It feels like the flat season is really getting going now with the first of Leopardstown's summer evening meetings yesterday and the opening Irish classics of the season this weekend. Both Guineas have double-figure fields and look competitive despite neither of the Newmarket winners or runners-up taking part which is more than can be said about the Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday.
That's a race which could see its Group 1 status under discussion again soon. Despite the presence of three Group 1s, perhaps the classiest race of the two-day meeting at the Curragh is the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes. There is no Harry Angel but a couple of his foils Brando and Tasleet are there and will provide a stern test for Merchant Navy on his Irish debut.
Curragh 15:00 - Navan winner Evasive Power looks overpriced
Van Beethoven won well at Naas but that form wasn't really advertised by California Daddy last night and if you do fancy him he could be one to hit in-running; he traded at 4.47/2 from a Betfair SP of 1.625/8 after not travelling well but finishing the race out strongly. At the prices Evasive Power is worth a small bet however.
It was only an auction maiden he won last time but both the placed horses had run in good maidens previously and they pulled clear of the fourth. Furthermore Evasive Power did well to come from the back of the field as it was not that strongly-run and this extra furlong will suit. Form lines give him the edge on opponents like Land Force and he can get into the shake-up.
Curragh 16:10 - Big time-figure suggests Symbolization can step up in grade
I'm prepared to use the blunt instrument of time-figures as a way into the 2,000 Guineas with Symbolization the interesting one; he ran a broadly similar time to Saxon Warrior over the same course-and-distance, a figure that at least theoretically puts him in the mix with Elarqam now. His handicap was more evenly-run than the classic but there is a big price discrepancy between the pair and there are other positives with him too; he seemed to improve for stepping up to a mile last time when he travelled strongly and his prior form with Purser worked out.
The front end of the betting could be worth opposing. Elarqam has things to recommend him but the price is short and it's possible he is more of a 10-furlong horse; he also raced in the right position at Newmarket though would have preferred a greater emphasis on stamina.
U S Navy Flag has to prove he stays this trip and the way he races suggests it is unlikely; I do wonder if Ballydoyle are trying to sell a pacemaker dummy here with Spanish Point here and the real aim is to get a soft lead for Ryan Moore's mount. The vibes with Gustav Klimt just haven't been great and he seemed to have no real excuses at Newmarket with the lead jockey again preferring another.
Curragh 16:45 - Hydrangea may not be ready to run to her best
Trainer comments can be vanilla and offer little insight into a horse's chance but when someone says something negative it is different entirely and Aidan O'Brien's recent comments on Hydrangea look important here: "She could start off in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, start for a run and trying her best but she should show drastic improvement after that." I'm not sure whether it's a positive or negative that she runs here ahead of the Group 1 but it seems she is unlikely to be fully fit and is being trained for later in the season. There is also a possibility that this trip is on the sharp side for her with the Arc apparently her target.
One can thus make a case that a few of the others are overpriced but I worry about the fast ground for Making Light (the worst race she ran came on good and this is even quicker) while it is hard to know what form Opal Tiara is in. Goldrush on the other hand is likeable sort with scope to improve having only made her debut last September and showed plenty of pace to win over a mile at Dundalk. Xenobia has plenty to find but can improve on last time if settling better in the middle part of the race; she isn't the easiest ride but Chris Hayes getting back on top is a plus as he has three wins from four rides on her. There is also a chance she gets a soft lead.
Curragh 17:55 - Concentrate on strong Navan form in the last
The final handicap is basically the same race as was due to be run on the partially abandoned Naas card last Sunday with a few additions like Lethal Power and Dream Of Words. I'm going to stick to my view that that Navan race won by Caffe Macchiato last month will prove the key form-line and back both that horse and Band Of Outlaws who was third.
Caffe Macchiato won well on the day but seemed to struggle with the drop in trip at Chester so this return to a straight mile should suit. Band Of Outlaws should get closer to him now though if ridden a bit more forward; he was held up off a slow pace and travelled well and gets a seven pound pull now.
2018 P+L: -12.3 points