It follows that there should be fewer unknowns for today’s Abu Dhabi Irish 2000 Guineas than there were for the Newmarket version. We are deeper into the year now, more horses have run, the season is taking a little bit of shape, the pecking order of the three-year-old colts is beginning to form. All form a line behind Camelot there please.
There are few certainties in racing (as in, things of which you can be certain as opposed to horses who won’t be beaten, although there aren’t many of those either), but the Irish Guineas is usually a race that can be approached with at least a few givens nailed down. It is usually a backer’s race. All of the last five winners were sent off at an SP of 7/2 or lower, four of them (and five of the last seven) at 9/4 or lower, three of them at 6/4 or lower.
This year is unusual, however, in that, there is still plenty that we don’t know, there are still many guesses that need to be made. The perennial general air of predictability that greets the Irish 2000 Guineas is lacking this year.
Joint-favourite Parish Hall hasn’t run yet this year, so we don’t know for sure how he has wintered, how he has progressed from two to three. It can’t have been Jim Bolger’s plan to have him make his seasonal debut in the Irish Guineas, especially when the Epsom Derby one week later is on his radar, but the vibes suggest that it has been the soft ground and not a setback that has kept him under wraps. He remains exciting. NB: PARISH HALL DECLARED NON RUNNER SATURDAY MORNING
The other joint-favourite, Power, has to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. It is easy enough to forgive him that run, he just spun his wheels in the soft ground, but even if you do, at best he is starting out again today. The fact that Joseph O’Brien is riding him tells you that he is the Ballydoyle number one, despite some vibes earlier in the week that suggested that Wrote might have been the flag-bearer, and he is an exciting colt for sure, but there is still plenty that we don’t know about him as a three-year-old.
Same with Born To Sea. It wasn’t that John Oxx’s colt didn’t handle the ground at Newmarket, it was simply that he didn’t settle. He was so free through the first two furlongs that he gave himself no chance of lasting home over a mile and, sure enough, when the pace quickened at the two-furlong pole, he just couldn’t go with them.
There are two reasons for thinking that there is a chance he will settle better today. Firstly, he was making his seasonal debut at Newmarket, and that run should have taken the fizz out of him. And secondly, Oxx is fitting a hood to the horse’s head today. That should conceal his identity from the masses as well as insulating him a little from the race day razzamatazz, thereby helping him to relax.
On top of that, he only has to travel across the road to the racetrack today, whereas he had to travel across the water to Newmarket, and I wouldn’t worry at all about the fact that Johnny Murtagh is riding Takar instead. Murtagh is contracted to ride for Takar’s owner, HH The Aga Khan, not for his and Born To Sea’s trainer John Oxx, and, as deputies at The Curragh go, they don’t get much better than Pat Smullen.
Which leads us to Takar. Another unknown. He won his maiden by eight lengths last November, and he looked good in winning on his debut this term. However, that was just a listed race, this is a big step up, and it was over seven furlongs on soft ground. He will be racing over a mile today on faster ground than he has ever encountered.
The other big question mark is over Hermival’s head. Initially, it looked like the Frenchman had run a cracker to finish third in the Guineas at Newmarket, given that he was one of just four horses who raced on the far side. However, on mature reflection – Coupe De Ville just over a length behind him, Ptolemaic just four lengths behind him – he may have been favoured by racing over there.
Daddy Long Legs could outrun his odds if they allow him and Colm O’Donoghue an easy time of it up front – remember that Roderic O’Connor made all to win the race last year – but, all things considered, Parish Hall could be the one. There was a lot to like about the manner in which he battled on up the hill to win the Dewhurst last October the last time we saw him race. For all that he had the stands rail to help him, and that Power had to be checked out wide to deliver his challenge, the fact remains that he won the race, and that, consequently, he may have had more left to give if Power had been able to challenge him earlier.
The Teofilo colt’s pedigree does suggest that he will improve for stepping up to middle distances, but he had enough pace to win the Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs, and he should be even better over a mile today, probably on fast ground, probably in a truly-run race. He goes well fresh – he won on his racecourse debut last season, and when he won the Dewhurst, he was going into the race off a seven-week break – and Jim Bolger has his team in fine form. He is a worthy favourite and odds of 5.0 or 5.5 about him is more than fair.
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