The owners of Stubbs Art yesterday paid €40,000 to supplement their colt to the Boylesports Irish 2,000 Guineas. The prize for third place at the Curragh on Saturday is €40,000. In normal circumstances, the fee would seem to strike a pretty equitable balance between risk and reward. But the likely participation of both Henrythenavigator and New Approach, who had Stubbs Arts four lengths away in third when sharing that epic duel at Newmarket earlier in the month, suggests that Stubbs Art has not the slightest margin for error.
Of course, his connections can point even to his humble role at Newmarket as evidence that Stubbs Art knows how to flout general expectations. He had been beaten in six of his seven previous starts, including an all-weather handicap just nine days beforehand, and started at 100-1. With all due respect for his head for heights, however, the fact is that Stubbs Art was still painting by numbers at Newmarket – while the two colts in front of him were engaged on a great masterpiece.
In what is already shaping up as an engrossing Flat season, they have also come to represent extremes in the polemics of elite horsemen. The two camps know that the stakes, already enormous at Newmarket, have been raised anew for the rematch. New Approach, of course, is the Derby favourite manqué. His trainer, Jim Bolger, has already made it plain that the colt could not go on to Epsom, a bare fortnight after running in this race. In a climate of contrariness unusual even in horseracing, however, the men behind Henrythenavigator may yet take a different view with their colt.
The first ambition for John Magnier and his partners in Coolmore Stud, cherishing Epsom as they do, would be for Henrythenavigator to outpace New Approach over a mile for a second time, in the process again making Bolger's colt look an obvious Derby type. And then, as icing on the cake, they could conceivably ask their colt to try an extra half-mile at Epsom, with nothing to lose. After all, in the past they have tended to use the Irish 1,000 Guineas as a springboard to the Oaks. Last year they even did so when the two races were divided by just five days, Peeping Fawn finishing third at the Curragh and second at Epsom.
One step at a time, however, and the immediate question is who can win the rematch. The sponsors have come down in favour of New Approach, making him 5-4 to turn round the Newmarket photo. And, at 9-4, they offer the best price in the market against Henrythenavigator.
They dismiss Stubbs Art at 20-1, and with Ibn Khaldun instead likely to fill Godolphin's void at Epsom, they consider Famous Name (8-1) and Jupiter Pluvius (10-1) as the only other major players. In fairness, it is hard to know what to make of the second supplementary entry, Nownownow, who was exported to David Wachman's yard after winning the inaugural Juvenile Turf race at the Breeders' Cup last autumn. But the form has not worked out in Europe this spring: Achill Island, the runner-up at Monmouth Park, was beaten five lengths in the Dee Stakes at Chester, while the fourth, Strike The Deal, was only ninth in the Guineas.
Nahoodh, who looked so unlucky when fifth in the 1,000 Guineas, is 4-1 favourite with Boylesports for the Irish version on Sunday. The other Group One race on that card is the Tattersalls Gold Cup, in which Duke Of Marmalade has the chance to prove that his Group One breakthrough in France last month was only the overture of an overdue fulfilment.
IRISH 2,000 GUINEAS (Curragh, Saturday) Boylesports: 5-4 New Approach, 9-4 Henrythenavigator, 8-1 Famous Name, 10-1 Jupiter Pluvius, 14-1 Ibn Khaldun, 20-1 Stubbs Art, Nownownow, 25-1 others.
Nap: Living On A Prayer(Musselburgh 4.40)
NB: Killer Class (Musselburgh 5.10)