Curragh officials remain hopeful that Guineas weekend will go ahead

Contingencies are being put in place as forecast is for more rain to hit racecourse

Jessica Harrington could become the first woman to train a 2,000 Guineas winner with Lady Vega. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jessica Harrington could become the first woman to train a 2,000 Guineas winner with Lady Vega. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The Curragh is fighting to prevent a ‘Guineas Festival’ washout this weekend.

A 7.30 inspection on Saturday morning will determine if the centenary Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas can go ahead as scheduled.

Work on repairing two waterlogged spots on the Classic mile course continued throughout Friday and track officials said they are “hopeful enough” that Saturday’s programme can get a green light.

However, a grim weather outlook later in the weekend, with up to 10mm of rainfall forecast for Sunday morning, could put that afternoon’s 1,000 Guineas card into even more doubt.

A year after the Covid-19 pandemic saw the Guineas races postponed to June, contingency plans are being readied to ensure Ireland’s first Classics of 2021 do get run off.

It is understood that should either of Saturday or Sunday’s Classic programmes have to be cancelled, they will be switched to Monday afternoon.

If both get cancelled then the option of an amalgamated Monday card featuring the three Group One races and four other Group contests will be examined.

In such a situation other races featured over the lucrative ‘Guineas Festival’ could be rescheduled or switched to other courses.

The authorities are anxious for the two Guineas and the Tattersalls Gold Cup in particular to take place as soon as possible given potential implications for the European pattern, such as the Epsom Derby and Oaks taking place within a fortnight.

“We have been removing water and we are happy with the progress we’ve made. We would be hopeful enough if we don’t get more rain than is forecast,” said the Curragh’s chief executive, Pat Keogh, on Friday.

“But we were told we would get 15mm overnight and ended up getting 35mm. There are pools all over the Curragh that I haven’t seen before. It has been a phenomenal week of rain. But everything that can be done is being done,” he added.

Even if the weather relents enough to allow racing go ahead conditions will be extreme and not surprisingly Aidan O’Brien skips Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup with his top filly, Love.

It is all far from ideal ahead of a landmark 100th renewal of the 2,000 Guineas which saw final declarations on Thursday.

All the expected leading players stood their ground then although defections can’t be ruled out at the prospect of a gruelling challenge.

Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega continues to top ante-post betting lists for a Classic that might be run on ground more familiar to the trainer’s winter jump stars.

Harrington, who is due to begin a two-week ban on racecourse attendance on Monday for breaching Covid-19 protocols, could become the first woman to train a 2,000 Guineas winner.

Lucky Vega is set to clash again with Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare, who won a thrilling Guineas at Newmarket where his rival was less than half a length behind him in third.

Poetic Flare subsequently failed to fire in last weekend’s French Guineas where testing ground conditions were blamed for a lacklustre sixth to St Mark’s Basilica.

Lucky Vega won the Phoenix at the Curragh as a two-year-old when there was a little ease in the ground but nothing like what faces the Guineas field.

Aidan O’Brien is pursuing a 12th win in the race and Ryan Moore’s mount Wembley has won his only race to date on soft to heavy going at Roscommon last year.

He failed to fire at Newmarket as did his two stable companions Battleground and Van Gogh on what was a fast surface.

Van Gogh mightn’t be the Ballydoyle number one but he is the sole Group One winner among them. That came in Saint-Cloud’s Criterium International last year and crucially was on a heavy surface.

Godolphin’s La Barrosa, one of two cross-channel raiders, was only fifth behind him then.

Poetic Flare’s stable companion, Mac Swiney, won the Doncaster Futurity on a bog last year and had an excuse for a sub-par return in the Derrinstown.

His stamina is assured and the same surely applies to Van Gogh whose dam Imagine landed the Irish 1,000 Guineas 20 years ago.

Her son failed to land a blow in the Newmarket Guineas but whenever the gates open on the Curragh version it looks like being a very different test.

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