Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega favourite for Irish 2,000 Guineas

Harrington can become first woman to train winner in Classic on the 100th running

Jessica Harrington is favourite to pull off a landmark success in the 100th Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday.

No woman has trained a winner of the €400,000 classic in its long history but Harrington's Lucky Vega is as short as 15-8 favourite to mark the centenary in style.

That's after the colt, who secured Group 1 glory at the Curragh last year in the Phoenix Stakes, was among 14 entries left in Ireland's opening classic of 2021 at Tuesday's forfeit stage.

The list also includes Poetic Flare who had Lucky Vega behind him in third when successful in the Newmarket Guineas at the start of this month.


Since then Jim Bolger’s star failed to fire in Sunday’s French version at Longchamp and finished only sixth to St Mark’s Basilica.

Nevertheless, Poetic Flare has been left in this Saturday's opening Group 1 highlight of the 'Guineas Festival' along with his top-flight winning stable companion Mac Swiney.

Bolger has yet to win the Irish 2,000 Guineas, unlike his former protégé Aidan O’Brien who holds a record 11 victories.

The Ballydoyle trainer has four colts to choose from this time including the trio of Wembley, Battleground and Van Gogh who finished out of the money in the Guineas at Newmarket.

A pair of cross-channel hopeful remain in contention to run in the Guineas. Godolphin’s La Barrosa, runner up to Master Of The Seas in the Craven last month, could make the trip across the Irish Sea alongside Hugo Palmer’s The Rosstafarian, fifth in the Craven.

Thunder Moon, who flopped when last at Newmarket, is also in line to run for Joseph O’Brien.

Lucky Vega finished less than half a length behind Poetic Flare on the Rowley Mile but is clear favourite to succeed on a Curragh track that’s expected to suit him better.

"He got a little bit unbalanced down into the dip (at Newmarket) which he did in the Middle Park as well. A lot of horses do that but his most impressive performance was at the Curragh in the Phoenix so we're looking forward to it," his jockey Shane Foley said on Tuesday.

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently ‘yielding to soft’ and soft in places on the straight Guineas mile. Persistent rain is forecast later this week.

Whether that impacts on weekend running plans, including the prospect of the last year’s star classic performer Love reappearing in Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup, remains to be seen.

However, Foley is unconcerned about conditions for Lucky Vega.

“The ground doesn’t really matter to him to be honest. He has gone on slow and ground and he has gone on firm ground so he is very ground versatile.

“He’s a very relaxed horse at home. He only goes through the motions and he had been getting to the top of our gallop really, really well so that’s always a good sign. Jessie’s is quite a stiff test at home,” he added.

Foley tasted 2,000 Guineas success on Romanised in 2018, the day before Harrington landed the 1,000 with her star filly Alpha Centauri.

Harrington was the second woman to train the winner of the fillies classic after Frances Crowley’s success with Saoire in 2005 when she became the first woman to officially train an Irish classic winner.

In the 1940's, Mrs Ginger Wellesley trained a number of Curragh classic winners including the 1948 1,000 Guineas victor, Morning Wings.

At the time however women were not allowed hold a licence and officially those winners were trained by Mrs Wellesley’s head man, Eddie McGrath.

Harrington has assembled a stellar CV on the flat and over jumps since first taking out a licence in 1989 including other top-flight Curragh success with Pathfork in the 2010 National Stakes.

She could be double-handed in Sunday's 1,000 Guineas with the Athasi Stakes one-two No Speak Alexander and Zaffy's Pride while Cayenne Pepper is among 15 left in the same day's Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Before that Harrington sends four runners to Cork on Wednesday afternoon but will also be represented by Astadash in a ten furlong Listed race at Ayr.

The four-year-old half sister to the Phoenix and Matron Stakes winner La Collina ran fourth on her first start for the Moone based trainer in Dundalk last month.

Yorkshire jockey Cameron Hardie takes the ride on Astadash who sports first-time cheekpieces.

In other news, the Group 1 winner Glen Shiel is one of four cross-channel entries for Saturday's Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes.

The Archie Watson trained star, who landed the British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October under Hollie Doyle is one of 15 entries left in the Group 2 sprint.

Saturday’s other Group 2, the Lanwades Stud Stakes, includes last year’s Matron winner Champers Elysees who ran fourth in the Athasi on her first start of this season.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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