And they’re off! The 2016 Irish flat season is under way and it started with an excellent card and some promising performances on Sunday. Here’s a quick round-up of the day and some photos – Find a complete photo gallery here.
Promising Kick-Off: The first race of the new year was a 5f maiden, won by Mister Trader who made all and quickened nicely. Could be a nice type for the early 2yo races but he may not necessarily turn out to be best of this lot.
Callender in third travelled eye-catchingly well off the pace and had loads to do from his position, he wasn’t knocked over but finished with plenty of promise given first and second were the pace setters. He’s extremely well bred and could develop into a nice sprinter.
A mentioning also for Cosy Club, the first So You Think son we’ve seen at a racetrack in Europe I believe.
Considering that the 5f trip is probably way too short, he travelled well enough actually, though it was obvious that he wasn’t quick enough when the pace quickened over 2f out.Subsequently he didn’t get the best of runs but also appeared to be green. It was a good debut nonetheless and he should improve once he steps up in trip.
New Star fo Bolger? The 6f maiden was won by an interesting Bolger newcomer in Stenographer. He cost $450.000 as a yearling and impressed physically as a big and scopey type. He was badly outpaced in the middle part of the race but stayed on strongly to get up on the line eventually.
He obviously needs further, given the visual evidence here in combination with his pedigree given he’s son of Distorted Humor and out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Jim Bolger likes to introduce good ones at this very first meeting, so Stenographer is clearly one for the notebooks.
Upset the Group 3 Park Express Stakes: Nobody gave a toss about Queen Blossom. She was unfancied in the betting – though in my preview I called her out as a 20/1 value shot for the race – and travelled in rear of the field for most parts of the race.
Favourite Devonshire looked to have things his own way entering the final two furlongs, but then Queen Blossom worked her way through the field and made a fight out of it. The three year old filly eventually piped Devonshire on the line to land the big price. Surprising in a sense, but it has to be said in her two starts as a juvenile last year she already appeared to have some potential. It remains to be seen whether this was a fluke or if she can build on it, whereas runner-up Devonsire continues to find ways to get beaten over one mile.
Irish Guineas for Awtaad: There was some talk about the son of Cape Cross over the winter after he impressed in two starts as a juvenile. Then, a massive drift in the betting before the off of the Madrid Handicap on Sunday was a major worry. Did he not train on?
There was nothing to worry as the top weight made light work of his rivals in what looked a pretty good and deep race beforehand. He was simply too good for this lot, despite possibly still a bit light of fitness, as connections mentioned afterwards.
Awtaad really impressed me with the way he kicked clear against a good bunch of three year old’s and confirmed what I saw in the parade ring before. He looked a nice, athletic and scopey type. According to his trainer the Irish 2000 Guineas is the plan.
Sruthan’s Lincoln Romp: I didn’t fancy him, feeling a mile in soft ground with a big weight on his shoulders in a deep field may just stretch him, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sruthan in hands of Chris Hayes, slaughtered his rivals in the Irish Lincoln. Two furlongs out and you could count your chickens if you backed him, Hayes sat motionless in the saddle.
Once the button was pressed, Sruthan stepped up a gear and romped home by 4 and half lengths to win the feature of day one. 11/4 favourite Ashraf finished down the field but was found to be wrong afterwards. It’s best to ignore this performance and to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could still develop into a a very good horse.
Intriguing 1m Maiden: The final race on the card shaped as quite a good race on paper and turned out to be exactly that. The winner Embiran looked extremely promising on his sole start in 2015, when he was unlucky not to beat a subsequent listed winner. He didn’t encounter any problems this time. He travelled like a dream until Smullen said “Go” – in a matter of strides the son of Sharmadal put the race to bed.
He’s nicely bred out of Group 3 winning mare Emiyna, and Dermot Weld said it shouldn’t be a problem to drop back to 7f for a bid of black-type in the Tetrarch Stakes in May.
The runner-up Stellar Mass makes a habit of bumping into the “one too good”. He was a one lengths beaten 4th in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last season but still remains a maiden. He travelled very strongly here but was simply beaten by a better horse on the day. That says the son of Sea The Stars appears to have strengthen up over the winter and is not a lost cause.
Eye-catcher of the day was Claudio Monteverdi. Aiden O’Brien’s inmate was well backed but met considerable in-running trouble at a crucial stage. Once in the clear he thundered home to finish an excellent fourth.
He finished similarly promising on his sole run last year and is one of the most exciting prospects for the new season. A full-brother to super filly Lush Lashes, he’s a a candidate for the Derby, no doubt. You can find far worse 40/1 ante-post shots.
I expect him to come on an awful lot for this pipe opener and look massively forward to seeing him next time because the more I watch the replay from Sunday, the better it gets.
Cook Islands a potential star: Another one for O’Brien I really look forward to see racing is Cook Islands. I loved what I saw from him in his two starts last year and he did impress me when working at the Curragh on Sunday. He looks to have strengthen up over the winter, is very athletic, though a bit a tricky character all the same.
Whether or not is was significant, but Pat Smullen was on board for the workout and you’d may want to think for a reason; and if it’s only for a feedback from one of the best in the business. Cook Islands may turn out to more like a French Derby type, one who could really excel over 10 furlongs.
All photos credit Florian Christoph