The Jane Mangan column: Racing action is back and we're loving it

The Jane Mangan column: Racing action is back and we're loving it
Racing behind closed doors at Navan earlier this week. Picture: Healy Racing

IT’S Irish 2,000 Guineas day at the Curragh and I’m one of only a fortunate few who will be making the journey to Irish racing’s HQ.

The wait is over, we enjoyed competition of the highest calibre at Newmarket last weekend which saw Kameko and Kerry jockey Oisin Murphy score in the 2,000 Guineas, while Love reminded us all that Aidan O’Brien is still the man everyone has to beat.

With that sentiment in mind, it might seem unusual that the Ballydoyle maestro doesn’t saddle the favourites for either classic races on home turf this weekend.

Instead, today’s feature revolves around last season’s star juvenile Siskin, who bids to provide his trainer Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane with their first classic success.

Team Ballydoyle account for six of today’s 11 runners and one must consider the tactics of this race before placing a wager. What will Colin Keane do? He’s drawn in stall two. Will he find himself in a Ballydoyle box, or will he opt to take a wide berth?

Siskin raced exclusively at six furlongs last season, so the extra two furlongs will be unknown territory. That said, I don’t see a valid reason why he wouldn’t stay the mile. Ballydoyle are almost certain to make this as stiff a test as possible with that vulnerability in mind. If Siskin has a chink in his armour, they will find it.

Lope Y Fernandez, Armory, and Vatican City are all major contenders for Aidan O’Brien, while Free Solo must surely have a nice each-way chance for Jessica Harrington’s all-conquering yard.

It has been a brilliant week thus far for her Commonstown yard — a treble on Monday and a stakes race double at Navan on Wednesday. However, its tomorrow’s 1,000 Guineas that could define Harrington’s season. After all, this is the race she’ll have been dreaming about all winter.

Harrington has a plethora of talent amongst her fillies, and Albigna seems to be at the top of the tree. Despite disappointing in the Moyglare at the Curragh last year, Albigna made no mistakes at Longchamp when winning the Prix Marcel Boussac on soft ground in October.

Owned and bred by the Niarchos family who enjoyed splendid success with Alpha Centauri, Albigna is the only Group 1 winner in the field and is streets ahead on juvenile form. To my eye, her opposition must improve significantly to reach her level — not allowing for the fact that she may have improved over the winter.

Ancient Spirit and Shane Foley (right) beats Buckhurst (centre) to win the Heritage Stakes. Picture: Healy Racing
Ancient Spirit and Shane Foley (right) beats Buckhurst (centre) to win the Heritage Stakes. Picture: Healy Racing

As for the supporting cards this weekend, I’m very interested to see the Gallinule Stakes at 6.10pm this evening. The Derrinstown Derby Trial left a little to be desired on Tuesday, but this race looks a far deeper affair on paper at least.

Crossfirehurricane won the Patton Stakes at Dundalk in March before racing shut down. Like Kameko, this guy is a son of Kitten’s Joy so should appreciate quick ground and 10 furlongs could prove his optimum distance.

Joseph O’Brien would have been forgiven for contemplating a crack at the Kentucky Derby (now rescheduled to the autumn) for this horse as he runs in the colours of prominent US owner Scott Heider.

If he is to prevail this afternoon and continue his upward curve, he will have to fend off Mythical and Seamus Heffernan.

A smart maiden winner at Gowran Park in September, Mythical finished third in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October and is considered an outside bet for Epsom. Today’s ground conditions might suit Joseph’s horse on this occasion, but keep a close eye on Mythical with a view to next month’s Derby.

On a personal note, I’ve been inundated with well wishes and support ahead of this weekend’s coverage on RTÉ. Of course, we all want this to be the best program possible but truth be told, every show in important.

Yes, we might be the only sport in town but the term “raise the bar” annoys me. We should always beat our maximum — always pushing boundaries and never settling for “fine”. The difference is, the next two days will be watched and scrutinised by a wider audience and hopefully we can capture their imagination and maintain their attention.

Racing is a wonderful sport and hopefully this weekend we can prove that on a national platform.

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