Gustav Klimt to lead O’Brien bid for Irish 2,000 Guineas

Top trainer’s filly Happily dominates the top of Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas betting

It is 21 years since Aidan O’Brien first burst on the classic scene with a famous Curragh Guineas double and the legendary trainer is shaping up to try and pull off a similar feat this weekend.

Classic Park landed O'Brien's maiden classic in the 1997 Irish 1,000 Guineas followed a day later by Desert King in the 2,000.

It was merely a first taste of the record-breaking career to come which currently sees O'Brien on 301 Group One victories including a remarkable 75 classics spread through Ireland, Britain and France.

Even obliging those traditionalists who dismiss both the Irish and French St Legers entitlement to classic status since being opened to older horses, O’Brien can still boast an unmatched 70 classic victories to date.


The latest came through Saxon Warrior's success in the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas and, with that unbeaten star waiting to appear in next week's Epsom Derby, the route is open for a handful of other Ballydoyle colts to join the classic roll-of-honour in this Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

They are headed by Gustav Klimt, sixth to Saxon Warrior at Newmarket, and US Navy Flag who was out of the frame in the French Guineas over a week ago.

Kingman has been the only cross-channel trained winner of the colts classic in the last seven years but initial bookmaker reaction after Tuesday's forfeit stage was to install the Newmarket fourth Elarqam as a marginal 9-4 favourite over Gustav Klimt at 3-1.

In contrast O’Brien’s filly Happily dominates the top of Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas betting on the back of her third to Billesdon Brook at Newmarket earlier this month.

That shock 66-1 winner hasn’t been added to the list of Curragh contenders but Laurens, who finished runner-up at Newmarket, is still in the reckoning.

"She's in such in such good form that we couldn't not leave Laurens in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. We'll see what the ground is like closer to the weekend. She has come out of the English 1,000 Guineas in great form," said trainer Karl Burke.

Nevertheless Happily is 11-8 with one firm to follow in the footsteps of Classic Park and the half dozen other Ballydoyle fillies that have previously won the Irish 1,000 for O’Brien.

Calendar phenomenon

With less than week between Sunday’s classic and the following Friday’s Epsom Oaks, O’Brien has all but ruled Happily out of attempting an Irish Guineas-English Oaks double he completed with Imagine in 2001.

Half of his six Epsom Oaks winners had previously run in the Curragh classic including Minding in 2016. However the calendar appears to have worked against him this time.

"It's purely a calendar phenomenon and it all depends on whether or not there are four or five weekends in May," explained Horse Racing Ireland's Director of Racing Jason Morris on Tuesday.

“The English Guineas is always the first weekend in May and we’re always the fourth. The Epsom Derby is always the first Saturday in June. So if there are five weekends in May there’s a two week gap between us and Epsom.

“That’s what happened in 2014, 2015 and 2016. But in 2017, this year and in 2019 there are just four weekends in May. It simply depends on where the calendar falls. It’s not a case of fixtures having been changed,” he added.

As for the possibility of switching the Curragh classics around – similar to when Classic Park won – and allowing an extra day between the Irish 1,000 and the Oaks, Morris said: “Nothing’s impossible but that’s probably one for the Curragh as much as it is for HRI.”

The Ger Lyons-trained Who’s Steph was supplemented into the 1,000 Guineas on Tuesday at a cost of €40,000 and is likely to clash with her former stable companion Lightening Quick on Sunday.

The Athasi winner was moved to Johnny Murtagh after Lyons split with her owners Qatar Racing. Sheikh Fahad's team won the Guineas with Just The Judge in 2013. Murtagh won it as rider aboard Again in 2009.

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently good to yielding on the straight Guineas course and good on the round track over which up to ten runners could line up in Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup. There is a mainly dry forecast for the week ahead.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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