Irish 1,000 Guineas: Just the Judge in line for Group One success
Stiff mile should play to filly’s strength
Charlie Hills: hopes to emulate father with Guineas success at the Curragh
Nearly 40 years ago Barry Hills trained a first career-classic winner at the Curragh and his son Charlie can pull off a similar feat with Just The Judge in tomorrow’s Etihaad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas.
On a card that also has last year’s triple-classic winner Camelot running in the four-runner Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup – a first appearance since news that Enke, the horse that denied him Triple Crown glory in the Leger, has returned a positive test for steroids – it is the fillies classic which presents a 16-runner quandary that may be best solved by simply siding with the likely favourite.
Just The Judge lost her unbeaten record in the Newmarket Guineas three weeks ago, failing by half a length to an inspired Richard Hughes on Sky Lantern after looking all over the winner coming out of the dip.
Jamie Spencer looked to hit the front plenty soon enough on the Lawman filly that day and she presented something of a perfect target for the winner whose stable companion Maureen was just behind and also joins the strong cross-channel raiding party tomorrow.
Original plans to wait for Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes with Just The Judge have been shelved by Hills, whose legendary father landed the 1974 Oaks at HQ with Dibidale and who scored in the 1,000 Guineas twice with Nicer in 1993 and Hula Angel in 1999.
Spencer is a previous Guineas winner here and Just The Judge’s pedigree suggests a stiff mile like the Curragh’s should be right up her alley.
Aidan O’Brien relies on Snow Queen who was a running-on fifth at Newmarket and the former handicapper could emerge as the principal home hope as ground conditions don’t look like being ideal for Dermot Weld’s Big Break or Viztoria who will attempt to give Eddie Lynam a first classic victory.
John Oxx’s string have been slow to hit their stride this season and Harasiya looks another who would prefer a little cut, although Oxx’s second contender, What Style, should be fine on the surface.
The €30,000 supplementary entry Dubaya could surprise a few on the back of her Athasi reappearance but Just The Judge looks a formidable visitor.
Camelot’s only realistic opponent in the Gold Cup is the English raider Al Kazeem, a five-year-old having his first top-flight start. And it will be a major surprise if last year’s Guineas and dual-Derby hero can’t emerge on top.
Aidan O’Brien’s superstar son on Montjeu didn’t impress everyone with his comeback appearance in the Mooresbridge. But it is not unknown for O’Brien to generate significant improvement between the two races and this is another Group One ripe for the plucking.
O’Brien runs Count Of Limonade and Leading Light in the Group Three Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes but will hardly be heartbroken if both are beaten by Little White Cloud.
The grey should relish the going and there may be significant improvement in him after finishing just three lengths behind Ballydoyle’s top Derby hope Battle Of Marengo in the Derrinstown Trial a couple of weeks ago.
An impressive display tomorrow could well see Little White Cloud earn an Irish Derby place.
Sir John Hawkins is a newcomer in the opening maiden and could hardly boast a better pedigree, being out of the prolific Group One and classic winner Peeping Fawn.
Six Of Hearts has a big task in the six-furlong handicap off top weight but ran a terrific race on his reappearance at Navan last weekend and should be fine on the ground, while Justification can bounce back from Chester Cup defeat in the 1½ mile handicap.