Not for the first time, the beat of the betting tom-tom has proved accurate.
At the Curragh yesterday Aidan O’Brien, as he does every year, availed himself of the opportunity to take some of his best horses for a workout on the track after the opening programme of Ireland’s turf season, an awayday from the routine of training at Ballydoyle. Among the team of 60 who sharpened mind and body with a half-speed up the straight in mini-herds were such as Guineas candidates Cristoforo Colombo and George Vancouver, Derby hope Mars and last year’s three-year-old star Camelot.
The significant absentee, though, was Kingsbarns, favourite for the Derby but recently increasingly less prominent in the 2,000 Guineas market. And his trainer confirmed that his charge may not be on the Rowley Mile next month either. “He pulled a shoe off and got an infection in the foot, which is a little bit of a concern for the Guineas,” said O’Brien yesterday.
“He didn’t do anything for 10 days after his setback. It was nothing major, but I wanted him to be here today and he is too far behind in his preparation to come with the others. And for our horses going to Newmarket without a run, they really need to be here today.”
Cristoforo Columbo, generally a 7-1 chance, has assumed the mantle of being O’Brien’s leading Guineas challenger in the bookmakers’ lists, with Kingsbarns pushed out to as much as 10-1 and the warm favourite, last year’s juvenile champion Dawn Approach, now solid at 2-1.
And Dawn Approach’s trainer Jim Bolger did little yesterday to dishearten the colt’s supporters. Not only did a four-timer at the Curragh show the fine fettle of the Glebe House inmates, but Bolger delivered an upbeat, if succinct, report on his stable star’s condition. “He’s in awesome form,” he said.
Twelve months previously, Dawn Approach opened his unbeaten campaign in the juvenile maiden that opens the Irish turf season. Whether Saburo, its winner yesterday, can follow his stablemate’s golden hoofprints only time will tell but in the short term at least he will be given the chance.
The son of Cape Cross started a well-supported 5-4 favourite and did his job professionally and well under Kevin Manning on tacky, testing going, pulling clear of trailblazing Stubbs in the last 150 yards of the five-furlong contest. “I knew he’d have enough pace,” said Bolger, “and he wouldn’t be short of stamina for further. It’s one step at a time at the moment but he’s a good sort of horse. He’ll go the same route as Dawn Approach and he’s versatile ground-wise. I’d say to any punter to follow him until he’s beat.”
Saburo, who carries the maroon colours of Sheikh Mohammed, will next be seen at Naas in May. As was Dawn Approach and, it should be pointed out, Bolger’s winner of the 2011 edition of yesterday’s race, the subsequent nonentity Whip Rule. Bolger completed his four-timer with Caesaria and Alpinist in the three-year-old maidens and Rehn’s Nest in the fillies’ Group 3. The afternoon’s richest contest, the Irish Lincoln, went to 10-1 shot Sweet Lightning, who won the English version of the mile handicap two years ago and is now with one of Ireland’s most upwardly mobile operations, run by Tommy Carmody and his rider Johnny Murtagh.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Red Larkspur (3.40 Lingfield) Makes her seasonal debut against race-fit rivals, but the ducks may be in a row with a dive in class, a drop down the ratings and the champion in the saddle.
Sannibel (3.10 LIngfield) Hated the fibresand last time but proven on the quicker all-weather surface she encounters today. Has gone close twice since stepping up to seven furlongs and can gain compensation for a luckless run here earlier in the month.
One To Watch
Viva Ronaldo (Richard Fahey) provided a nightmare for the rider who forgot to remove his blindfold at Doncaster on Friday but, after what proved an exercise gallop rather than a race, will strip fit next time off a career-low mark.