He may be a stickler for doing things right, but that does not prevent Jim Bolger making up his own rules. Quite the reverse, in fact, and such is his record that few would presume to tell him that he might be pushing convention too far in the extraordinary schedule he has proposed for Parish Hall.
Bolger is openly talking of his fourth Dewhurst Stakes winner in six years as a match for any of the previous three. On that basis, Parish Hall would command automatic respect in his attempt to emulate New Approach in the Investec Derby next Saturday. But the colt, unraced since that success last October, first takes in the small matter of a Classic over a mile at the Curragh today.
As things stand Parish Hall lacks the obvious brilliance of New Approach or his own sire, Teofilo, having been all out under a bold ride along the stands rail in the Dewhurst. If nothing else, however, he has laid some pretty professional foundations and could very well build considerably upon them once going beyond a mile. And while he could be doing that as soon as next weekend, in the meantime he has been well backed for the Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas, where the drying conditions are in his favour.
A solid run seems guaranteed, but he will need to be approaching top-class over a mile to beat several who graduate from roles of varying distinction in the Newmarket original, which he missed because of the soft ground. The French colt, Hermival, fared best in third that day, doing well to overcome his inexperience. It remains to be seen if he will prove so effective on these livelier conditions, however.
It looks significant that Joseph O'Brien has chosen Power from his father Aidan's four runners, despite that deplorable run behind the stable's top colt, Camelot, at Newmarket. Power had looked in top order beforehand and it is hard to believe that he could run so poorly purely on account of the ground. His trainer has been toying with a drop in trip, but strictly on his Dewhurst run – when beaten half a length, bounding home late after Parish Hall had gained a head start – Power is certainly worth the chance to put that behind him. It will be recalled that Roderic O'Connor likewise blew out at Newmarket, before winning this race for young O'Brien last year.
For betting purposes, however, the field contains rather too many horses on similar retrieval missions. Born To Sea, for instance, proved too fresh in the English Guineas and could yet come up with a performance more in keeping with his pedigree, as a half-brother to Sea The Stars, albeit the fitting of headgear is disconcerting. At the odds, however, most tempting of all is Ballydoyle's Daddy Long Legs (3.15).
His tilt at the Kentucky Derby proved even more of a non-event than his dirt reconnaissance at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup last autumn. But he had previously proved himself superior to Wrote, on more than one occasion. Somehow, he remains twice the odds of that colt today. Moreover he maintains his partnership with the underrated Colm O'Donoghue.
It should be another productive weekend for Ireland's top stable. Though a total revelation in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, O'Brien's Homecoming Queen must certainly be presumed every bit as good as she looked that day, as she tries to follow up in her home version tomorrow. So You Think should, meanwhile, outclass a very disappointing field in the earlier Tattersalls Gold Cup.
The big race on the home front today is the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock, where a couple of legitimate Group One types dominate the market in Bated Breath and Sole Power. With a strong pace guaranteed, however, the big value at 14-1 is Elusivity (3.00). Still unexposed in this discipline, he progressed from his reappearance when a close third on his first start at this trip at Newmarket last time, and may do better still on this quicker surface.
Gabrial (2.30) warrants perseverance back on quicker ground in the big handicap on the same card, and the same holds true of Montaser (2.00).
Chris McGrath's Nap
Saratoga Slew (8.55 Newbury)
My Kingdom (5.00 Goodwood)