Just five days into the rescheduled Irish Flat season and we’ve got a Classic to look forward to – and it’s likely to be an Irish 2,000 Guineas with a difference. With travel restrictions to the fore, are we looking at an Irish Classic with no foreign raiders? Will we have a bigger field than usual? And can Aidan O’Brien add to his nine winners since 2000? They’re all the questions which we’ll find the answers to on June 12th. Here are the horses who’s most likely to fight it out.
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The best of these as a two-year-old with wins in both the Group 2 Railway Stakes and Group 1 Phoenix Stakes standing out. If using Fort Myers as a form line, Siskin beat him further than the likes of Arizona, Lope Y Fernandez and Threat did at different stages last season so that bodes well for his followers. His last three wins have all come at the Curragh too. He didn’t load in the Middle Park Stakes, which is a slight worry, but Ger Lyons will have worked on that. Lyons stated last week that, ‘I wish the Guineas was tomorrow’, and that suggests that his stable star is ready to rock. There’s no doubt, he’s the one to beat.
Guessing what Aidan O’Brien runs at this stage isn’t easy but he has already gone on record to say that both Arizona and Wichita are Newmarket bound. Royal Lytham won two from four as a juvenile and his July Stakes win showed that getting the mile trip won’t be a problem. However, he’s held by Siskin on their Phoenix Stakes clash. It’s probably safe to say that he’s so prominent in the betting because of the fact that Ballydoyle’s bigger guns are likely to go elsewhere.
Not many Beresford Stakes winners have rocked up to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the fact that his Curragh success last September came on heavy ground suggests that he’ll need further as a three-year-old. Saying that, he did finish best of O’Brien’s quintet in the Vertem Futurity Trophy on Newcastle’s all-weather and he has only 3lbs to find with Siskin on two-year-old ratings.
Had no less than six runs last year and he managed to win both the Tyros Stakes and Futurity Stakes, a route taken by both Gleneagles and Churchill before they won this Classic. He fared best of the Ballydoyle brigade in both the National Stakes and the Prix Jean-Luc Legardiere, which suggests that he’s likely to be one of the best three-year-olds that Aidan O’Brien has. The fact that he’s following the same path as O’Brien’s two most recent Irish 2,000 Guineas winners speaks huge dividends.
Similarly to Innisfree, the majority of Royal Dornach’s juvenile form suggests that stamina will be his forte but he did beat subsequent Vertem Futurity Stakes winner Kameko when triumphing in the Royal Lodge Stakes. The fact that it took him four goes to break his maiden tag suggests that he may struggle to win a Classic and one wonders if he’ll take in one of the Derby Trials instead of this race.
If you believe Aidan O’Brien, then Wichita, like Arizona, will have run in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas six days earlier, which makes it highly unlikely that he’ll line up at the Curragh. His runaway win in the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket was sublime but he finished behind both Pinatubo and Arizona in the Dewhurst Stakes. Having been introduced into the betting for this race at 14/1, it might be worth noting that he’s now 8/1 following some early support.
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Mogul (8/1) and Arizona (10/1) would be obvious contenders if not for the fact that they’re likely to be heading elsewhere in early May while Fort Myers (12/1) and Year Of The Tiger (12/1) are well held on last year’s form. Lope Y Fernandez (12/1) has solid form behind Pinatubo but faltered in the Middle Park Stakes, as did Monarch Of Egypt (14/1) after he gave Siskin a fright in the Phoenix Stakes. Joseph O’Brien already has an Irish Derby to his name and in Crossfirehurricane (20/1), he could have another Classic contender here. Unbeaten in three starts to date, he’s got fitness on his side and wouldn’t need to improve much to get involved in a Classic with plenty of question marks about it.
There’s no doubting that Siskin is the horse to beat on last year’s form. However, Aidan O’Brien is likely to have a huge say in what happens on the day and Armory fits the profile of his last two winners. That suggests the current 8/1 available won’t last long.