Category Archives: The Curragh

Curragh Opener – Review

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.

Cosy Club

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.

Sruthan romps home

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.

Claudio Monteverdi

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.

Cook Island

All photos credit Florian Christoph

The Flat is Back!

Good morning world – the flat is back! Racing never sleeps but Cheltenham was yesterday, the Curragh is today. I’m genuinely excited, going into my fourth year as a Curragh member, a racetrack that is so fucked up that it’s actually great. It’s called charm, I guess. I mean, once the whole thing is revamped, will it still have the same old shabby character which I love so much? Maybe I’m the only one who’s going to miss those power cables waving frighteningly close over racegoers heads in the ever present wind.

Anyway, there’s at least one more year to enjoy it all in it’s full glory. And knowing the Irish by now, after living five years+ in the land of rain, I understand that timetable- and plans are generally nice things to have but nothing to obbey to. Sure, we do that bit different in Germany, but hey, if you don’t like it, you can right feck off! I’m not complaining – I like it exactly that way!

But what I try to say: while there is seemingly a timeline in place to complete the “new Curragh”, the likelihood of it starting on time, never mind the actual completion, is probably slim.

Whatever, that wasn’t the point I wanted to make. Point is: I’m excited. The flat is back! My love – I do like the jumps too – but I like fast horses just a bit more.

The Curragh opener looks pretty decent. Three fair maiden races – some nice types where unveiled here over the last couple of years – quite intriguing handicaps, particularly the 1m one for three year olds with a market leader who’s got an entry for the Derby. The Irish Lincoln is as massive a field as you can get and quite a deep race too. The first pattern race of the new season brings some unexposed and more experienced fillies together. And that all on soft ground – how could it  be any different?! So let’s have a look:

2.10 – 5f Maiden: Jim Bolger won this one on a number of occasions in the past, most notably with Dawn Approach. But the year before his Whip Rule was successful, and that is noteworthy because Intensely Focussed hails from the same family and is therefore not surprisingly the favourite here.

Other individuals to keep an eye on are Terrific Feeling for trainer Michael O’Callaghan, who won this last year. This son of Sir Prancealot has a bit of speed on his side, so could go well. Kieren Fallon is on board. He’s the retained rider of the O’Callaghan yard this season. Prendergast’s Tawaleef and Weld’s Tilly Trotter can go close.

2.40 – 6f Maiden: I’m most intrigued by Jim Bolger trained Stenographer who cost a staggering $450.000 as a yearling. Could be the right type for this race. Though it’s interesting that Richard Fahey brings over the 90 rated Paddy Power, who’s got some fine maiden form from to his name. Also an intriguing contender is The Moore Factor who finished runner-up at Galway with plenty of promise on his sole start.

3.15 – 6f Handicap: Open enough race where favourite Laganore has excellent form in the book yet appears short enough in the betting given he drops markedly in trip and is going to race on really soft ground for the first time.Richard Fahey’s Patrick is an intriguing runner if he acts on the ground.

For a huge price I like to call out Deeds Not Words. Bottom of the weighs, races off a nice low mark, but should enjoy the return to 6 furlongs and has won on soft ground before. Far from disgraced in his last starts at Dundalk. 20/1 is huge.

3.50 – 1m Park Express Stakes: Fair to say Devonshire is the one to beat. She sets a high standard given her 3rd place in last years 1000 Guineas. Her win record isn’t all that positive though. In fact she never won over a mile, though the going is to her advantage.

Joailliere hasn’t been seen since she bombed out in the Irish 1000 Guineas. However she looked very talented when winning a Gowran Park maiden on her debut and she might be the type that gets better with age.

Such a late bloomer could be Aiden O’Brien’s Fluff as well. She’s had only one career start, as she produced a stunning turn of foot at Navan last year. She can be anything but is certainly an exciting. prospect. At 6/1 I like her a lot.

From the bigger prices I feel you can’t fully rule out Queen Blossom. Lightly raced, she looked a scopey sort last year, who appreciates cut in the ground. She surely showed some promise in her two starts.20/1 is too big.

4.25 – 7f Handicap: An intriguing contest with exciting Awtaad leading the betting. The son of Cape Cross looked excellent when winning a 7f maiden last season and subsequently was talked up as a potential Derby horse. In fact he has an entry for the big one in June, so it’s slightly surprising to see him starting his campaign in a handicap.

Albeit it’s a deep one which provides a really tough test. Top weight Awtaad won’t have it all his own way here. Johnny Murtagh’s Newsman is a nice Makfi colt, whereas Ger Lyons’s Roderic O’connor gelding Mint Chai is anotherone worth mentioning.

The biggest challenge could come from a filly though. It took Verbosity a while but the penny finally dropped at Cork in October on her handicap debut. In soft conditions she was able to produce a stunning change of gear and her revised mark is probably on the lenient side. She looks like a filly that’ll do better with age anyway. At 9/1 she’s the one I put up against the classy favourite.

4.55 – 1m Irish Lincoln: A hot renewal where Dermot Weld’s Ashraf looks the class act. The four year old is still unexposed but looked a Group winner in the making last season. Although a mark of 97 is quite a tough task to overcome.

There are plenty of alternatives. Cailin Mor was an impressive winner when last seen in Cork and an 6lb raise might be lenient. Then there is last years Lincoln winner Onenightidreamed. Still lightly raced, he won both his starts in 2015, including the Lincoln and followed up with a Group 3 success. He loves the soft ground but has a huge mark to overcome. Nonetheless at 11/1 he’s a tick overpriced in my book.

Two big prices I also like are Vivat Rex and Lady Giselle. The latter one is 4lb out of the weights but is a real soft ground horse who has a pretty good record over 1m too. Vivat Rex in contrast isn’t quite sure to appreciate the going but is generally unexposed on turf and drops to a fair mark after a pipe opener at Dundalk for new connections earlier this month. Both are 40/1 shots.

5.25 – 1m Maiden: Could we see some future stars in this field? Favourite Embiran could be one. He finished extremely eye-catchingly on his debut and sole start in 2015. Aiden O’Brien’s Bravery is not one to underestimate. He ran on well in a 7f maiden when runner-up behind Awtaad. He looked green but clearly talented that day.

Stable mate Claudio Monteverdi was absolutely clueless on his debut last year but shaped very well in the finish and might be an even better prospect than Bravery I feel. Stellar Mass sets a good standard as he was only a lengths beaten 4th in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last season.