Jessica Harrington is just about the pre-eminent Irish dual-purpose trainer around.
After masterminding the career of the mighty Moscow Flyer, once regarded as a cash-point by the Irish at the Cheltenham Festival, she now occupies a hugely-deserved seat at the top table of Flat racing.
Alpha Centauri gave the popular handler a first Classic success in 2018, when proving a length and three-quarters too powerful for Could It Be Love in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the great mare went on to further top-class wins in the Coronation Stakes, Falmouth Stakes, and Prix Jacques Le Marois.
This season she has an abundance of potentially top-class three-year-old fillies who could emulate Alpha Centauri, including last season’s Cheveley Park Stakes heroine Millisle who runs in Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Prix Marcel Boussac scorer Albigna, and Alpine Star, yet to win a Group 1, but a winner at one lesser level in the Debutante Stakes at The Curragh in August.
This Meath magician endured the agony and ecstasy of training thoroughbred racehorses last year when 1,000 Guineas runner-up Lady Kaya broke her leg and died in June, but then three months’ later Quizical landed the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland at The Curragh under multiple champion Jumps pilot Tony McCoy.
Lady Kaya had earlier provided Lavery with her first Group success in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and after her fine display in the English Classic, had been expected to put up a good performance in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
This term it remains to be seen whether Lil Grey can emulate her by stretching out over the Irish 1,000 Guineas trip of a mile, but she was pretty good last season only going down by three-quarters of a length over an extended 6f in a Group 3 at The Curragh in July.
An Irish 2,000 Guineas entry for Prince Of Naples looks a little fanciful at this stage, but he could well win at Listed level.
The Curragh conjuror hasn’t exactly been prolific in recent seasons, but given the right ammunition, he can throw one in at a huge price.
Two years’ ago Duke landed the opening two-year-old race of the season courtesy of Pride of Pimlico, who comfortably held off Engles Rock by two lengths. The winner then came up against some good horses in Sergei Prokofiev and Van Beethoven on his next two starts.
Duke’s best flat horse in recent campaigns was Warm The Voice in 2017, when after being placed at 50-1 on his debut in a Leopardstown maiden, won a maiden and two nurseries before running third to subsequent 2,000 Guineas hero Saxon Warrior in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at Naas.
His flagbearer this season could be Leagan Gaeilge who scooped the Paddy Power ‘Only 364 Days Till Christmas’ 3-y-o Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown in December at 33-1 and is among the five horses to put in your tracker.
Another Meath magician, this gentleman enjoys a special regard at Paddy Power having trained both Sole Power and Slade Power to top-class victories in the colours of Mrs Sabena Power, wife of David and mother of Paddy.
That duo were both sprinters and last season Lynam excelled with another speedster in Soffia, who landed the appropriately named Listed Sole Power Sprint Stakes, the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes and the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes in July.
Soffia won’t be scorching the turf this season as she’s gone for a date with the mighty Frankel, but it will no surprise if her handler unearths another gem and he has a couple entered for the Power Family at Naas on Monday.
This ambitious young man, who trains out of the Crotanstown Stud yard on The Curragh, will have been disappointed that he didn’t really produce any fireworks last year, but as any good handler knows, all stables have peaks and troughs and it will come right eventually.
O’Callaghan enjoyed his first full season with a licence in 2015 and hit the ground running, saddling Letters Of Note to land a Listed race at Naas in a thrilling finish with Byzantium under a power-packed ride from nine-time champion pilot Pat Smullen.
Later that year Blue De Vega entered the winner’s enclosure at Leopardstown after winning the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes and he enjoyed another success at the same level with Now Or Later at the same venue in the 1,000 Guineas Trial the following term.
Angelic Light won him another Listed heat in 2018 and it must be only a matter of time before he strikes in a higher grade. King Arthurs Sword is intriguing this season as he’s entered in the Irish Derby despite being a well beaten ‘jolly’ on his only start last year.
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