We’ve only just started the flat season and Aidan O’Brien has already taken two big prizes from British shores in the shape of the 2,000 Guineas and Lockinge. However today he might well get a taste of his own medicine in the shape of Elaqram, who can build on a fine return by taking today’s Irish 2,000 Guineas (4.10) at The Curragh.
Bred to be brilliant, by Frankel and out of Attraction, he showed all that promise with an impressive maiden win at York and then he backed that up when making short work of the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket. Guineas hopes were already high for him over the winter and he ran a creditable race in the Classic, finishing fourth behind Saxon Warrior, Tip To Win, and Masar. Connections wished they had gotten more experience into him beforehand, a rather confusing statement given that they bypassed the option of a run beforehand, but he should step forward from that and looks as if the Curragh will suit him. None of the first three in the Guineas are reappearing and that form gives him the advantage over US Navy Flag, who ran a creditable race in the Poulains at Longchamp, and Gustav Klimt, a disappointing sixth at Newmarket.
An interesting contender with more to give is Zhiba, unbeaten in three starts including a very taking win over his elders in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes, no mean feat on his seasonal reappearance. He looks to have more to give and can get involved today whilst the rest of the field has a great deal to prove.
O’Brien has had a lot of success with Australian imports in the sprinting scene and the Greenlands Stakes (3.35) offers us a chance to get a look at new hot property Merchant Navy. A winner of five of his eight races in Australia for Aaron Purcell, he took the Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington despite an awful passage and then was arguably unlucky not to win the Newmarket Handicap when the same thing happened. He was beaten a neck by Redkirk Warrior, who won the Lightning Stakes when beating Redzel, arguably the world’s best sprinter.
That is a really high level of form and if he maintains his peak like other Australians have for O’Brien he can win big races, but today is not going to be the day and he faces a good field. Tasleet is a fine 6-furlong marker – look at his Duke Of York victory last year and his second-placed finishes in the Diamond Jubilee, Sprint Cup and Champions Sprint – but Brando has already been seen twice this season and he looks back to his best after a wind op, with a taking victory in the Abernant and a very smart second in the Duke of York Stakes. Either of those two efforts would give him a big chance.
At Haydock, all eyes should be on Battash in the Temple Stakes (4.00). I had the honour of watching him at the Prix L’Abbaye and would encourage anyone who has doubts about the flat to rewatch that Chantilly success, one of the most impressive performances I’ll ever witness. If he’s close to his best, he can give a penalty away with ease here even if Kachy is as impressive as he was when dismantling a decent field at Chester.
The Sandy Lane Stakes (3.25) also has the look of a fine contest and Heartache shades a tight vote. Clive Cox has been in brilliant form and whilst he has Harry Angel to boot Heartache was deeply impressive in her own right last season, romping home in the Queen Mary before getting a bump early in the Prix Robert Papin which set her alight and perhaps cost her victory that day, not a bad effort considering that Unfortunately took the Morny afterwards. She was a comprehensive winner of the Flying Childers when beating Havana Grey and if returning at that form she is good enough to beat a field that includes Invincible Army, Sands Of Mali, James Garfield, and Barraquero.
Last but not least, in the Silver Bowl, Finniston Farm makes appeal. He didn’t get home at Chester over 10 furlongs but he had a subsequent handicap winner in Another Batt behind him on his reappearance when second in the Free Handicap and a straight mile should be spot on for him. He’s rated 101 but has had only the four games and is worth chancing.
3.35 Curragh – 1 pt win Brando (10/3 Boylesports)
4.10 Curragh – 3 pts win Elarqam (9/4 general)
2.50 Haydock – 1 pt each/way Finniston Farm (9/1 general)
3.25 Haydock – 1 pt win Heartache (9/2 Bet365, Paddy Power)
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