River Tiber set to lead Ballydoyle team into Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh

Henry Longfellow left in Ireland’s opening classic of the year but will ‘probably’ wait for Royal Ascot

River Tiber shapes as the Ballydoyle standard bearer in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas as Aidan O’Brien goes in pursuit of a lucky 13th success in the Curragh’s first classic of the year.

The champion trainer has six of the 11 entries left in the €500,000 feature after Tuesday’s latest acceptance stage, including one of his leading three-year-old stars Henry Longfellow who lost his unbeaten record in the French Guineas over a week ago.

While O’Brien stressed that “nothing is written in stone yet” he conceded Henry Longfellow probably won’t try to secure classic consolation at home and “probably” wait instead for Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes next month.

That’s likely to leave original plans unchanged with River Tiber joined by another Wooton Bassett colt, Unquestionable, in the mile highlight.


Both horses will be making their first starts of the year and O’Brien reported he expects River Tiber to be the more forward of the two although his stamina at a mile is unproven.

“We think a mile is within his compass although not guaranteed. We just thought we would start in the Guineas and if he didn’t get it, he would go back to the Commonwealth or something like that. He is not short of speed,” he said.

“Unquestionable might not be as forward at River Tiber but the plan is to start him at the Curragh to go to Ascot after that.

“He had a little blip a couple of weeks ago but he is back in full swing again, but he did have it so because of that, he might improve a little more from the Curragh than River Tiber,” O’Brien added.

Richard Hannon looks set to provide the main opposition with two chances, Rosallion and Haatem, to emulate his father who landed the Guineas on three occasions. The pair filled the frame behind Notable Speech in the Newmarket Guineas.

“At the moment the plan is for both of them to run. If there’s soft ground there on Saturday morning Rosallion probably won’t run, but I’m told the worst it’s going to be is good ground so we should be fine,” said Hannon.

Initial reaction in the markets included Rosallion being installed a 7-4 favourite with River Tiber a 5-2 next best.

Those taking on the big guns include Co Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver with the Tetrarch winner Bright Stripes while Jack Davison has kept open the option of running Take Me To Church who scored in the Madrid Handicap in March.

O’Brien has four entries among the 15 for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas after Everlasting was supplemented into the filly’s classic. She joins Opera Singer, Buttons and Pearls And Rubies.

Donnacha O’Brien could emerge as the biggest threat to his father with Porta Fortuna, runner-up in the Newmarket Guineas, set to try and go one better on home ground. Another filly with proven classic form is Willie McCreery’s Vespertilio, third in the French Guineas at Longchamp.

Paddy Twomey may have two chances to break his classic duck having left in both A Lilac Rolla and Purple Lily while last year’s Moyglare heroine, Fallen Angel, a beaten favourite at Newmarket, is also in the mix.

Auguste Rodin remains on course to try and bounce back from a dismal display in Dubai by contesting Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Last year’s dual-Derby winner shuffled brilliance with disaster in 2023 including dire efforts in the 2,000 Guineas and King George. His latest damp squib was when trailing the field behind Rebel’s Romance in the Sheema Classic.

The Harry Charlton-trained Okeechobee was supplemented into the older-horse Group One on Tuesday. Charlton’s father, Roger, won the race three times with Decorated Knight (2017) and twice with Al Kazeem (2013 & 2015.) Okeechobee landed the Gordon Richards at Sandown on his last start.

“He’s a lightly raced horse who has won his Group Three and rather than go back to Sandown to carry a penalty we thought we’d give him a crack at Group One and see just where his limitations lie. We’ll find out a bit more about him on Sunday,” said Barry Mahon, racing manager to Okeechobee’s owners, Juddmonte.

Ground conditions at HQ were good and good to firm in places on Tuesday with an unsettled outlook.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column