Irish Reflections

May 23rd, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

There were mixed messages with regard to the future from the weekend action at the Curragh.

What the two-day meeting did demonstrate was the importance of the ground on the results, with at least two of the weekend’s top races – possibly three – going to horses that relished the mud. Had the rains not come down, especially on Sunday, I fancy there would have been different horses in the winner’s enclosure.

I don’t know Kevin Prendergast well enough to assess how good a judge he is of a horse, but those that are acquainted with the great man have been saying for a while now that he rated Awtaad as good a colt as he had ever trained. It had been a while since he had a good one – Oscar Schindler won him an Irish St Leger in 1997 and a long time before that Ardross was in his care for a while – but Awtaad had apparently done things on the gallops that sent a tingle down the spine of the octogenarian and the colt did not disappoint, putting up a thoroughly workmanlike display to beat Galileo Gold comfortably by two and a half lengths.

Hugo Palmer has subsequently suggested that the rain-softened ground was not ideal for his 2,000 Guineas winner, but it was good to soft when he won at Haydock and Goodwood last year and officially good to soft at Newmarket. Awtaad’s three previous victories had also been on easy going, but Prendergast says he believes the colt will prove just as effective on better ground so the result is probably an accurate reflection of their respective merits.

I had been keen on Blue De Vega, who had been beaten two lengths trying to concede Awtaad 3lb in a 7f Listed race at the Curragh earlier in the month. On form he should have been upsides the winner, but his trainer Michael Callaghan would have preferred better ground and the mile is not far enough for him. He seemed to be travelling as well as the winner at halfway but then appeared to run green once asked to challenge, drifting right under pressure.

I held out a slim hope that Blue De Vega would run in the Derby as he is bred to thrive over a mile and a half, but I suspect that is now unlikely to happen. I still believe he will win a Group 1, probably over a mile and a quarter or more.

As for Awtaad and Galileo Gold, they will now meet The Gurkha in what promises to be a thrilling St James’s Palace Stakes. 2,000 Guineas runner-up Massaat and Emotionless could also come into the mix in what should prove one of the highlights of the week.

Mick Channon has made a tremendous start to the season and Mobsta was another colt for whom the rain was more than welcome. The narrow margin of success owed much to the skill of Pat Smullen.

Lower-profile trainers enjoyed a good weekend and on Sunday the opening two-year-old maiden, won four times in the last five years by Aidan O’Brien, went to a speedily-bred newcomer named Van Der Decken. The colt’s trainer Pat Twomey is well-known in pinhooking circles but this season he has decided to keep a couple back to train for himself with this happy result. As a son of Dutch Art out of a mare by Green Desert this colt’s pedigree is all about speed.

Later in the day Fascinating Rock reversed recent form with Found, again a result that can be attributed to the ground. Found has big autumn targets marked in for her – notably the Arc – while Fascinating Rock is being aimed at the Irish Champion Stakes and, possibly, the Arc as well.

I was pleased to see Jet Setting land the Irish 1,000 Guineas. In mitigation Minding’s chance must have been compromised by burst a sinus sustained when she anticipated the start in the stalls but, even so, the pair pulled 10 lengths clear of the very useful Now Or Never in third.

I would love to know how Adrian Keatley has unearthed the secret to Jet Setting’s talents. She was rated 85 when he bought her for 12,000gns at the Tattersalls Sales on 27 October having finished second twice, at Brighton and Newmarket, from four starts. Looking back her run behind the now top-class Nemoralia in a Doncaster nursery reads quite well, but never enough to suggest she was a potential winner of a Classic.

Quite what made connections run Jet Setting in a Listed race at Chantilly less than a month after buying her is unknown to me, but in finishing third to subsequent French 1,000 Guineas winner La Cressonniere she displayed exceptional improvement, evidently relishing the heavy ground that she was tackling for the first time.

Then in March she showed how much she likes to dominate by making all in a maiden at Cork before beating Now Or Never by three lengths in a Group 3 at Leopardstown. Things didn’t work out for her in the Guineas at Newmarket, where she received a bump at halfway and found the good ground against her, but then back on her favoured testing going at the weekend and with an uncontested lead she showed true grit to hold off long odds-on favourite by a head.

The result was a triumph for the small man, but something close to a disaster for Aidan O’Brien. Minding had a hard race to finish second, sustained an injury and has less than a fortnight to go until the Oaks. Furthermore, I am in the camp that believe Minding will struggle to stay a mile and a half anyway.

The next few days will be critical but my view is that Minding will miss the race. O’Brien has no fewer than nine other fillies in the Oaks, including Ballydoyle and the promising Even Song. The latter has been on my shortlist for the Oaks since the autumn, and you will struggle to get 10/1 about her as I write. Turret Rocks, who missed the Guineas, is also interesting for Jim Bolger as she also has a rock-solid middle-distance pedigree.

All in all this was an absorbing weekend of racing and one to which we will be referring for a long time to come.

Bye for now