Jessica Harrington expects Lucky Vega to put up a bold bid for Classic glory in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Already a Group One winner at the Curragh, having claimed an impressive victory in the Phoenix Stakes last summer, the three-year-old made a promising start to the new campaign when a close-up third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago.
He is set to renew rivalry with Jim Bolger’s Rowley Mile hero Poetic Flare, but as he could only finish sixth in last weekend’s French 2000 Guineas, Lucky Vega is the clear favourite to turn the tables on home soil.
All of those who ran on fast ground at Newmarket can expect to encounter very different conditions this weekend, with the ground so testing that course officials held an inspection on Saturday morning before giving the card the go-ahead.
“He’s been great – I’m very happy with him,” Harrington said of Lucky Vega.
“This is a severe switch round on ground. I was a little bit worried going to Newmarket on good to firm ground, even though he’d won on it as a two-year-old – and now we’re going to be on soft ground at the Curragh.
“He saw out the mile very well at Newmarket, and has a really relaxed way of going. He has won on easy ground before (Phoenix Stakes, good to yielding), so I’m hoping all will be fine. It’s going to be the same for everyone.
“It’s the beginning of the year, so it’s who is improving really – he’s a very relaxed horse at home.”
Aidan O’Brien, who has already won the Irish 2,000 Guineas on a record 11 occasions, this year fires a dual assault.
Van Gogh fared best of the duo when eighth in the Newmarket equivalent, with Wembley ultimately disappointing in finishing 11th.
O’Brien said of Van Gogh: “He was very close to being fifth in the Guineas, he just got tired in the last 50 yards. Maybe our Newmarket horses were a couple of weeks behind where we thought they were.
“He came out of the race very well. He is a big, strong traveller. He had very good form at the back-end of last year and we have been very happy with him since as well.
“He has form on soft ground in France, but I don’t think he needs it, we always thought he’d be better on nice ground.”
“It’s a shame about the weather, but that’s the way it is.
“Wembley has form on soft ground in the Dewhurst, but we always thought he wanted nice ground. At least he has some form on soft, though.”
Battleground was a late non-runner for O’Brien.
British hopes are carried by Charlie Appleby’s La Barrosa and the Hugo Palmer-trained The Rosstafarian.
La Barrosa was last seen pushing stablemate and subsequent 2000 Guineas runner-up Master Of The Seas close in the Craven Stakes Stakes.
“La Barrosa disappointed on testing ground at Saint-Cloud (last year), but we feel there were other contributing factors. It was the end of the season and he scoped dirty post-race, so I think you can put a bit of a line through that run,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.
“His preparation has gone well and he put up a very good performance behind Master Of The Seas on his three-year-old return.
“A repeat of that effort should make him very competitive.”
The Rosstafarian, who is owned by Middleham Park Racing, was fifth in the Craven.
Middleham Park’s Tom Palin said: “The horse did a fantastic pace of work this week – Hugo couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s amazing how in the last three weeks since we decided not to go for the English Guineas he has really matured and grown up.
“Michael Hills rides him in all his pieces of work and he had a real job pulling him up the other day. We couldn’t be happier with how he is at home. The penny has dropped since the Craven. He’s a much more street-wise horse than what we had.
“It’s going to be quite a test on stamina, but he’s a horse we think we’ll be looking at running over nine or 10 furlongs. I don’t think he’ll be beaten for stamina in the soft ground.”