My Branch poised for victory wave




Classics come upon us so frequently at this time of the year that their significance can sometimes be overlooked, but as the Guineas cycle moves to the Curragh, it is time to pay particularly close attention.

Last season, the winners of the first two Irish Classics proved much more successful than their Newmarket counterparts, both going on to further Group One wins. Spectrum, the 2,000 Guineas winner, ended the season with victory in the Champion Stakes, while Ridgewood Pearl's progress was more spectacular still, culminating in success at the Breeders' Cup. Hers may be an impossible act for today's 1,000 Guineas winner to follow, but the beauty of this early stage of the season is that anything is still feasible.

To be fair, Ridgewood Pearl arrived at the Curragh 12 months ago with a seven-length victory in a Listed event to her credit. Today's field offers no such encouragement, while Bosra Sham, the 1,000 winner, is waiting for Royal Ascot. Newmarket form is strongly represented, however, by Matiya, Bint Shadayid and My Branch, respectively second, third and fourth to Henry Cecil's filly.

Since the home defence appears unusually weak, the winner should come from this trio, and the choice must be My Branch (next best 3.55), who suffered a hard-luck story at Newmarket to make grown men weep. Those sobbing most pitifully had backed her each-way, as with a clear run, Barry Hills's filly would have finished third, at least. She would probably have beaten Matiya too, and can prove the point today.

Tomorrow's 2,000 Guineas is a fascinating event which draws together the threads of both the British and French equivalents. Bijou D'Inde, beaten in a three-way photo at Newmarket, and Beauchamp King will bat for Britain, while Spinning World, who looked unlucky when finishing fast into second in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, flies the Tricolor for the French form. Tagula and Russian Revival must also go to post with some chance, though it is a shame that the Irish are unable to offer a serious challenge.

The one to back is Spinning World (4.10), whose run behind Ashkalani, probably the best three-year-old miler in Europe, is more convincing than the form of the blanket finish at Newmarket. The British abroad may have more to celebrate after tomorrow's Derby Italiano, in which Peter Chapple- Hyam's Heron Island leads a five-strong challenge. Halling, who in spirit at least is one of our own, also makes his seasonal debut tomorrow, in the Group One Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp.

Today's domestic racing is unusually interesting given the quality available abroad. Kammtarra, a half-brother to last year's Derby and Arc winner, Lammtarra, could make a late move in the Derby betting with victory at Doncaster, but Farasan (4.20), who beat Wednesday's Lupe Stakes winner, Whitewater Affair, on his debut, should have his measure.

Handicaps, and very difficult ones at that, form the bulk of the televised races, though one who could be worth an interest at decent odds is High Pyrenees (Doncaster 4.50). He has not raced for almost a year, but has been let in on a generous mark.

Dashing Blue (2.30) is the value to beat Farahana in Haydock's Sandy Lane Stakes, but the outstanding bet is at Kempton. Promising animals from several leading stables contest the Heron Stakes, but may simply make the market for SORBIE TOWER (nap 4.05), who has improved 30lb already this season and has not stopped yet.

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