This three-year-old conditions race looks an interesting affair on the Curragh undercard on Sunday afternoon with several horses in connection for victory. My pin has landed on the Aidan O’Brien trained NAPA VALLEY with Seamie Heffernan once again in the saddle on his second career start. The son of Galileo didn’t beat much on paper at Leopardstown two-weeks ago but made an encouraging winning debut from the front.
That front running displayed caught the eye as he still had plenty in hand at the finish to suggest the extra couple of furlongs here won’t be any issue. Keats is another from the Ballydoyle camp with Wayne Lordan now in the saddle following his win at Gowran Park, while the Coolmore team also run Emperor Of The Sun, who has not raced since finishing third at Listowel last September.
There is strong opposition to my selection in the shape of both Maker Of Kings for Ger Lyons and Masteroffoxhounds for Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley. The Harrington runner made a successful winning seasonal return at Naas when landing his maiden earlier this month, with the Lyons runner stepping up three-furlongs in trip after his recent maiden success at Gowran Park over seven-furlongs.
Rebal Tale can’t be discounted either following his effort in the Irish 2000 Guineas behind Siskin earlier this month and drops down in grade. He showed good form last season against Armory and Mogul and the step up in trip would be a positive, while Katiba should improve also for her seasonal return when down the field in the Irish 1000 Guineas behind Peaceful – it’s a good race but Napa Valley looks one of those O’Brien improvers who could surprise them all on his second career start before progressing into group company.
I successfully tipped up MAKE A CHALLENGE in this column last weekend at Naas when he drifted to return a good price winner of the Sole Power Sprint Stakes at Naas, and I won’t side against him this Sunday afternoon. The Denis Hogan trained five-year-old is an absolute legend and races once again off a rating of 112 under regular jockey Joe Doyle.
He’s so consistent, versatile and has been a great money spinner for connections and returns to six-furlongs on Sunday for the Group 2 Gladness Stakes. It doesn’t seem to matter if the ground is good, soft, heavy or if the trip is five, six or seven furlongs, Make A Challenge just sits off the pace and makes a creditable late challenge at the business end and keeps improving.
Aidan Fogarty has decided to use cheekpieces with Forever In Dreams who has previously raced well for connections but hasn’t got his head in front since listed success at Haydock last year. Speak In Colours will be popular again with punters after his fifth placed finish in the Diamond Jubilee last weekend, while it’s interesting to see Kevin Ryan take his chance with Queen Jo Jo who was recently second to Liberty Beach at Haydock.
MAGICAL is back will win the feature Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh for Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernon this Sunday afternoon. She is an exceptional mare for the Coolmore team, winning four races at the highest level and five other career victories. The current Irish & British Champion Stakes holder returns from a break and stands out on official ratings against these rivals – racing off 122.
She finished fifth in the Arc last October in Paris before returning to victory in the British Champions Stakes at Ascot, beating the William Haggas trained Addeybb. This ten-furlong trip is her ideal distance and despite her lack of recent fitness, she’ll have enough class to see off these rivals. Roca Roma seems highly regarded by the Ger Lyons team and races quickly following her maiden success at Gowran Park just nine-days ago.
Fleeting just keeps finding others too good and giving herself too much to chase with her waiting tactics while Cayenne Pepper is another chasing for second place prize money for trainer Jessica Harrington. The Jon Kelly owed filly won the Flame Of Tara Stakes last season and returns following her fourth to Quadrilateral in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last October.
Tips for today’s racing at the Curragh
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