Shane Foley expects the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes to be one of the races of the weekend as he prepares to ride Lucky Vega against Battleground and Master Of The Seas at the Curragh.
Lucky Vega arrives on the back of arguably the most impressive performance by a juvenile this season in the Phoenix Stakes, when Jessica Harrington’s youngster quickened away to win by three and a half lengths.
Sunday’s assignment represents a different task – with Aidan O’Brien’s Chesham winner Battleground and the Charlie Appleby-trained Superlative Stakes scorer Master Of The Seas in opposition – but Foley is feeling confident.
“From day one he’s always been a nice horse,” said Foley, speaking on an Irish Champions Weekend preview.
“He had a little hold-up after his maiden win, which meant it was a bit of a rush getting to the Railway Stakes. He got beat in that, but improved no end for it and showed what he was capable of in the Phoenix.
“He’s laid-back, so should have no problem going up to seven furlongs. Looking at it, it looks one of the races of the weekend – with Battleground and Master Of The Seas.”
Battleground followed up his Ascot win in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, and now gets to race closer to home.
“He’s a big, powerful horse and has done very well physically since Goodwood – and we’re looking forward to running him,” said O’Brien.
“He’s handled good ground and slowish ground.”
Appleby has won the last two editions of the National Stakes with the ill-fated Quorto and last year’s champion juvenile Pinatubo – so is bidding for a hat-trick.
“He worked nicely during the week, and we’re very pleased with him,” said the Godolphin trainer.
“It’s going to be a good race. I saw Battleground at Ascot and I was at Goodwood when he won. I respect Jessica Harrington’s horse as well – he won the Phoenix well.
“Thankfully it’s a race we’ve had a bit of luck in in recent years, and it would be nice to continue it.”
Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon bolted up on his debut, but lacks in experience compared to the others.
“Obviously it’s a big step up in class from a maiden straight into a Group One, but we didn’t have many other options,” said the Owning Hill trainer.
“He’s in at the deep end, but couldn’t have won his debut any easier.”
Ken Condon, with Laws Of Indices (INPHO/PA)Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices had Lucky Vega behind him when winning the Railway but was then only fourth in the Phoenix.
“He’s not ground dependent, and he’s a very straightforward horse,” said Condon.
“Physically, he’s doing very well.
“I’m very happy with where he’s at – he looks a picture, and I think he’ll give a good showing.”
Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney is another who has Group race-winning form to his name – over course and distance in the Futurity Stakes.