Lope Y Fernandez faces tough task breaking Group One duck in Lockinge Stakes
Aidan O’Brien’s horse faces odds-on favourite Palace Pier at Newbury on Saturday
Colin Keane onboard Siskin comes home to win ahead of Séamus Heffernan and Lope Y Fernandez in the 2020 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho
Aidan O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez has to overcome the formidable Palace Pier if he is to finally land a Group One prize in Saturday’s Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Palace Pier was quickly installed as an odds-on favourite for the first top-flight prize of the season for older horses in Britain after 16 entries were left in the Lockinge on Monday.
Last year’s Prix Jacques Le Marois and St James’s Palace winner returned to action impressively at Sandown last month.
Bookmakers were unanimous in rating the sole Irish entry left in as the biggest threat to Palace Pier.
In contrast to his rival, Lope Y Fernandez has yet to win at Group One level despite eight attempts to date in his career.
They include placed efforts last season in the Irish Guineas, the Jean Prat, the Maurice De Gheest and when third to his stable companion Order Of Australia in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
The latter was taken out of the Lockinge on Monday with O’Brien opting to rely solely on Lope Y Fernandez, who was also successful in his first start of 2021 in Leopardstown’s Heritage Stakes.
The Ballydoyle trainer has won the Lockinge twice before with Rhododendron in 2018 and 15 years before that through Hawk Wing’s 11-length rout, still the highest rated performance by a Flat horse trained by O’Brien.
Every other Lockinge entry is currently a double-digit price in ante-post betting including the James Tate-trained Top Rank. The five-year-old goes to Newbury on the back of an impressive win at Doncaster.
“He did look very impressive at Doncaster and if you took Palace Pier out, or you were in a Group Two, you’d be very optimistic. But you can’t do that. We’re in a Group One and arguably Europe’s best miler is in there,” said Tate.
“But you can’t be afraid of one horse. The favourite does not win most of the time. So hopefully he’ll go there and do us proud.”
Prior to the Lockinge, O’Brien’s focus is likely to be on the three-year-old picture with Snowfall taking her chance in Wednesday’s Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York.
The filly involved in last season’s infamous ‘mistaken identity’ mix-up at Newmarket – when Snowfall and Mother Earth carried the wrong jockeys and number cloths – takes on seven others in the traditional Oaks trial.
High Definition and Van Gogh remain in the mix for York’s Derby trial, the Dante, on Thursday.
Having missed out on Lingfield at the weekend due to unsatisfactory blood test results, High Definition is on course to put his Epsom credentials on the line in the Dante, provided his bloods have recovered in time.
Europe’s next Classic date is at Longchamp on Sunday when the French Guineas races are run.
The colt’s race, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, is shaping into a likely clash between Jim Bolger’s Newmarket Guineas hero Poetic Flare and Ballydoyle’s St Mark’s Basilica, last season’s champion two-year-old.
O’Brien has won the French 2,000 Guineas on four occasions, the last with The Gurkha in 2016.
His sole success in the fillies’ equivalent, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, came 20 years ago with Rose Gypsy.
Pretty Gorgeous, trained by Joseph O’Brien ,is favourite in some ante-post lists for Sunday’s Classic. She was forced to miss the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas due to an unsatisfactory scope on the morning of final declarations.
Other potential Irish interest could centre on Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet, the bargain-buy winner of last year’s Lowther and runner up in the Cheveley Park Stakes.