By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") @J_Keelerman
Although racing in the U.S. may be in a bit of a slumber while we wait for the Belmont Stakes, racing across the waters in Europe is just getting geared up! On Saturday at the Curragh, an exciting card of seven races will be held, highlighted by the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Ire-I), the first classic of the Irish racing season. A field of eleven has turned out for this one-mile race, including a trio of colts from the barn of Aidan O’Brien. Let’s take a look at the entries!
Irish 2,000 Guineas (Ire-I)
|# - PP
|3 - 1
|G. M. Lyons
|1st Patton Stakes
|5 - 2
|1st QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I)
|8 - 3
|3rd Gol Societies Welcome Race
|7 - 4
|F. M. Berry
|Rob Moseley International Trial Stakes
|11 - 5
|1st Tetrarch Stakes
|10 - 6
|3rd Tetrarch Stakes
|1 - 7
|8th Aon Greenham Stakes (Eng-III)
|4 - 8
|G. M. Lyons
|2nd Tetrarch Stakes
|6 - 9
|3rd QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I)
|2 - 10
|John Patrick Shanahan
|3rd Derby Trial Stakes (Ire-III)
|9 - 11
|4th Betfair Dee Stakes
The heavy favorite in the wagering is Gleneagles, who would be unbeaten in six starts if not for a disqualification from victory in last year’s Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Fr-I) at Longchamp. The son of Galileo opened the season with an impressive 2 ¼-length win in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket, and having thoroughly proven himself at the Curragh—he’s 3-for-3 over the track—he figures to be very hard to beat on Saturday. And of course, it’s hard to overlook the fact that trainer Aidan O’Brien has won this race nine times, including three straight from 2011-2013.
Second choice in the wagering is Ivawood, but it’s difficult to envision him defeating Gleneagles. Ivawood was a talented two-year-old, winning a pair of group II stakes and finishing second by a nose in the Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I), but could only manage a third-place finish in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, beaten three lengths by Gleneagles. Given that Ivawood had run in a prep race prior to the Guineas, whereas Gleneagles had not, I think there’s a good chance that Gleneagles could improve on his Guineas form this Saturday, making it difficult for Ivawood to turn the tables.
Belardo is another well-regarded contender, having scored a solid two-length victory in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket last October. Although he finished a poor eighth in the April 18th Aon Greenham Stakes (Eng-III) at Newbury, the course conditions may have had an effect on his performance—Belardo’s best races have come over wetter turf courses than he encountered at Newbury, and the "good to yielding" conditions of the Irish 2,000 Guineas will hopefully be to his liking.
Tetrarch Stakes 1-2-3 finishers Tombelaine, Endless Drama, and The Warrior also warrant close consideration. The first two colts finished just a half-length apart at the finish of the seven-furlong race, which was contested over a "heavy" course at the Curragh. Of those two, I prefer Tombelaine, who seemed to be finishing better than his rival and who showed lots of promise as a juvenile, finishing less than a length behind Gleneagles in the Tyros Stakes (Eng-III) last July.
I am also intrigued by the chances of The Warrior, who finished 5 ¼ lengths behind Tombelaine in the Tetrarch. A stablemate of Gleneagles, The Warrior has only run once from six starts—that coming in a 25-horse maiden race at the Curragh on March 29th—but he has also posted a couple of decent runs in stakes company, including the Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I), a race in which he finished last of six, but was only beaten 3 ¼ lengths. He’s going to be a longshot—the major British bookmakers have him at 40-1 and 50-1—but I think that the extra distance and ground conditions could help get him into the mix for the exotics.
So to recap, my selection to win is Gleneagles, with Belardo my choice to round out the exacta. Ivawood should be right in the mix for the exotics as well, and The Warrior could be a live longshot to hit the board at a big price.
Another exciting race will be held on Sunday at the Curragh, that being the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) for older horses. Final entries and post positions for the 10.5-furlong race have not yet been announced, but the race is expected to feature The Grey Gatsby, who upset the very talented Australia in the Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) last September. In his only race since then, The Grey Gatsby finished a strong second to Solow in the nine-furlong Dubai Turf (UAE-I) at Meydan on March 28th, and with that effort under his belt, The Grey Gatsby should be sitting on a top-notch performance on Sunday.
Also expected to start in the Tattersalls Gold Cup is the seven-year-old veteran Al Kazeem, who came back from retirement to contest five races last year, culminating with a strong runner-up finish in the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot in October. He returned to action on April 15th to win the Prix d’Harcourt (Fr-I) at Longchamp, and then finished second to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix Ganay (Eng-I) on May 3rd at Longchamp. He’s clearly in very good form right now, and should The Grey Gatsby fail to fire his best effort on Sunday, Al Kazeem should be right there to pick up the pieces.
Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the major Irish races this weekend?