PAT HEALY: This week Pat shares his excitement for the upcoming Irish Guineas weekend, before paying tribute to the late Joe Mercer.
Irish Guineas weekend
I, like many, am really looking forward to Irish Guineas weekend at the Curragh. The colts race looks a particularly intriguing affair with a number of horses that ran at Newmarket coming back to take each other on again. Lucky Vega was third in the Guineas for Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley, and he’ll likely go off favourite on the back of that, although you’d have to be a touch worried about the ground. It will be very interesting to see if Poetic Flare lines up given he only raced in the French equivalent on Sunday where he finished sixth. He of course won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, and if he’s in that sort of form again then he’ll be a tough nut to crack. Throw in the Ballydoyle horses like Van Gogh, Battleground and Wembley, who ran at Newmarket and it looks a cracker. Loads look to have obvious chances and in all honesty, I wouldn’t want to nail my colours to a mast!
On to Sunday and it looks like we’ll get to see Love make her seasonal reappearance in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. I’d say, alongside Tarnawa, she is the most exciting horse this season and it will be great to see her out again. If she’s in anything like the same sort of form as she was a three-year-old, then all roads will lead to a tilt at the Arc and if she does indeed take on Tarnawa there, what a race that will be.
The Guineas weekend is where the Irish Flat season really kicks off and it’s one of the meetings where countries from around the world tune in to. All five Classics are held at the Curragh and that’s done because many regard it as the premier racecourse in the world. Horse racing is all about the surface and the Curragh’s is widely acknowledged as the best around. You can have the best facilities, weighing room and other things, but if you don’t have a top-quality surface you’re nowhere.
It seems to be a regular theme, but I have to congratulate Aidan O’Brien on yet another big race success, this time in the French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp on Sunday with St Mark’s Basilica. It’s was his fifth win in the race and it’s hard not to be impressed by St Mark’s Basilica who looks a top-quality three-year-old for this season. You’d imagine he’ll head to Royal Ascot now for the St James’s Palace Stakes, where he’ll be a warm order to follow up, and he might even have the Breeders’ Cup at in the back of his mind for the end of the campaign.
It was great to see Micky Brown train the winner of the Listed sprint at Naas on Sunday. Logo Hunter was bought for not much at all and he looks a future Group 1 sprinter. Micky is a great character in the game and we’re all made up that he’s having such success. You’d imagine he’ll get plenty of offers for Logo Hunter and it will be interesting to see if he changes hands ahead of a possible trip to Royal Ascot.
Joe Mercer’s passing was a very sad day for all involved in horse racing. I remember as a young fellow in the betting shop I would always check what ‘smoking Joe’ was riding. When there were no television pictures and it was just audio commentary, alongside Pat Eddery, Willie Carson and Lester Piggott, Joe was the jockey you’d always look for in the racecard. He was superb and he’ll be sorely missed.