Innisfree returns from long absence in Royal Whip

Innisfree makes his return from almost two years off the track in the Fitzdares Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh on Friday.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge won twice from four juvenile starts in 2019, including a Group Two triumph in the Beresford Stakes at this venue.

He went on to fill the runner-up spot behind subsequent 2000 Guineas hero Kameko in the rescheduled Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle in early November, but has not been seen in competitive action since.

The Galileo colt is a full-brother to stablemate High Definition, who also won the Beresford Stakes as a two-year-old but has so far failed to run up to expectations at three – finishing third in the Dante at York, but disappointing when favourite for the Irish Derby.

Innisfree is one of 13 horses declared for the 10-furlong Group Three, with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Royal Ascot runner-up Visualisation and Johnny Murtagh’s Irish Derby fourth Earlswood chief among his rivals.

Mick Halford is looking forward to saddling the lightly-raced Kalapour, Finans Bay and outsider Bear Story.

He said: “Kalapour is a lovely, big horse who is progressing. I think he’ll love the Curragh and we’re hoping for a good run from him.

“He has a bit to find on ratings, but his last run at Killarney has worked out very well – the winner (La Petite Coco) advertised the form very well by winning the Group Three in Cork on Saturday, so it was a big ask for our horse having to give her a lot of weight.

“Finans Bay ran a blinder the last day (close sixth in International Stakes) and again we’re chasing a bit of black type for the family. Conditions and trip and everything should be ideal for him.

“Bear Story is rock solid and hasn’t had much luck this year – he’s always running into one or two.

“His owner-breeder has got the family and he’d like to have a crack at a black type race and see how we go.”

A bumper eight-race card gets under way with the Listed Finlay Volvo Curragh Stakes for two-year-olds.

The standard is set by Jim Bolger’s Strapped, who was not beaten far into fifth place in last weekend’s Group One Phoenix Stakes, while Ger Lyons runs Down Royal debut winner Head Mistress.

George Boughey sends the unbeaten Zebelle from Britain following narrow wins at Ripon and Thirsk.

The Profitable filly won for Amy Murphy on her introduction before changing hands for 42,000 guineas last month and doubling her tally in Yorkshire a week ago.

He said: “She’s in good form. The plan was always to try to get some black type with her and this looks a good opportunity.

“I think she’ll stay six furlongs, so a stiff five at the Curragh should suit her.

“We’ll test her black-type credentials and see how we go.”

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