Say could spring a surprise in Noblesse Stakes in Cork

Maarek looks good for the big sprint

Pat Smullen and Princess Highway will team up for the Group Three Noblesse Stakes in Cork on Sunday. Photograph: Getty Images

It’s getting to the time of year when the classic generation really start getting to grips with older horses and Say could strike an early blow for the three-year-old crop in tomorrow’s featured Group Three Noblesse Stakes at Cork.

The 10-runner field is split exactly between the older brigade and three-year-olds and includes a pair of British raiders in Testosterone and Ralph Beckett's Cubanita. However, it is the topweight Princess Highway who looks to set the standard.

An outstanding winner of last year's Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot, Dermot Weld's star subsequently ran third in the Irish Oaks before her form tailed off somewhat in the Prix Vermeille and the Canadian International.

Princess Highway also disappointed on his return to action at Naas in the Blue Wind where she again appeared to not appreciate soft conditions, which is not a good omen for this weekend. But at her best she would be all but impossible to oppose.


Aidan O'Brien throws three at the race with Seamus Heffernan on Magical Dream, a significant move considering he was on board Say in the Epsom Oaks. The in-form Colm O'Donoghue takes over now.

It still looks worth taking a shot with Say since she was up with a very strong pace throughout in the Oaks so it was hardly a surprise she weakened in the last quarter mile. She is a course and distance maiden winner on ground with a cut in it and has the shape of an improving sort.

It's no mean achievement to win first time out at Clonmel but Silky managed it, and if We'll Go Walking bounces back from a Guineas Trial flop last time, they could help turn the Noblesse into a three-year- old benefit.

Soft ground
The softer the ground the better it is for Maarek who bounded through the ranks last season and can strike for a second time this term in the Listed Midsummer Sprint. Even topweight doesn't look enough to stop David Nagle's sprint star.

Joseph O'Brien is an evens-favourite in some betting lists to top the jockeys standings at Royal Ascot next week and can warm up for that task tomorrow with the Queen Mary entry Bye Bye Birdie in the fillies maiden and Dove Mountain who could step up on his Curragh debut last weekend when ground conditions may have been faster than ideal for a son of Danehill Dancer.

They were certainly too fast at HQ when Dubaya ran in the Irish 1,000 Guineas three weeks ago and the Lady O’Reilly owned filly ran no sort of race in the classic despite having been supplemented into the race.

She makes the long journey south from Andy Oliver's Co Tyrone yard for tomorrow's €20,000 handicap and with a more suitable surface, and a display of the potential that saw her supplemented into a classic, Dubaya could strike her own blow for the younger brigade. Joseph O'Brien will also be in action at this evening's meeting in Limerick where One True Love should be hard to beat in the seven furlong maiden after running into a potentially smart type in Rushtique at Navan last weekend.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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