Sunday in the Curragh will be lit up by the queen of Irish racing. Magical makes her belated seasonal comeback in the Pretty Polly Stakes. It’s somewhat surprising to see her at all. I suppose connections are only losing one foal. She enjoyed a stellar campaign last season, highlighted by wins in two Champion Stakes. She couldn’t topple Enable. No shame in that.
The only blip came in the Arc. That below par effort was probably caused by a rare pace misjudgement from Donnacha O’Brien. Basically, she’s virtually guaranteed to run close to her best on Sunday. That, even against some interesting oppo, should be good enough. She’s odds on though.
Make A Challenge runs in the Greenlands Stakes. Again he’s a little bit short for my tastes. Again, I think he’ll be winning. I’ve dug out a few selections that should go off at more rewarding odds.
Alligator Alley heads the betting for the Rockingham Handicap. He will be very hard to beat. His Naas comeback was full of promise. Punita Arora, the winner that day, has since pitched up in another Naas stakes race. Unfortunately, she was the victim of serious interference and couldn’t give her running.
Pistoletto and American Lady filled the places behind the Alligator. They have performed with credit since. It was encouraging to see the Alligator break well in Naas. He has had stalls issues in the past. He’s designed for handicaps. This impressive physical specimen is built to carry big weights against inferior rivals. He should enjoy a strong pace to aim at, and I’ll be highly surprised if he doesn’t win.
Enable will get another mention before the 10-furlong handicap at 17.15. Her half-brother runs in it. Centroid has an interesting backstory for a horse with just two career starts. He went off odds on for his debut in a three-year-old maiden in Leopardstown. He delivered in some style. That race worked out quite well too.
He was again put in odds on for his next start in Naas. He blew out in that conditions race and we haven’t seen him since. Maybe he suffered an injury in the race? Something happened, anyway. He spent all of 2019 on the side-lines. Interestingly he was withdrawn from an auction at the end of last year.
Perhaps Dermot Weld suggested to Juddmonte that the horse was worth persevering with. He gets his chance to prove his worth as a five-year-old here. If he retains the ability shown in Leopardstown he looks dangerously handicapped off a mark of 82. Stall 18 is a worry but there isn’t lots of obvious early pace in this race. Centroid has raced handily in both career starts. He will also probably want further in time. I expect him to take a prominent position. He looks worthy of a bet.
A staying handicap closes the card. Sharjah jumps off the page. He hasn’t run since finishing second in the Champion Hurdle. The problem is his last couple of flat starts. They came in 2018. Both were disappointments. I will take Grandmaster Flash to prevail here. This horse is rated 9 pounds higher on the all-weather.
Maybe he isn’t as good on turf but the evidence is questionable. He was most unfortunate in his last couple of starts. They came in November, and December. He was beaten a fag paper in both. In both races the winners were unexposed sorts, and it was a fair way back to the third. The Grandmaster is an improving sort with scope at the trip. He can take his progression to the grass here.
Brendan Duke’s tips for the Curragh on Sunday