AS the rain continues to pour on the Curragh’s lush green grass, no amount of head-scratching or heel digging will be necessary ahead of Guineas weekend – the ground will be soft and the going will be tough!
Flat racing has a few conditions typically associated with its very nature. Summer sun, quick fair surfaces and speed! These horses are bred for pace so when the soil turns to muck, get ready for some indifferent results because when the rain falls, the comfort of a logical formbook can be thrown into a nearby pool of water!
With these conditions in mind, we will endeavor to identify some of this weekend’s contenders who will operate in such conditions and perhaps some who should be avoided!
Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega ran a brilliant race on his seasonal debut to finish a close third to Poetic Flare in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas at the beginning of May. That was on a lightning-quick surface but to his credit, he won the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes on good/yielding ground last August. His sire Lope de Vega has a reputation for producing versatile horses and this guy could be the one to benefit from such conditions.
In contrast, Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground is an American bred son of War Front who would prefer to be running on concrete but last year’s Dewhurst runner-up Wembley could prove more adaptable. Similar to his aforementioned stablemate Battleground, Wembley proved a massive disappointment at Newmarket but his juvenile form on soft ground would give you confidence that he could put that display behind him.
Second to St Mark’s Basilica on soft ground in the Dewhurst and a winner of his maiden on soft/heavy at Roscommon, Wembley shouldn’t be underestimated but he has to improve to reach Harrington’s colt.
The Lanwades Stud Stakes is a small but interesting affair on Saturday’s undercard and I find it very difficult to oppose Champers Elyssees. Despite carrying a Group 1 penalty for winning the Matron Stakes last Autumn, this Johnny Murtagh trained filly has been targeting this race since she reappeared at the track on May 3rd. She won the Fairy Bridge Stakes on soft/heavy at Gowran Park last September and looks the class act of the race.
Sunday’s card not only features the 1,000 Guineas but also the Tattersalls Gold Cup for older horses. Starting with the fillies, Pretty Gorgeous missed Newmarket but could make up for lost time on home turf and if her juvenile form is accurate then she’ll take all the beating for Joseph O’Brien and Shane Crosse.
On her final start last October, Pretty Gorgeous sliced through soft ground to beat Indigo Girl and Mother Earth in the Fillies Mile and before that she beat Shale and Mother Earth on soft in the Debutante at the Curragh. Physically, Pretty Gorgeous is extremely well named but also one would expect her to improve with age as she is rather substantial. All things considered, she’s my fancy for Sunday’s feature race.
I would have major reservations around Shale, Miss Amulet and Joan Of Arc on soft ground but Newmarket third Fev Rover and recent Athasi Stakes winner No Speak Alexander should be fine on the surface. This pair met last season when Fev Rover comprehensively beat the latter in the Prix du Calvados on very soft ground at Deauville. They might give Pretty Gorgeous the most to think about on the day.
The Tattersalls Gold Cup is regularly utilised as a heavyweight springboard for Aidan O’Brien (nine wins including last three) but last year Dermot Weld did exactly that when Search For A Song finished a staying-on third before capturing her second consecutive Irish St Leger later in the season.
This year, we might see something similar from Serpentine or Japan, maybe even Broome but watch out for Jessica Harrington’s course and distance Cayenne Pepper alongside Joseph O’Brien’s Thundering Nights who could be two fillies to upset the colts in this small but select field.
Whatever the results, don’t let the rain dampen your mood. Spectators are back on racetracks in the UK and our governing body (HRI) are lobbying hard to follow suit. Who knows, we might even meet trackside at Galway or Listowel?