Brendan Duke: Here’s 5 to keep the dream alive on a Curragh Classic weekend

Two Guineas up for grabs this weekend at Irish racing's revamped HQ - so step forward Mr Brendan Duke.


My cup runneth over. One of the few frustrations of being a racing fan is the lengths that connections of the best horses go to keep their charges apart. It was with this in mind that I shrugged my shoulders at the news that John Gosden had left Too Darn Hot (TDH) in the Irish 2000 Guineas last Monday.

The next few days brought news of how well the horse had recovered from his exertions in the Dante, and how he liked to be kept busy. My cynicism remained. Then Thursday came. A blessed day. A day to be reminded of how every day is basically the same, except when it isn’t. News arrived that the TDH will face Magna Grecia on Saturday. Gosden is to be applauded for taking on Ballydoyle in their own back yard.

Then again, it’s not like he’s bringing a knife to a gunfight.

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What to make of it all? Magna Grecia (MG) was an impressive winner of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Until injury intervened that race looked destined to go the way of TDH. A case of ‘Hamlet without the prince’ then. Perhaps, but the understudy did put in a command performance. Or did he? The race looked odd. It’s possible that the first, second, and sixth, who raced in a separate group from the main bunch, finished in those positions on merit. Possible, though my hunch is there was some sort of bias at play.

TDH made his belated return at York. That Dante looked a red-hot renewal beforehand. I’m convinced it was, and believe that Telecaster will go on to prove himself the best middle distance three-year-old in Europe. Post race analysis from the clock watchers suggested that TDH was at a slight tactical disadvantage. The extended 10 furlongs probably stretched his stamina too.

In the circumstances, it rates a solid comeback. The race also hinted that TDH will be more relaxed this term. He raced a bit keenly from his outside stall. Frankie seemed to get him switched off relatively quickly though. Given how good he was as a head-strong juvenile, that bodes very well for the future. The race has depth. Cases can be made for a few of the others.

If my theory about the bias is correct, Skardu should get a lot closer to MG this time.

Too Darn Hot rates the selection though on Saturday.

He was much the best of these as a two-year-old. MG may have improved past him, but the prices have overreacted to their respective last runs. TDH should, and will, go off clear favourite if I don’t miss my guess.


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The Irish 1,000 Guineas on Sunday sees another Ballydoyle inmate trying to follow up a Newmarket win.

Hermosa was a slightly surprising winner that day. She did it fairly comfortably, and holds a number of Sunday’s opponents on that form. A pillar to post winner, it would be a surprise if similar tactics aren’t employed again. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of competition for the lead. Pace has held up really well at the Curragh over recent seasons. Hermosa will be hard to pass. A case can certainly made for Qabala. She was the favourite at Newmarket, and gave supporters a good run for their money.

Another step forward, on just her fourth career start, can be expected. Just Wonderful was a big eyecatcher in the same race but it would come as no surprise were she to regress. Not for the first time she broke slowly, appeared to struggle with the undulations, and the jockey wasn’t hard on her. That’s normally a combination of misfortunes that could see a deficit of less than three lengths wiped out. However, she’s a very tricky filly. She carries her head awkwardly, and her half brother is one of the trickiest customers in training.

I would suggest that any potential backers would be as well setting fire to their money.

Kevin Ryan’s East ran a huge race in the French version of the Guineas. She got a poor ride that day. She appears to have a preference for soft ground though, and is passed over. It’s hard to get away from Hermosa. A stiff mile will be right up her alley. With a likely tactical advantage, she looks a perfectly fair bet at the 5/2 about on Friday.


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The Tattersalls Gold Cup (15.50) on the same card looks a non event. Magical should confirm form with Flag Of Honour. The rest aren’t good enough.

Three others catch my eye on a weekend of fine racing fare at Irish Flat racing’s headquarters. On Saturday, Barend Boy (14.25) backs up relatively quickly from Naas last Sunday. He ran a fine fourth that day. To my eye he looked the likely winner a furlong out. The drop to six furlongs on Saturday is probably a positive. That Naas race was restricted to three-year-olds, and is likely strong form. Barend Boy, running from the same mark, faces more exposed opposition but looks sure to go close.

Lethal Power (16.45) goes in the opposite direction, trip wise. His comeback was over a mile. Saturday’s 10 furlongs is probably his optimum. He was 20/1 on comeback which suggests finishing third, albeit well beaten, was more than connections hoped. That’s not surprising. He’s a gross horse, and likely takes plenty of work at home. Expect him to strip fitter now. The handicapper has left his mark alone. The horse can go a long way towards taking advantage of that generosity.

To finish off on Sunday, Rockabill (17.30) takes a massive step up in trip. His comeback was actually in the same race as Lethal Power. The Rock was disappointing that day. He finished last season tamely too. He definitely has a bit to prove but had looked a stayer going places last season. At likely rewarding odds, it’s probably worth chancing Joseph O’Brien can work his magic.

*Runners & prices correct at time of publishing

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