CURRAGH Sat: There’s a top-class card of action from the Curragh this Saturday, with a twilight meeting featuring three Group 3 contests as well as the Irish Cambridgeshire to look forward to.
⭕ The first of the eight races is a maiden (4:05pm) over a mile. Amazingly Aidan O’Brien has won this race nine years in a row and with some horses that have gone on to be top-class, including 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior in 2017. While Ocean Conquest and Star Liner both showed good form on debut, everything points to Ballydoyle newcomer Ortelius, a son of Justify who holds an entry in the Dewhurst, making it 10 from 10 in this contest for his trainer.
⭕ Next up is the first of the Group 3 races on the card, the Newtownanner Stud Stakes (4:40pm) over a mile. Dermot Weld’s Shelaka travelled well and quickened up smartly to win on debut at Tipperary two weeks ago. She got the better of an odds-on Ballydoyle runner that day and looks a filly with a big future.
⭕ The Group 3 Round Tower Stakes (5:10pm) has been won by the favourite on nine of the last 10 occasions. A field of 10 are set to line up over 6f and Aidan O’Brien’s Mountain Bear shades favouritism at the time of writing. The son of No Nay Never has some good form to his name, including when third in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last time, and should go well. Close behind him in the market though is the Paddy Twomey-trained Letsbefrankaboutit who was sent off a short price for his debut over this course and distance. He finished third, but probably wasn’t helped by the way the race developed, with the speed on the opposite side of the track, and he should improve for that experience.
⭕ The third Group 3 of the day is the Snow Fairy Fillies’ Stakes (5:40pm), run over 1m1f. Three-year-old fillies have an excellent record in this race, winning nine of the last 10 renewals, and Village Voice may be able to enhance that record further. She won a Listed race over 1m2f earlier in the season and last time out bumped into a strong rival over this trip at Gowran. Drying ground is a slight concern as all her form is on a soft surface, but if handling it, she has the ability to go close.
⭕ A field of 23 runners are set to stand their ground for the Irish Cambridgeshire (6:10pm) over a mile. As is usually the case with these valuable big-field handicaps, it looks highly competitive. The key form line when looking at this race seems to be the Galway race Coeur D’or won at the beginning of the month. He had several of these rivals in behind him that day, including Blues Emperor, who finished two lengths back in sixth. Soft ground probably didn’t suit this son of Gleneagles that day and he also got a bit trapped on heels at a crucial stage in the race. Back on a sounder surface at a more conventional track and with Wesley Joyce taking seven pounds out of the saddle, he could well reverse the form.
⭕ A 6f handicap (6:40pm) follows. Donnacha O’Brien’s lightly-raced Not Even Close is of interest here, now sporting blinkers and dropping back to 6f for the first time. The son of Australian star sprint sire Zoustar, who is now doing well in the UK, hasn’t run badly in two better handicaps this season and his time may be near.
⭕ The penultimate race on the card is a 7f nursery handicap (7:10pm), and it looks a contest to tread carefully in with most of the field making their handicap debuts. Perhaps Sun Never Sets can be given a chance from what looks a fair opening mark of 73. This daughter of Karakontie got within four lengths of Chesham winner Snellen on debut at Limerick and finished a good third at Gowran when last seen. She looks the type to improve in nurseries.
⭕ The 1m4f Pat Smullen Charity Race (7:40pm), run in memory of the great rider, concludes the card. The Very Man was a ready winner at the Shergar Cup last time out and could prove tough to beat under Kate Harrington despite a sizable drop in trip.