Dermot Weld’s Ashraf to compete for lucrative Lincolnshire prize

Trainer brings maiden winner back to a mile to try to exploit a handicap mark of 97

Aidan O’Brien: Air Force Blue and Minding are among a large team of O’Brien stars due to gallop at the track after racing at the Curragh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Aidan O’Brien: Air Force Blue and Minding are among a large team of O’Brien stars due to gallop at the track after racing at the Curragh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Ireland’s 2016 turf campaign gets underway at the Curragh on Sunday with Aidan O’Brien using the opportunity to work some of his top classic hopes.

2015’s champion two year olds Air Force Blue and Minding are among a large team of O’Brien stars due to gallop at the track after racing.

On the programme itself, Ireland’s champion trainer will have three runners including the regally bred Fluff, winner of her sole start to date at Navan last April, who goes in the Group Three Lodge Park Stud Park Express Stakes.

North of England-based handler Richard Fahey sends eight runners, including Abbey Angel in the Group feature while three of Fahey’s take their place in the €100,000 Irish Lincolnshire.

Godolphin’s rider William Buick returns to the scene of his memorable Irish Derby success on Jack Hobbs last year to team up with Devonshire in the Park Express.

Ireland’s champion jockey Pat Smullen has half a dozen rides for his boss, Dermot Weld, on Sunday and Ashraf looks an intriguing starter in the Lincolnshire.

The Aga Khan-owned colt won a ten furlong maiden here a year ago but didn’t reappear until October when behind his stable companion Zannda in the Trigo Stakes. Weld’s decision to bring Ashraf back to a mile, and try to exploit a handicap mark of 97, catches the eye.

Marathon assignment

After his success with Goonyella in Uttoxeter’s Midlands Grand National last year, Jim Dreaper bids for glory this time with Sizing Coal who warmed up for the marathon assignment with a good run over hurdles at Navan a month ago. Gillian O’Callaghan’s Mad Brian is the other Irish hope in the 20-runner feature.

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