Europe’s classic trials kick into gear this weekend and Sunday’s Leopardstown action could prove particularly informative.
Ryan Moore travels to Dublin for a card that has a proven track record of identifying future classic stars.
A year ago, Homeless Songs landed the Ballylinch Stud 1,000 Trial on-route to a brilliant victory in the Curragh Guineas.
The 2021 winner Joan Of Arc proceeded to land the French Oaks while Poetic Flare used the 2,000 Trial as a stepping stone to Guineas glory at Newmarket the same year.
Moore’s rides for Aidan O’Brien on Sunday include Alexandroupolis who will try to cement his status as 9-1 Derby second-favourite when lining up in the Group 3 PW McGrath Ballysax Stakes.
Harzand in 2016 was the last horse to use the Ballysax as a channel to Derby glory at Epsom.
Before that, Moore will be in Paris on Saturday to ride O’Brien’s Be Happy in the Prix Penelope over 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud.
Be Happy is a general 25-1 shot for the Oaks and she’ll be joined in the Group 3 by her stable companion Library, the mount of Christophe Soumillon. The race is off at 1.33 Irish-time.
If O’Brien’s prime classic prospect, Auguste Rodin, dominates the Derby betting there have still been encouraging noises from Ballydoyle recently about Alexandroupolis.
The son of Camelot beat a stable companion on his sole start at date at Galway last September which in itself hardly measures up in form terms even to a 105-rated rival like Alder.
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Neither was it as visually impressive as John Murphy’s White Birch was when winning a Dundalk maiden. Ballydoyle “talking horses” can also be expensive to follow, last year’s version Waterville being a case in point.
Since no other yard has a better grasp on the classic pecking order, however, it’s dangerous to ignore them too and significantly O’Brien said of Alexandroupolis earlier this week: “I like him a lot and he’s working very well. He’ll handle softer ground.”
The latter may prove a significant factor on Sunday, particularly in the big fillies’ contest.
Moore is on the Boussac third Never Ending Story for a trial also won by subsequent classic winners Homecoming Queen (2012), Bracelet (2014) and Jet Setting (2016).
Tahiyra tops the Newmarket Guineas betting for Dermot Weld and the Aga Khan who also have another promising looking filly in Tarawa.
She broke her maiden over course and distance last October on soft ground. Bold As Love finished runner up to her on that occasion and could provide a form boost in Sunday’s opening maiden.
Not Even Close is one of the 14 in the 1,000 Trial and Oisin Murphy makes the journey to Leopardstown to ride Donnacha O’Brien’s filly.
Murphy’s only other spin is for O’Brien’s brother Joseph who runs Valiant King for Qatar Racing in a later handicap.
The field for the colt’s Guineas trial is half the size of the fillies and doesn’t look to contain any obvious major classic contender.
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It’s remarkable how such pecking orders can change at this time of the year though and Jessica Harrington’s Bold Discovery may be able to improve significantly on two starts as a juvenile.
Saturday’s domestic action is at Bellewstown where the prospect of transferring Dundalk all-weather form to heavy turf will be enough to have some punters aiming for little more than not living up to any April 1st stereotype.
Master Garvey proved his wellbeing at Naas last Sunday when running on well over five furlongs. He shaped on that occasion as if the step up to Bellewstown’s easy seven should be ideal.