Gary O'Brien: Shekhem can shake up the form with Innisfree

Racehorse Shekhem
Shekhem got off the mark recently and at the prices is worth a bet to reverse the form with Innisfree

Gary O'Brien is back in the Sunday hotseat searching for winners from the Irish racing and he has found a 6.411/2 shot who could overturn an Aidan O'Brien odds-on favourite...

"We haven't seen Innisfree since he won the seven furlong maiden on the opening night of the Galway festival, and on that occasion it was only after a protracted duel that the odds-on shot got the better of market rival Shekhem. Indeed, as the latter's trainer Dermot Weld opined afterwards, had the pair been drawn the other way around it's far from impossible that we could have seen a different result."

O'Brien hot favourite for 19th Beresford Stakes win

This afternoon's Beresford Stakes at the Curragh is a race Aidan O'Brien has dominated like few others. The master of Ballydoyle has already sent out a staggering 18 winners of the Group 2 contest over a mile, including the last eight in succession, and unsurprisingly the layers expect that stranglehold to continue in this afternoon's feature event. Son Donnacha's mount Innisfree is the warm favourite from a three-pronged stable challenge, but - futile as it may seem given the aforementioned statistics - at the prices I feel almost duty-bound to take him on.

For a start we haven't seen the son of Galileo since he won the seven furlong maiden on the opening night of the Galway festival, and on that occasion it was only after a protracted duel that the odds-on shot got the better of market rival Shekhem. Indeed, as the latter's trainer Dermot Weld opined afterwards, had the pair been drawn the other way around it's far from impossible that we could have seen a different result.

Shekhem off the mark and looking competitive

Shekhem for his part has continued to demonstrate his wellbeing in the interim, losing little in defeat to Innisfree's highly-regarded stable-mate Mogul (now himself a Group 2 winner) over today's course and distance a month later before deservedly getting off the mark at the Listowel festival 18 days ago. That was a fair race for the venue, with several of his rivals already having run to a decent standard, but the outcome was never in much doubt and crucially as far as today is concerned (the Curragh ground is now heavy after substantial overnight rain) it proved that he could at least handle a soft surface.

The yard is in much better form now than at the time of the two colts' previous clash too, and at 4/1 Chris Hayes's mount looks too big in comparison to his old rival.

Gold Maze and Camorra also of interest

Jessica Harrington enjoyed yet another big win in the juvenile division when Millisle sprang a surprise in yesterday's Cheveley Park Stakes, and while most of her strength in the age group lies with the fillies her Gold Maze is a noteworthy participant here.

A very costly yearling purchase, the Golden Horn colt showed definite promise on his debut when a staying-on fifth to Sinawann at today's venue just over five weeks ago. That admittedly leaves him with plenty to find against this stronger opposition but he is open to any amount of improvement, and the fact that connections have seen fit to allow him to take his chance suggests that he has at least been showing a comparable level of ability to some of his more illustrious female stable-companions at home in the interim.

However, the other main player today is surely Ger Lyons's Killarney scorer Camorra, who looked to have a bright future when overcoming greenness to make a winning debut at the August fixture there. There should be plenty more to come with that experience under his belt but Shekhem's greater experience could prove crucial and earns him the vote.

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