Irish Derby on Mojo Star’s agenda

Cazoo Derby runner-up Mojo Star could bid to go one better in this month’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Having been beaten a nose and half a length on his first two career starts, the Sea The Stars colt was thrown in at the deep end by trainer Richard Hannon at Epsom on Saturday, but justified his place in the Derby field by beating all bar the Charlie Appleby-trained Adayar.

Speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast on Monday, Hannon said: “He’s always been an extremely nice horse – one of the nicest we’ve had here for a long time.

“Yes, it was very brave running a maiden in the Derby – and most people agreed that we shouldn’t have been there, judging by his price (50-1). But he’s proved everybody wrong and he’s a very smart horse, which is nice.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“The winner had the perfect run. I’m not for one minute saying we’d have beaten the winner, but we were just stuck a little bit coming round Tattenham Corner – and we were running on right at the line.”

While connections have the option of dropping back in class for a maiden, Hannon is keen to remain at the highest level, with a trip to the Curragh on June 26 likely to be next on Mojo Star’s agenda.

“He’s absolutely fine – and we’re looking for the next Derby, I suppose,” he added.

“It’s not an easy feat, but I’m not sure we’ve anything to gain by winning a novice or a maiden – and quite often these sort of horses get turned over at long odds-on in those sort of races.

“I think we’ll be looking at something like an Irish Derby or a King George, maybe. If you finish in the first three in the English Derby, you get a free go at the Irish Derby, so that’s got to be worth looking at.

“We’ve never had a horse finish that close in a Derby before. They’re extremely hard to find, these sort of horses, and you’ve got to keep hold of them and keep them racing as long as you can.

“I said to Kia Joorabchian – who owns the horse – before the Derby that next year’s his year. He’s always looked like a horse that, when he’s four, he could be something a little bit different.”

McCreery hoping for Curragh rain as Lustown Baba takes Ballyogan test

Willie McCreery is praying for rain ahead of Lustown Baba’s bid for a third Curragh success in Wednesday’s Qatar Racing And Equestrian Club Ballyogan Stakes.

The four-year-old bolted up in handicap company at the Kildare circuit in October – and followed up in the Listed Testimonial Stakes just four days later.

She ran her best race of the season so far when a narrowly beaten runner-up to Snapraeterea in the Owenstown Stud Stakes at Naas on her latest outing and her trainer is hopeful of another bold showing – provided the ground is suitable.

McCreery said: “You’d hope she’d run a big race. We had soft ground, but we’re after having two beautiful days here and she does need a bit of cut in the ground.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“There’s meant to be a few local thunder showers tomorrow, so hopefully we get a few of them.

“She’s in good shape. You’d just love the ground to be on the soft side for her.”

The Rathbride handler also saddles Star In The Making in the six-furlong Group Three. She is rated 11lb inferior to her stablemate, however, and appears to have her work cut out.

“She’s got to improve and we’re just hunting for black type for her,” McCreery added.

“She’s a very honest filly and I think six furlongs is her trip.”

The likely favourite is Paddy Twomey’s Sonaiyla, who is also a dual Curragh winner and has never finished out of the first three in six previous appearances at the track.

The daughter of Dark Angel was beaten just a length into third place in the Group One Flying Five Stakes last autumn and can be expected to improve from her comeback third in the Greenlands Stakes less than a fortnight ago.

Other hopefuls include Ken Condon’s Thunder Beauty – last seen finishing down the field in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket – and her stable companion Teresa Mendoza.

The main supporting race on Wednesday’s card is the Listed Sky Bet Orby Stakes.

Joseph O’Brien’s Patrick Sarsfield is favourite with the race sponsors on what will be his first competitive outing since finishing second to the top-class Skalleti in the Prix Dollar at ParisLongchamp in October.

Aidan O’Brien is represented by Lough Derg, who has has finished behind the yard’s Derby favourite Bolshoi Ballet on his last couple of appearances, while Donnacha O’Brien runs Nicest, who was last seen placing third in the Cheshire Oaks.

Lavery sights set on Jersey run for Belle Image

The Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot is next on the agenda for Belle Image following her excellent effort in defeat in Sunday’s Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.

Sheila Lavery’s filly was a widely unconsidered 125-1 shot for the Curragh Classic, having finished fifth in the Athasi Stakes and second in a conditions race at Killarney on her two previous starts this season.

However, the daughter of Kodi Bear raised her game to be beaten just over a length into fourth place and Lavery is now looking forward to a trip across the Irish Sea next month.

She said: “I was absolutely delighted with her – she’s just pure heart.

“I felt she wouldn’t be disgraced. When you’re up against fillies with those pedigrees, I wasn’t expecting to win, but I was very hopeful of a very good run.

“I know her two runs before were a little bit disappointing, but she didn’t handle the bend in Killarney and in the Athasi it was her first run (of the season).

Trainer Sheila Lavery
Trainer Sheila Lavery (PA)

“There was no reason not to try and I suppose when the rain came that helped us. I don’t think she’s ground dependent, but it might just have slowed up the race. I’d run her on good ground, but she can go on that softer ground whereas other horses can’t.”

On future plans, the trainer added: “I’d say we’ll go for the Jersey. I didn’t put her in the Coronation Stakes, which was maybe a mistake in hindsight.

“I think the Jersey will be the next step and I’ll have a look at the programme after that.”

No hurry for Helvic plans after Dream Curragh success

Noel Meade is in no rush to make concrete plans for Helvic Dream following his thrilling victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on Sunday.

Having finished behind the reopposing Broome on each of his three previous outings this season, the four-year-old turned the tables on his favoured soft ground – coming out on top by a short head at the Curragh to provide his trainer with a first Group One success on the Flat.

“There’s not a bother on him this morning – he’s in good form,” Meade said on Monday.

“It was great. He had a few lengths to make up (with Broome) and it’s great when it happens.”

While Aidan O’Brien is considering races like the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot for the runner-up, Helvic Dream does not hold any big-race entries at this stage.

Meade feels cut in the ground is essential for his charge and would not be averse to dropping him back in trip from a mile and a quarter to a mile at some stage.

He added: “I hadn’t really been thinking about Royal Ascot because I thought the ground would be too quick for him. Ascot in October might be worth thinking about, but Ascot in June is definitely not on my mind with him anyway.

“I haven’t really thought about where he’s going to go next, to be honest. We’ll just have to sit down and have a think about where we’re going to head.

“We wouldn’t be against bringing him back a couple of furlongs. Colin (Keane, jockey) has been thinking that for a while.

“The ground is key. We did run him on good-ish ground at the Curragh this year and he didn’t operate on it at all.

“He definitely won’t go further (than a mile and a quarter). We’ll enter him in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Champion Stakes at Ascot and we’ll have a look around and see what’s available beforehand.

“In normal times you’d be thinking France would be a place you’d normally get easy ground, but we’ll get our breath first and see.”

Empress Josephine rules over Joan Of Arc in Irish 1,000 Guineas

Empress Josephine produced a relentless late charge to beat stablemate Joan Of Arc to victory in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien saddled three runners in his bid for a 10th victory in the fillies’ Classic, with Joan Of Arc very much his main hope following her triumph in the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown a fortnight ago.

Empress Josephine was a 14-1 chance off the back of finishing second in a Listed contest at Gowran Park on her latest appearance and tracked 15-8 favourite Pretty Gorgeous for much of the way.

With the latter’s effort petering out on her belated first run of the year, it looked like Joan Of Arc would claim top honours after eventually mastering No Speak Alexander at the head of affairs.

However, Empress Josephine really found top gear in the last half-furlong and beat her stablemate on the bob by a short head – providing jockey Seamie Heffernan with his fifth success in the race.

No Speak Alexander finished third, with 125-1 chance Belle Image a close-up fourth.

Your first 30 days for just £1

O’Brien said: “We thought she was lovely – she’s a sister to Minding.

“We thought she was lovely when she won the first day and then she went to Leopardstown and they went too fast over seven furlongs.

Aidan O'Brien with Empress Josephine and Seamie Heffernan
Aidan O’Brien with Empress Josephine and Seamie Heffernan (PA)

“We ran her over nine furlongs in Gowran Park and had a lovely run, but we just felt the trip maybe caught her out.

“She’s quick and Seamus gave her a lovely ride. She’s a classy filly.

“It’s a long time since Seamus rode his first Group One winner for us. He’s a great fella who works with us day in day out.

“Joan Of Arc ran a lovely race. We were going to step her up to a mile and a quarter after today. She might go to the French Oaks.

“The winner might go for the Coronation, but we’ll speak to the lads and see what they want to do.

“She has the option of the French Oaks or coming back here for the Pretty Polly, but she’s not slow and I’d say a mile maybe suits her better than a mile and a quarter.”

Seamie Heffernan celebrates winning another Irish 1,000 Guineas
Seamie Heffernan celebrates winning another Irish 1,000 Guineas (Brian Lawless/PA)

Heffernan – who picked up a six-day ban for his use of the whip in the earlier Gallinule Stakes – said: “I thought I had got there. I had a willing partner.

“I should have won well, I got (knocked) sideways two (furlongs) down and it knocked her off balance. I was a lucky winner, but I should have won well.

“I’m delighted to be on this one. It’s my fifth Guineas, I’m as hungry as ever. I won on her in Naas on similar conditions and she’s very well bred – I’m delighted to be on a winner.”

Of Pretty Gorgeous, who had not been seen since her victory in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October, Joseph O’Brien said: “I thought she ran very well.

“It’s a tough mile up there in that ground without a prep run and she was only beaten three lengths. We’re looking forward to the rest of the year with her.

“She’ll probably go to Ascot. It’s a long year.”

Helvic Dream gives Noel Meade first top-level victory on the Flat

Helvic Dream provided trainer Noel Meade with a first Group One winner on the Flat as he came out on top in a thrilling renewal Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.

While the multiple champion trainer is no stranger to high-profile success over jumps, his Flat runners at Group One level have been far less frequent since Sweet Mint landed what is now the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot in 1978.

Having finished behind the reopposing 10-11 favourite Broome on his three previous outings this season, Helvic Dream was sent off at 8-1 under Colin Keane – and moved ominously into the slipstream of his old rival halfway up the home straight.

To his credit, Broome refused to go down without a fight and the two flashed by the line almost as one, but the judge confirmed Helvic Dream had won the day by a short head.

Your first 30 days for just £1

The Willie Mullins-trained True Self, who was last seen landing a valuable prize in Saudi Arabia in February, ran a fine race in third in the hands of Hollie Doyle.

Meade said: “I shall die happy now – I was roaring!

“Colin said to me he was going to sit a bit closer to him (Broome), sit behind him and have one go on him. He said he went too soon the last day and he actually said he went too soon again today.

“He has an electrifying turn of speed to get there and he lasted out. It was a brilliant ride.

“He’s a lovely horse who has been a pleasure to train. He doesn’t take a lot of work – he doesn’t take a lot of anything.

“There’s been plenty of people trying to buy him, but thanks to the lads that kept faith in me as I felt he could win a Group One.”

Noel Meade was thrilled to claim his first Group One winner
Noel Meade was thrilled to claim his first Group One winner (PA)

Reflecting on his previous efforts behind Broome, the trainer said: “We were very disappointed with his first run and then the second day the ground was too quick and Colin minded him. He said we’d beat them if we get soft ground.

“He improved and ran well the last day and Colin was confident enough today going out. I was afraid to even dream about it, to be honest.

“It’s something you dream about.”

He added: “I’ve had a number of horses placed in Guineas, and a fourth in the Epsom Derby, but that is my first Group One.

“They are so easy to train compared to jumpers. I’m always joking with Flat trainers that they are getting away with murder.

“You don’t have to train Flat horses to stay or to jump and there is not nearly as many injuries.

“I’ve always said that Sheikh Mohammed should have sent Willie 200 horses years ago and got him out of the way!

“I was afraid to even dream about it (winning a Group One). I’m thrilled and it means a lot.”

Derby options for Earlswood following Gallinule success

Earlswood emerged as a potential Derby contender after claiming victory in the Heider Family Stables Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh.

The Pivotal colt joined Johnny Murtagh following the retirement of former trainer John Oxx, since when he had opened his account at Navan before finishing third in the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Stepping up to Group Three level, the three-year-old travelled strongly in the hands of Ben Coen for much of the 10-furlong contest.

Once asked to extend, the 11-2 winner soon settled matters and came home with a length and three-quarters in hand over Arturo Toscanini.

Betfair halved his odds to 33-1 for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5.

Murtagh said: “He’s entered at Epsom, but there is free entry into the Irish Derby after winning this race so that’s another option.

“I’ll talk with the owner and we’ll decide what to do.”

Coen was delighted to ride his first Group-race winner of the season.

“He’s good and hardy. Chester was probably a bit tight for him the last day. It’s a big galloping track here and he loved the ground,” said the jockey.

“It was great to get a horse like that into the yard after John Oxx retired and it’s brilliant to get a new owner into the yard as well.”

Seamie Heffernan was banned for six days for using his whip with excessive frequency aboard fifth-placed Matchless.

She’s Trouble too hot to handle at the Curragh

She’s Trouble provided Irish 2,000 Guineas-winning trainer Jim Bolger with further success after getting off the mark in the Tally Ho Stud Irish EBF Fillies Maiden at the Curragh.

The Coolcullen handler enjoyed a memorable afternoon at the Kildare circuit on Saturday, with Mac Swiney edging out stablemate Poetic Flare to give the veteran trainer a one-two in the first Classic of the season in Ireland.

Third on her racecourse debut at Navan last week, She’s Trouble was a 4-1 shot to go a couple of places better in the opening race on day two of the Guineas meeting.

Ridden by Kevin Manning, the Fracas filly battled her way to the lead and had enough in reserve in the closing stages to repel the challenge of promising newcomer Dissociate by half a length.

Una Manning, Bolger’s daughter and wife of the winning rider, said: “Delighted with that. She’s very well related – she’s from the family of Saoire (Irish 1,000 Guineas winner) and is a half-sister to Smash Williams.

“Kevin said she handled the ground well today and the plan now would be to try to get some black type.”

She added: “Mac Swiney and Poetic Flare both pulled out very well this morning, nice and fresh and all seems to be good with them.

“Hopefully it will be all roads leading to Epsom for Mac Swiney.”

Your first 30 days for just £1

Baby Zeus made a successful debut for Willie Mullins in the Betway Handicap.

Baby Zeus gets up to score at the Curragh
Baby Zeus gets up to score at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Formerly trained by Ger Lyons, the four-year-old was making his first appearance since August and wearing a tongue-tie for the first time.

After settling his mount towards the rear of the field for much of the way, Colin Keane launched his challenge on the outside of runners in the straight and Baby Zeus responded generously to get up and score by half a length from Mirann.

Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said of the 6-1 scorer: “He’s been with us a few months and he came in good shape and with good form from Ger’s. They always thought he was a decent enough horse and he’d shown us that at home.

“We weren’t overly sure about the ground, but he seemed to handle it well and it’s great that he won.

“We’ll see what options are there for him and see what the handicapper does. Hopefully he can progress up the ladder.”

Visualisation (orange colours) was a winner for Joseph O'Brien and Declan McDonogh
Visualisation (orange colours) was a winner for Joseph O’Brien and Declan McDonogh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Visualisation led home a one-two for Joseph O’Brien in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund ‘Habitat’ Handicap.

Ridden by Declan McDonogh, the 9-2 favourite saw off stable companion Fame And Acclaim by half a length.

O’Brien said: “He’s a good, tough horse and Declan gave him a good ride.

“I’m nearly feeling a bit sorry for Fame And Acclaim. He’s a good solid horse and deserves to win again.

“I’m delighted. They both ran very well.”

Wild Dollar (20-1) was awarded the Betway Irish EBF Maiden in the stewards’ room after going down by a short head to Citronnade.

Edward Harty’s gelding finished strongly for Mark Gallagher, but suffered a bump from the first past the post a few strides from the line.

Foveros made it a double for Willie Mullins
Foveros made it a double for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Foveros (11-4 favourite) completed a double for Mullins when comfortably taking the Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap.

Wayne Lordan held the six-year-old up in the early stages before bringing him with a steady run to lead over a furlong out and score by five and a half lengths from Weather Alert.

Casey said: “He’s been working good and the conditions were the main thing.

“We’ll find another one for him. There is probably one here on Derby weekend and then maybe at Galway.”

Mac Swiney all systems go for the Derby – and Ascot beckons for Poetic Flare

Jim Bolger is looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season has in store for Mac Swiney and Poetic Flare after the stablemates provided him him with a one-two in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Having rounded off his juvenile campaign with a Group One success in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, Mac Swiney finished a slightly disappointing fourth on his reappearance in the in Leopardstown’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

However, he raised his game to land Classic glory at the Curragh – coming out on top after a thrilling duel with Poetic Flare, who was running in his third Guineas in the space of four weeks after triumphing at Newmarket and finishing sixth in France last weekend.

Speaking on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme, Bolger said of Mac Swiney: “As they say in the west of Ireland, I was mighty impressed with him.

“I thought that he stuck to the task really well – any horse wishing to take him on and beat him in the future will have to be up for it because he isn’t going to give in easily.

“I’m very fortunate that the two talented three-year-olds colts I have at the moment both have great temperaments and they can take anything that I throw at them.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“They’re only different in the amount of work that they take. Mac Swiney takes very little work, whereas the other fella takes an awful lot of work, which is why I felt he would stand up to the three Guineas.”

Rory Cleary celebrates on board Mac Swiney
Rory Cleary celebrates on board Mac Swiney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mac Swiney will now bid to emulate his sire New Approach by winning the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5, for which he is a general 7-1 shot.

“I’m the world’s worst punter, so asking me what price he should be wouldn’t get a very knowledgeable answer,” Bolger added.

“In my mind there isn’t anything ahead of him – the form is there now.”

The Coolcullen handler feels Poetic Flare could have been a triple Guineas winner in different circumstances.

He came close to completing a similar treble in 2007 with Finsceal Beo, who won at Newmarket, was beaten a head in the French 1000 Guineas and won the Irish equivalent.

Bolger said: “The three Guineas came about the year I had Finsceal Beo. In the end it was a few showers of rain in France that cost us the French Guineas, otherwise we would have had all three.

“We realised this (Poetic Flare) was a very talented horse with a lot of durability about him. He’s tough and he could take it.

“Apart from a few things we got wrong in France and then beating him ourselves with a different horse, we could have had the three, so it is possible.

“With a little different circumstance he could be the winner of three Guineas today and that would be fairly unique.

Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Poetic Flare after winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket (John Walton/PA)

“I said earlier in the week that whatever beat Poetic Flare would win the race. It’s not often I’m right, but I was right on that occasion!”

Asked whether Poetic Flare will run in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next, he added: “I’d say there’s a good chance that he will. It depends how he gets on in the meantime, but I’d say he’s more likely to turn up there than not.

“I’d say he’ll stay at a mile. The only thing that might cause us to divert from that would be the Eclipse at Sandown, but then I have to keep that in mind for Mac Swiney as well.”

Broome seeking Tattersalls Gold at the Curragh

Broome, Serpentine and Tiger Moth give Aidan O’Brien a particularly strong hand in this year’s Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.

While the very testing ground has prevented O’Brien from running last season’s star three-year-old Love on Sunday, the strength in depth at Ballydoyle still means he can field a Derby winner as well as a Melbourne Cup runner-up.

However, it is Broome who is set to go off favourite – having won three times already this season, including in the Mooresbridge Stakes last time out.

Beaten only half a length by stablemate Anthony Van Dyck in the 2019 Derby, he ran just twice last season, tackling two miles at Ascot on Champions Day on his second start.

Back at 10 furlongs this season, he has looked a different proposition.

“Broome lost his way last year,” said O’Brien.

“We started him at a lower level this year. He has had three trials in Ireland, and I have been very happy with him in all of them.

“He ran a very good race in the Derby. We always thought a mile and a half would suit him this year, and he has only been a mile and quarter yet, but I am very happy with him.

“He won on soft ground earlier in the spring there, and he seems to be in good form.”

O’Brien’s Serpentine caused a huge shock in the Derby last term, building up a huge advantage going around Tattenham Corner which he held on to all the way to the line.

He was beaten in two subsequent starts, in the Grand Prix de Paris and the Champion Stakes.

Stablemate Tiger Moth was beaten a head in the Irish Derby and most recently found only Twilight Payment too good in the Melbourne Cup.

“The other two are just ready to start back,” added O’Brien.

“Serpentine is working very well. Ten furlongs is probably not ideal for either of them really, but they have to start somewhere.”

Stiff opposition comes in the form of the mares True Self, who is reunited with Hollie Doyle, and Search For A Song – along with Jessica Harrington’s four-year-old filly Cayenne Pepper.

Fev Rover tries again for Classic honours at the Curragh

Richard Fahey is keen to give Fev Rover a second tilt at Classic glory in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

The sole British-trained runner in a field of 14 fillies, the daughter of Gutaifan arguably sets the standard on this season’s form, having finished an excellent third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago.

Fev Rover is set to encounter very different conditions on Sunday, however, with heavy rain in recent days ensuring the ground is testing at the home of Irish Flat racing.

Fahey said: “I believe they’ve had an awful lot of rain, and I’m a little bit worried it might be off, but she has to travel.

“There’s more forecast, but it’s one of those situations where we have to go and see what happens.”

While Fev Rover’s tremendous Newmarket effort came on a fast surface, she did win the Group Two Prix du Calvados at Deauville last season on ground officially described as ‘very soft’.

“I’ve been preaching all winter that I want to get her on better ground, and here we are running on heavy – but she has had experience of it, so she’ll handle it as well as most,” Fahey added.

“I was keen to get her to the Curragh, because I just thought the track would suit her.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“We’ve been pleased with her since Newmarket – she’s a pretty straightforward girl.”

Pretty Gorgeous winning the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket
Pretty Gorgeous winning the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Joseph O’Brien is confident of a bold showing from Pretty Gorgeous, who has not been seen since winning the Fillies’ Mile last autumn after an unsatisfactory scope ruled her out of the Guineas at Newmarket.

O’Brien told Betfair: “Pretty Gorgeous is obviously one of our most exciting prospects for the season, having won the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last season. She just wasn’t quite right prior to the 1000 Guineas, so we played it safe with her and didn’t run.

“Given how firm the ground was, missing it might have been a blessing in disguise. We know from last year that she handles soft ground well, and we’ve been very happy with her in the last couple of weeks.

“She looks in great order now and will hopefully produce a big effort. Her juvenile form entitles her to be right in the mix, so hopefully she runs a big one.”

O’Brien also runs a pair of outsiders in Sense Of Style and Thinking Of You, ensuring he matches his father Aidan’s three-pronged assault.

O’Brien senior’s chief hope appears to be Joan Of Arc, who impressed in the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown a fortnight ago.

“She’s a sister to Gleneagles, and he didn’t like it soft, but she won her maiden when it was soft – so at least we know she goes on it,” said the trainer.

“Like with most of ours this weekend, she’d much prefer better ground, but we do at least know she’s gone on it before – even though it was only a maiden.

“She’s got a beautiful pedigree.”

Empress Josephine and Friendly complete the Ballydoyle trio, while Jessica Harrington saddles both No Speak Alexander and Zaffy’s Pride, who finished first and second in Leopardstown’s Athasi Stakes this month.

Of No Speak Alexander, Harrington said: “I’m not saying she will win, but she’ll be in the shake-up.”

Miss Amulet (right) finishing second in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket
Miss Amulet (right) finishing second in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Miss Amulet was declared a non-runner in last weekend’s French 1000 Guineas because of unsuitably soft ground, but trainer Ken Condon will let her line up this weekend.

The daughter of Sir Prancealot will be making her first competitive appearance since finishing third at the Breeders’ Cup in November – finishing on the heels of Newmarket Guineas heroine Mother Earth.

“It’s the last Classic she can run in, and she’ll take her chance,” said Condon.

“The two-year-old career she put together means she deserves her chance in a Guineas.

“There are genuine concerns about the ground – and as a consequence, the trip is going to be in more focus.

“The filly has trained nicely and is in good form. We’ve a good man riding her (Colin Keane), and she’s drawn around fancied horses, and we’re looking forward to seeing her back.”

Mac Swiney leads home Irish Guineas one-two for Jim Bolger

Jim Bolger dominated the finish of the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh with Mac Swiney just edging out stable companion Poetic Flare.

Mac Swiney, a Group One winner at two, had disappointed on his return to action in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, but was subsequently found to be suffering from a nasal discharge.

Poetic Flare was already running in his third Classic of the season, having won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before finishing only sixth in the French version just six days ago.

The race was run in a heavy rain shower as Rory Cleary, riding by far the biggest winner of his career, set out to make all on Mac Swiney and his rivals dropped away one by one.

Only stablemate Poetic Flare put up a challenge and Kevin Manning looked to be travelling marginally the better.

However, just when Manning began to ask his mount for everything, Poetic Flare hung across the track slightly, eventually being beaten a short head in the 100th running of the Classic. Van Gogh stayed on to be third.

Coral cut Mac Swiney to 7-1 from 20s for the Cazoo Derby next month.

Bolger was not at the track, but his daughter Una Manning confirmed Epsom is the target for the winner.

Your first 30 days for just £1

She said: “I just spoke to the boss and obviously he’s absolutely delighted with the horse and very pleased with Poetic Flare as well.

“I’d say it was probably a race for horses that stay the mile well with the conditions.

“The plan is to go to Epsom with Mac Swiney and we’ll see how Poetic Flare comes out of the race before deciding whether he’ll go to Ascot for the St James Palace.”

Manning, who is married to the rider of the runner-up, hailed her father’s decision to run both colts at the Curragh.

She added: “He’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He was talking about running the two horses and I said ‘wouldn’t it be great if Poetic Flare won and Mac Swiney was second and then went to Epsom and did a New Approach’.

“It ended up the other way around. I myself am a little disappointed for Kevin that he wasn’t on the winner, but on the other hand Rory has been such a loyal second jockey in the yard for so many years that he very much deserves this win.

“I think Kevin was happy enough to ride Poetic Flare. He said to me last week, after Longchamp, maybe we should just run the two of them in the Guineas and it would leave Mac Swiney right for Epsom.

“We’ve always had faith in Mac Swiney. He wasn’t quite himself at Leopardstown, but that does happen with horses and nowadays we all know about the mucus because we can scope them, so it’s different to years ago when you wouldn’t know.”

The winner is named after the Irish playwright, author and politician Terence MacSwiney and Manning added: “This is Rory’s day and Mac Swiney’s day and Terence MacSwiney’s memory will live on for another while.”

Rory Cleary celebrates aboard Mac Swiney
Rory Cleary celebrates aboard Mac Swiney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cleary was thrilled to have landed an Irish Classic, but admitted he was struggling to register his achievement.

He said: “I still can’t believe it. I was quietly nervous about having to ride him. I’ve never ridden a fancied horse in it – in a big race – never mind a Classic.

“He’s such a special horse to get a ride on. The boss this morning just told me to jump out good and smart and ride a race on him and see how it unfolds.

“The further we went, the better he was going under me, and he stayed at it so well. I think the ground, with it being a bit on the wet side, his stamina really came into play.

“He’s so honest – I just can’t believe I’m after winning the Guineas.

“Kevin (Manning on Poetic Flare) came to me and we quickened away together again. I think they’re two very smart horses.

“My lad really just stuck his head out for me. I think somebody was looking down on me because they made it easy for me.”

There was a sting in the tail for the winning rider though, with Cleary getting a six-day suspension for excessive use of the whip.

Gustavus Weston surprises Greenlands rivals

Gustavus Weston bounced back from a disappointing run six days ago to dent some tall reputations in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.

Hollie Doyle had made the trip to Ireland to partner her British Champions Sprint winner Glen Shiel and Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours has some top-class form to his name, while Sonaiyla changed hands for 900,000 guineas in December.

None of them had an answer to Joe Murphy’s five-year-old, however, who returned as a 14-1 winner.

Doyle adopted her usual position on Glen Shiel at the head of affairs and was joined by Make A Challenge as the pair went toe to toe for the first four furlongs.

As Glen Shiel dropped away, noted mud-lover Make A Challenge was left in front, but Gary Carroll began to get Gustavus Weston on a roll.

A Group Three winner back in 2019, he had been winless since and finished only sixth behind Logo Hunter at Naas last week.

He went on to win by three-quarters of a length with Make A Challenge returning to something like his best in second, with Sonaiyla running on for third.

“That was his Derby. He won here before and we always thought he liked the Curragh,” said Murphy.

“We thought he needed the race last week and that put him dead on for this one.

“He won well and I’m delighted the way Gary rode him, it was a good result.

“I’d have been happy with a place, we’re not greedy! He got him switched off which helped, he’s inclined to be a bit strong, but he switched off today and that was the key to him.”

Star shines with impressive Marble Hill performance

Castle Star leapt to prominence in the betting for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot with a stylish display in the GAIN Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh.

A five-furlong Listed winner at the track last time out, Fozzy Stack’s charge found the extra furlong well within his compass in the hands of Chris Hayes.

Sent off at 5-2, Castle Star was dropped right out by Hayes before he came swinging into contention with just over a furlong to run.

Despite the ground being testing, the son of Starspangledbanner quickened up impressively to beat Masseto by two lengths.

Betfair cut him to 6-1 from 14-1 for the Ascot race.

Castle Star was an impressive winner
Castle Star was an impressive winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s not often you see someone taking a pull a furlong out,” said Stack.

“The first day in Cork, Chris got there a bit soon and we are learning how to ride him now.

“He’s improving and bouncing out of his races.

“The plan in my head after the last day was to go straight to Ascot, but he was going to come out over the door, so we said we’d bring him up here and see how we got on.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“The Coventry is a possibility, but I wouldn’t rule anything in or not. There is the Railway back here which deserves consideration and we’ll just see nearer the time.

“He’s very straight forward, has a great constitution, bounces out of his races and is uncomplicated. If I didn’t run him this week, he would have killed somebody at home!”

Epona Plays and Billy Lee on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Stakes
Epona Plays and Billy Lee on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Stakes (Brian Lawless/PA)

Epona Plays ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes.

Willie McCreery’s filly ran eight times last season, showing steady progression, but has taken her form to a new level this term.

Winner of a Group Three at Naas last time out, she dominated from the front on this occasion, winning by four lengths under Billy Lee.

“She just got into a lovely rhythm there,” said McCreery

“There were only six runners and we could see there was probably going to be no pace in the race.

“We wanted to try to take the pace out of the Group One filly (Champers Elysees) and not to leave anything for her. That’s a tough mile today.

“I was a bit nervous yesterday morning when I saw the lads walking the track, but the Curragh is the most drying plain in the country, so I never had any worry that it wasn’t going to be run.

“It’s fantastic for owner Renzo Forni, who has been a fantastic supporter of me since Joanna Morgan retired.

“I’ve nothing at the minute target wise and we’ll see.”

Pinar Del Rio landed the opener
Pinar Del Rio landed the opener (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lee had earlier struck gold aboard Pinar Del Rio (2-1) in the Tally Ho Stud Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden.

Third first time out at Naas, he put that experience to good use to beat Thunder Eclipse by a length and a quarter.

“He’s an uncomplicated horse, he had a lovely first run and I was hoping coming here today that he might do something like that,” said winning trainer Paddy Twomey.

“He’s showing a lot of class and he has to step up now, whether that’s running back here or going to the UK, I don’t know.

“I don’t think that ground is what he’s looking for – I think he wants nicer ground – so for him to do that in the ground, I’m happy.”

Verhoyen was a comfortable winner to bring up Lee's hat-trick
Verhoyen was a comfortable winner to bring up Lee’s hat-trick (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lee then made it a hat-trick as Verhoyen (12-1) powered home by two and three-quarter lengths in the Betway Handicap.

Winning handler Michael Grassick said: “We’ll have a crack at the Scurry and hopefully the handicapper doesn’t take that too literally.

“We could also look at the big six-furlong race here on Champions Weekend.”

Creat Belief (7-2 favourite) lifted the Betway Spring Fillies Handicap for Johnny Murtagh, while the closing Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap went to the Ger Lyons-trained Lust (11-2).

Classic card gets green light in Ireland

This afternoon’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas meeting at the Curragh has survived a 7.30am inspection and the fixture will go ahead as planned.

Torrential rain in the second half of the week had placed the card in some doubt with over 30 millimetres falling through Thursday and Friday.

The course was unraceable on Friday but a relatively dry night has allowed conditions to improve.

Clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan said via the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Twitter account: “I’m glad to say racing goes ahead.

“The ground on the straight course is soft to heavy and on the round course is soft, soft to heavy in places.

“There are two changes today. The stalls will go back on the stands side for all sprints and the six-furlong Betway Handicap (5.00) will now be run over five furlongs and 110 yards.

“Looking forward to tomorrow, there is rain coming in tonight and through tomorrow morning so we will continue to monitor the situation.

“The weather today is mainly dry with the odd scattered shower but we are all good to go.”