You wait nine months for a Classic, and then six come along in a dozen days.
The French Guineas were rapidly followed by the English versions and this weekend the spotlight falls on Ireland, with the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Friday night being followed by the Irish 1,000 Guineas 24 hours later. Both contests are again sponsored by Tattersalls.
Aidan O’Brien has already landed the Irish 2,000 Guineas on 11 occasions, although his five runners last year all had had to settle for supporting roles and it was a similar story in 2018 when his four challengers came up short.
O’Brien is responsible for six of the 11 runners this time but it is the Ger Lyons-trained Siskin, the only Group One winner in the line-up, who heads the betting. Here’s a guide to all the runners.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 110. Odds: 9-2
The Verdict: Watch what our experts made of Armory's Futurity success
Was completing a hat-trick of wins when landing the Group Two Futurity Stakes at the Curragh in late August (second win at the track) before signing off the season by being placed in three Group One contests.
He was no match for Pinatubo in the National Stakes, or German challenger Alson in France on his final start, but in between was under a length third to Victor Ludorum (winner of this year’s French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp. Bags of experience, proven at the trip and, as a son of Galileo, no surprise if he steps forward again this term.
What they say: Aidan O’Brien on his squad: “New World Tapestry ran a nice race in the Vertem Futurity Trophy. Royal Lytham won a Group Two, he never went further than six but we always thought he would stay further. We’re not convinced how far Monarch Of Egypt will stay. An option would have been to go to the Jersey without a run, but then you’re probably going to find it hard to find out if he is going to get a mile or not. We’ll learn a lot with these horses when they start. Everybody learns together really what they are. We don’t expose them too much at home if we can.”
2. FISCAL RULES
Trainer: Jim Bolger. Official Rating: --. Odds: 16-1
Shaped with loads of promise when beaten a head by Wichita when the pair made their debut in an 18-runner maiden at the Curragh (7f) on softish ground in late August.
The winner has gone on to make a name for himself and went close in the English Guineas last weekend, offering hope that Fiscal Rules might also hit the heights. However, he has not run since and before getting too carried away with his initial effort it is worth noting that the next five home that day have done very little to advertise the form.
3. FORT MYERS
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 107. Odds: 20-1
He was kept busy as a two-year-old and won a couple of races on the All-weather at Dundalk, but he came up short in five assignments in pattern company.
Two of those reverses came at the Curragh (in races won by Siskin and Lope Y Fernandez) and ventures to Britain and America also failed to yield a big prize. He will not fail through lack of experience, or stamina, but it will be a surprise if the War Front colt prevails here.
4. FREE SOLO
Trainer: Jessica Harrington. Official Rating: 97. Odds: 20-1
He put three Aidan O’Brien-trained rivals firmly in their place when winning a mile maiden at Leopardstown in late July and his trainer suggested afterwards that he was the type to keep improving with racing.
Free Solo has not run since, though, suggesting he subsequently met with a setback. Leap of faith required here given his inexperience and 11-month absence.
Who will win the big race at the Curragh on Friday night?
5. LOPE Y FERNANDEZ
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 107. Odds: 10-1
Looked a bit special when winning on his debut at the Curragh (7f) a year ago and landed a Group Three contest (dropped to 6f) on his only other visit to the track in late August.
That has to be a tick in his box but, on the minus side, he seemed to have limitations exposed in England – twice being no match for Pinatubo before failing to make an impact in the Middle Park Stakes. Stamina to prove and others more compelling.
6. MONARCH OF EGYPT
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 111. Odds: 20-1
Won on his debut at Naas before chasing home Siskin in the Railway Stakes and then Phoenix Stakes.
A hard race on heavy ground in the latter race might have left a mark because he subsequently trailed home last in the Middle Park before also being well beaten in the Dewhurst. Arrives here with questions to answer, not least whether he will be fully effective over a mile.
7. REBEL TALE
Trainer: Andrew Slattery. Official Rating: 104. Odds: 50-1
The Navan maiden winner excelled himself when chasing home Armory in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh in late August before finishing a creditable fourth to Mogul in another Group Two contest the following month.
Bred to appreciate stepping up to a mile but a surprise if he does not find at least a couple too strong.
8. ROYAL LYTHAM
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 111. Odds: 10-1
Dave Yates and Angus McNae put the July Stakes under the microscope
The son of Gleneagles did not do too much wrong in four starts last year when racing exclusively over six furlongs.
He was a game winner of the Group Two July Stakes at Newmarket, when getting up close home, before being under a length third to Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes, where he had to make his own running and stuck on well once headed. He’s open to plenty of improvement stepping up to a mile.
Trainer: Michael Halford. Official Rating: 104. Odds: 12-1
Got off the mark at the second time of asking when winning over track and trip in August and stepped up on that when chasing home Mogul in the Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.
The Kingman colt appeals as the type to come into his own this year, although this trip is likely to be a bare minimum as there is plenty of stamina on the dam’s side of his pedigree.
What they say: Trainer Michael Halford - “Our fellow has shown a good level of form as a two-year-old and we felt he was entitled to take his chance. The Curragh is a stiff track and you’d need to get every yard. It’s usually a strong gallop and that will certainly play into our hands.”
Trainer: Ger Lyons. Official Rating: 114. Odds: 2-1 fav
Will Siskin prserve his unbeaten record
Four runs yielded four wins last year, three of them achieved at the Curragh on a range of ground. And he’s the only Group One winner in the line-up.
He looked a most professional young colt when taking the Railway Stakes and the Phoenix Stakes, although he did end the year with a blemish after playing up in the stalls and having to be withdrawn from the Middle Park Stakes.
The one niggle for those prepared to back him at a short price is his stamina. Neither his sire or dam won beyond 7f, although the latter was effective over a mile
What they say: Colin Keane told Racing TV: “He’s in as good nick as we can have him, so we’re looking forward to it. I think he’s done very well through the winter and I think the delay to racing has actually stood to him. We’re very hopeful and happy with his draw.”
11. VATICAN CITY
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official Rating: 93. Odds: 6-1
Regally bred, being a brother of Gleneagles (winner of the 2000 Guineas/Irish Guineas) among others.
Found his debut at Newmarket a bit of a shock to the system but much more like it when an impressive winner at Dundalk next time. The Galileo colt is open to significant improvement, but is priced up defensively.
Siskin carried all before him last year and will be hard to beat if he as effective over a mile, but the favourite is unproven beyond six furlongs and his pedigree raises stamina doubts.
ROYAL LYTHAM is also unproven beyond six furlongs but shaped as if crying out for further last year and his breeding supports the theory that he will improve for moving up in distance.
He was less than a length behind Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes and, chalked up at 10-1 by Ladbrokes, appeals as a decent bet to turn to the tables and give his stable a 12th success in this race. Jockey bookings suggest other O'Brien runners are better fancied, but I would not get too hung up on that.
Armory will also be hard to keep out of the frame, with Sinawann making most appeal among the more unexposed runners.
1 ROYAL LYTHAM. 2 ARMORY. 3 SINAWANN
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