, a race that hasn’t worked out particularly well, but the winner of last year’s Longchamp Group1, The Prix Jean-Luc Legardre, Royal Marine, (13th in The Guineas) was 2 3/4L back in 4th. Skardu came home best of all of the group of 16 racing up the middle in The Guineas, beating the talented Madhmoon by a head, and should finish a lot closer to Magna Grecia on Saturday.
The Charlie Hills (pictured) trained, Phoenix Of Spain may have been an unlucky loser of Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last Autmn when beaten a head by Magna Grecia. In a strongly run race on the Gd/Sft surface he was pushed left when challenging inside the final furlong and his cause wasn’t helped either by quite a severe bump with 50 yds to go. He had no answer to Too Darn Hot when beaten 1 3/4L in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes, (Good) in his previous race but looked an improved horse in The Futurity, and having easily won York’s Acomb Stakes on Gd/Fast ground, looks as if he handles most conditions. Lack of an outing this term is a concern but the yard is in excellent form.
John Gosden’s sole success in The Irish 2000 Guineas came with Kingman 5 years ago and he looks to have serious prospects of landing a second with his surprise late entry,
Too Darn Hot. Last year’s top rated juvenile, (cruised up in the Dewhurst from the 112 rated Advertise and earned an impressive rating of 126) was thought to be too backward to run in the 2000Gns, but took up his engagement in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes at York 9 days ago, where despite running well, didn’t seem to get home over the trip and could only finish 2nd to Telecaster, whose sole previous success had come in a lowly 3yo Class5 Windsor Novices. Too Darn Hot is by the outstanding Stallion Dubawi out of the triple Group1 winning mare Dar Re Mi, (won twice over 12f at the top level) and his full sister, Lah Ti Dar, was 2nd to Kew Gardens in The St Leger, so it must be very disappointing to connections if indeed it was a lack of stamina that was the cause of his defeat at York. If that is the case however, Saturday’s race represents his last chance of getting that much sought after Classic victory on his CV, and a repeat of his performance in The Dewhurst would bring him close.
Operating at a current strike rate of 75%, Cashel handler, Paddy Twomey must be nursing hopes of a first Classic victory with his progressive colt, Decrypt. A son of Dark Angel, he made his racecourse debut in a Curragh Maiden (6f) last May, finishing a very encouraging second, and went one better at the same venue (6f)13 days later, winning by 1/2L in a good time. Given plenty of time, he was put away for the season and reappeared 5 weeks ago. Racing over 7f for the first time he won a Cork conditions event with his head in his chest. He would need to improve considerably more to figure on Saturday, and there isn’t much encouragement from his pedigree that he will get a mile, but he certainly wasn’t stopping in that Cork heat, and I’ve no doubt that we have yet to see the best of Decrypt.
Ballydoyle’s €1.6 million purchase Old Glory is worth a mention. A son of Frankel, he made a winning debut at Naas last September. He failed to score in his other two starts but finished a respectable 3rd when attempting to make all in a Leopardstown Group3 in October. A half brother to the useful Australian horse Assign, he may do better with
a more patient ride, (a view endorsed by our respected follower, Alan from Anglsea) and is an interesting addition to the O’Brien challenge,
(Attempting to win the race for the 12th time).
Selection : Too Darn Hot
EW. : Phoenix Of Spain