We have some higl class action on the second day of Irish Champions Weekend, and Racing UK's Gary O'Brien is here to provide his best bets on the card...
"He is 5lb clear of his two big rivals on official figures, and for me is open to every bit as much improvement as them."
The opening day of Irish Champions weekend certainly delivered plenty of excitement and all the ingredients are there for more fireworks at the Curragh this afternoon.
Shane Foley and Jessica Harrington got on the scoresheet early yesterday when Cadillac impressed in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes and I fancy the top combination to be centre stage again this afternoon.
Vega can strike Lucky in National Stakes
Perhaps the clash of the day comes in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at 16:10, where Master Of The Seas tries to give his connections a third successive victory in the race and the exciting Battleground bids to cement his tall reputation.
Both are worthy of maximum respect but Harrington's Lucky Vega, who for my money produced the juvenile performance of the season so far in the Phoenix Stakes at today's venue last month, deserves to be favourite and at 11/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook has to be the one to side with.
An impressive winner on the opening day of racing following lockdown at Naas, the Lope de Vega colt didn't reappear for nearly six weeks when second to Laws Of Indices in the Railway Stakes. He looked all over the winner when arriving to challenge inside the final furlong on that occasion before losing out by half a length but the benefit of the outing was clear for all to see last time.
Travelling powerfully from the word go there, Lucky Vega produced a terrific burst when asked to beat a high-quality field with plenty to spare and the manner in which he ran through the line there suggests that the extra furlong her shouldn't be a problem (plenty of encouragement in the pedigree on that score too). He is 5lb clear of his two big rivals on official figures, and for me is open to every bit as much improvement as them.
Pepper looks a tasty bet in Blandford Stakes
Harrington and Foley will hopefully already be on the scoresheet by the time the stalls open for the National Stakes, with Cayenne Pepper a strong selection to get off the mark for the season in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes at 14:35.
A high-quality juvenile last season, she took a while to come to hand this term but made a great start when chasing home Magical in the Pretty Polly Stakes. Well fancied for the Irish Oaks on the back of that, she again ran well without ultimately proving any match for the winner Even So.
Plenty were disappointed that she couldn't cope with Tarnawa when sent off a short price for the Group 3 Give Thanks Stakes at Cork on her latest start but there looked to be mitigating circumstances there. Foley understandably appeared keen to delay his effort longer than he had at the Curragh, and Oisin Orr was able to get the winner into top gear and steal what proved to be a race-winning advantage by the time the favourite eventually got rolling.
There is a school of thought that Cayenne Pepper doesn't truly stay the longer trip but I can't have that - she was closing at the line at Cork. However today's shorter journey clearly suits every bit as well and her jockey will be able to ride her more positively as a result.
Teresa Mendoza and Micro Manage interested me in their respective Group 1 assignments on the card but the fancy prices are long gone on both so I will reluctantly sit those out. The latter is a particularly interesting contender for the Comer Group Irish St Leger after a very promising return from a lengthy injury layoff, though I expect last year's Irish Derby hero Sovereign to be a formidable opponent.