Countdown is on to an epic return of racing in Ireland and England

Countdown is on to an epic return of racing in Ireland and England
Pinatubo ridden by jockey James Doyle on their way to winning the Qatar Vintage Stakes during day one of the Qatar Goodwood Festival last summer. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire

A FEAST of classic action awaits when racing resumes on June 8 following high level negotiations between Horse Racing Ireland and government officials.

Punters want to see action and there will be an explosive start with the English Guineas meeting pencilled in for June 6. While the flat season will not follow its normal sequence most trainers, jockeys and public are thrilled to be back, albeit behind closed doors.

Pinatubo was last year’s stand out juvenile after winning six races including the high profile National Stakes at the Curragh and the end of season Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Charlie Appleby’s stable star has superstar quality and his nine length victory in the National was simply breath-taking.

Pinatubo is currently the 11/10 fav for the 2000 Guineas and expect that price to be smashed up in the run up to Newmarket Classic. Appleby believes last season’s juvenile sensation Pinatubo is bigger and stronger as the unbeaten son of Sharmadal prepares to embark on his highly anticipated Classic campaign. Pinatubo comes into the season following a dazzling two-year-old campaign, in which his six wins earned him a rating higher than Frankel achieved at that stage of his career.

Appleby said: “At this time of the year, the question everybody is asking is ‘has he trained on?’ We’re not going to have conclusive proof until the Guineas, but my gut feeling is that he has.

“No buttons will be pressed until the big day but from what we’re seeing at home, he’s gone the right way.

“Mentally, I see no change in him. His demeanour is the same from two to three. He remains totally relaxed. Physically, though, I do see change. He has grown and strengthened over winter. You can also tell he is an experienced racehorse now. He goes about his business professionally, and nothing fazes him.”

Aidan O’Brien boasts an extraordinary record in this race winning four of the last five runnings with Gleneagles, Churchill, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia. But the delayed start to the new season has left the master of Ballydoyle unsure about his team for Newmarket. Arizona was his stand out juvenile last season and the Royal Ascot winner was runner up to Pinatubo on two occasions, the National and Dewhurst Stakes. O’Brien explained: “The two main horses who were going to Newmarket originally were Wichita and Arizona, that was the original plan. We thought it would be possible to do all three races with them – the Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish Guineas and then the St James’s Palace (Royal Ascot), but that’s obviously not the case now.

“I’d imagine the horses will go either of two ways between the Irish and English Guineas with the view that some of the Newmarket horses would have a chance of running at Royal Ascot. That’s it in a nutshell really. I would imagine that, by the end of this week, we will have things fairly firmed up about what way we are thinking.”

O’Brien volunteered Love, So Wonderful and Peaceful as being on the original A-team for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket but, similar to plans with the colts, there may have to be a rethink at Ballydoyle over the next week or so.

“The likes of Love, So Wonderful and Peaceful – they were our 1,000 Guineas horses for Newmarket, but obviously there are some of them who are going to be split up between Newmarket and the Curragh now.

“It’s similar to the colts, there are horses there for both the Irish and English 2,000 Guineas – Fort Myers, Vatican City, Royal Lytham, Royal Dornoch, Armory and Monarch Of Egypt.”

Jessica Harrington is enjoying a brilliant run on the flat lately. The magnificent Moscow Flyer was her flagship horse over jumps but Alpha Centauri gave her a first Irish Classic with victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2018. Harrington has a lovely bunch of fillies at present with Millisle and Albigna likely to split in the coming weeks. et.”

Finally, confirmation that the Galway Festival will run for a full seven days and will include the Guinness Galway Hurdle and the Galway Plate. It will be a festival like no other without any crowds, but racecourse manager Michael Moloney is happy to finally put any speculation to bed that Galway would be without some of its flagship races when it kicks off on July 27.

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