Kevin Blake

Mark Milligan's Big Race Verdict: River Tiber to sail home in Irish 2000 Guineas

Saturday's big race is the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh

Mark Milligan has taken an in-depth look at Saturday's Irish 2000 Guineas and delivers his verdict...

  • Mark Milligan is back with his Big Race Verdict

  • Ballydoyle hold strong hand

  • River Tiber to prove the best of them

The big race in Ireland on Saturday is the Group 1 Tattersalls 2000 Guineas at 15:40, where a field of eight will line up over a mile at the Curragh.

The obvious starting point when looking at the race is to focus on the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, and while we don't have the winner of that contest running here, the form of the race is still strongly represented by second and third-place finishers Rosallion and Haatem.

Both of these colts are trained by Richard Hannon, whose father took the race twice, with Don't Forget Me in 1987 and Canford Cliffs more recently in 2010.

Rosallion was a top juvenile for the Hannon stable, winning of three of his four starts, with the sole defeat coming in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September, where things didn't pan out ideally.

He put that defeat behind him in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp in October, where he stayed on strongly to get the better of Unquestionable, who makes his seasonal reappearance here.

Rosallion sets the standard and I expect him to confirm his Newmarket superiority over Haatem here, too.

Haatem likely to give best to stablemate

While Haatem has to find some improvement if he's to get the better of his stablemate, it would be folly to completely rule him out given how well he ran in the Newmarket Guineas.

His progression looked to have plateaued somewhat during a juvenile season in which he won twice from nine starts, but he seems to have found some improvement for the step up to a mile this season.

He improved his Timeform rating from 106 to 113 when winning the Craven on his seasonal reappearance and then took another forward step to 116 in the Guineas.

Haatem will clearly need to continue on that upward curve here and he'll have his supporters with Jamie Spencer taking over in the saddle from James Doyle.

The Aidan O'Brien challenge

Aidan O'Brien has won he Irish 2000 Guineas a record 12 times and he has fields a trio of representatives this year.

Based on their Timeform ratings, the aforementioned Unquestionable would be the pick, but he reportedly suffered a recent setback and Ryan Moore passes him over in favour of River Tiber.

A winner of his first three starts last season, culminating with victory in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, this son of Wootton Bassett makes his first start at further 6f here.

While he has a speedy pedigree, there are elements of his breeding that suggest he'll stay a mile and more encouragement can be gleaned from his last two runs as a two-year-old.

Those runs both resulted in third-place finishes behind Vandeek, in the Prix Morny at Deauville in July and the Middle Park at Newmarket in September.

River Tiber shaped in both those outings as if ready for a step up in trip, keeping on well in each of them having seemingly been a bit tapped for toe.

The other consideration is his master trainer, who knows what it takes to win this contest and can be trusted to get things right more often than not.

The third Ballydoyle runner is Mountain Bear, who finished second to Unquestionable in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last season.

He's clearly got claims on that form but probably needs to improve again.

Irish 2000 Guineas Verdict

In conclusion, Rosallion sets a clear standard on his Newmarket 2000 Guineas form and is obviously the one to beat if turning up in the same sort of nick.

He's fancied to once again get the better of stablemate Haatem, though I'm hoping both will have to play second fiddle to Aidan O'Brien's River Tiber.

Yes, there is a slight question mark over stamina as he goes beyond sprint trips for the first time, but the way he races suggests he'll appreciate stepping up in trip, for all the bulk of his pedigree casts a few doubts.

Unquestionable and Mountain Bear complete the ones to concentrate on.

Now read Tony Calvin's Saturday racing tips here!

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