This is very much the Jaws time of the year. Just when you think it might be safe to judge the two-year-old hierarchy, you hear the sound of a two-tone cello basso staccato. Yesterday at the Curragh, Saoirse Abu became the latest to cause a rethink with her comprehensive success in Ireland's premier contest for two-year-old fillies, the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
It has to be said there was no excuse for missing Saoirse Abu's teeth; she already had a defeat of colts at the top level on her CV, her stable, that of Jim Bolger, can do little wrong, and she had at least double the experience any of yesterday's eight rivals.
Punters, though, preferred to side with the reputation and potential of the Ballydoyle contender, Listen. But not for the first time this season, it was the Glebe House inmate who prevailed. Saoirse Abu, given a confident, positive ride by Kevin Manning, was never worse than third, always running hard on the steel, and poked her blinkered head in front of Albabilia's with a furlong to race.
Listen, the 4-5 favourite, came through with a purposeful run in pursuit, but never quite closed daylight and the winning distance extended again to a length and a half at the line. Mad About You deprived Albabilia of third close home.
Saoirse Abu had beaten two Royal Ascot winners, Henrythenavigator, another Aidan O'Brien hotshot, and Elletelle, when she took last month's Phoenix Stakes over six furlongs of the Co Kildare track in heavy ground and found yesterday's extra 220 yards and faster conditions equally within her compass.
"She was doing all her best work at the finish last time," said Manning, "and seven was always going to suit her. She'll get further, and she can cope with most ground. She's just a very smart filly."
The 13-2 shot, whose name means "freedom forever" shares her sire, Mr Greeley, with Bolger's three-year-old distaff star, Finsceal Beo. She is now around 14-1 to give her Co Carlow yard a second successive 1,000 Guineas and, with seven runs under her considerable girth, may now rest on her dual Group One laurels until then. "She wants a mile even now," said her trainer and part-owner. "I wouldn't be sure she'd run again this year, but she is very hardy and really professional."
The unbeaten Proviso, trained by André Fabre, and Laureldean Gale, who made the transfer across Newmarket from Peter Chapple-Hyam to the Godolphin stable over the weekend, are vying for top spot in the 1,000 Guineas betting at around 8-1. The pair finished first and second in a French Group Three race last month.
If Saoirse Abu's fin rippled the market for her Classic, that of Raven's Pass produced a positive bow-wave in the colts' pool on Saturday. After winning the Solario Stakes by seven lengths in record time, John Gosden's charge surged towards the top of the 2,000 Guineas betting, where he now challenges the Bolger-trained New Approach.
For a race named after a superb horse who got better as he got older – Solario should have won the 1924 Derby, did win the St Leger and at four took the Coronation Cup and Ascot Gold Cup – the Sandown contest has been sparing in its identification of high-class three-year-olds. The last winner to go on to Classic glory was Oh So Sharp 23 years ago.
The 2,000 Guineas is the only colts' Classic to have eluded Gosden and Raven's Pass, by Elusive Quality, is likely to have his mettle as a candidate tested next in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère on Arc day at Longchamp. New Approach and the Guineas third favourite, Myboycharlie, trained by Tommy Stack for the Coolmore axis, are scheduled to meet in the National Stakes at the Curragh in two weeks.
Yesterday's supporting action in Ireland was headed by the remarkable sprinter Benbaun, who notched his third consecutive Flying Five for Mark Wallace's small Newmarket yard. Ridden by Pat Smullen, the six-year-old inched out locally trained favourite, Dandy Man, for whom a late afternoon deluge that softened the ground came just too soon, after a head-to-head duel in the final furlong.
British raiders were out of luck in Germany, where Youmzain (Mick Channon) and Mountain High (Sir Michael Stoute) finished fourth and eighth in the 135th Grosser Preis von Baden.
The 12-furlong contest, often an Arc pointer, went to five-year-old Quijano, who held the late rally of the German Derby winner Adlerflug by a head. Quijano, a son of Acatenango, had won 10 in a row until defeat in the Dubai Sheema Classic. "He's a remarkable horse," said trainer, Peter Schiergen, "and he now has many different options."