Irish Flat Racing 2011 – Group Horses to Follow
This is the first instalment of a three part Irish Flat Racing feature for the 2011 Flat season for Racing Profits followers and punters alike. Here, I will outline some very classy individuals I consider to be set for Group race glory this season. All are trained in Ireland but of course, many will have planned engagements at both sides of the Irish Sea.
HEAD SPACE – Jim Bolger – 3yo Colt
This son of Invincible Spirit really caught the eye when winning his maiden at the first time of asking last April. Tracking the leaders in mid division he travelled supremely well and showed a tremendous burst of speed to put the race to bed from over one furlong out, winning by 5 lengths over the minimum trip. It was a visually impressive performance and one that has been backed up by the three horses directly behind him who’ve all gone on to win races since, the best of them being the very smart Lightening Thief. Unfortunately, Head Space has been off the track since with a set back and has been given all the time he needs to come to hand by his shrewd handler Jim Bolger, one of Irish Flat Racing’s best, who undoubtedly knows when he has a good horse on his hands and make no mistake, this is a very good horse. Hold entries in both of the 2000 Guineas but is reported to be a bit behind schedule in terms of a trip to Newmarket, where he is quoted as a 50/1 shot. He could be one for the Irish 2000 Guineas but this horse has so much speed I can see him really making his presence felt over shorter trips in time. Will be placed to good effect by his handler and is definitely one to keep on side when he makes his return to action.
PATHFORK – Jessica Harrington – 3yo Colt
A highly imposing unbeaten 2yo last season from the Jessica Harrington team, an American bred horse who won a 14 runner maiden at the Curragh in mid July last year, comfortably thrashing the well touted 8/11 favourite Robin Hood from Aiden O’Brien’s yard by 4 lengths. He then progressed to take the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh where he had the likes of Glor Na Mara, Samuel Morse and High Ruler outclassed in behind, all good prospects for this season in their own right. It was his run in the Group 1 Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, again at the Curragh racecourse, which cemented his superiority over the 2010 crop of Irish 2 year olds in September. That day he settled well in third place and hit the front a furlong out and stayed on really well to hold off Casamento, who went on the take the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October and has since joined the powerful Godolphin team for his 3yo campaign and is a high class prospect as well. Group 1 winner Zoffany was a well held 5 lengths behind those two that day and the form stacks up very well. I have chatted to one of the jockeys from Harrington’s jumping team about this colt and the one thing he said was that he only likes to do enough in front and the feeling from the yard is they still don’t know how good he is as he always keeps a bit up his sleeve, both at home on the gallops and on the track. To my mind he is was the best of the Irish 2yo crop and that is reflected both in the form book and in the English Guineas market, where he is clear 2nd favourite behind Frankel at 7/1. He looks set for a huge year in Group 1 company and reports from the yard suggest he has wintered very well and he heads straight to Newmarket.
RODERIC O’CONNOR – A P O’Brien – 3yo Colt
It is looking as though this immaculately bred son of Galileo is the chief 3yo from the powerful Irish Flat Racing Ballydoyle establishment and it would be criminal not to mention him here as he is a very likeable colt that has a very progressive profile. From looking very green on his debut when finished 3rd behind the classy Dunboyne Express and Master of Hounds in early June, he stepped up no end to thrash Master of Hounds by 2.5 lengths at the Curragh at odds of 12/1 under Seamie Heffernan. He looked smart then and was taken straight to Newmarket for the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, where he was given little chance at 25/1 by the layers in what was considered to be the hottest 2yo race for years with Frankel, Dream Ahead and Saamid locking horns. Dream Ahead clearly hadn’t got over his emphatic Group 1 victory two weeks previously and his effort petered out tamely, as did Saamid’s who also had excuses as the ground was on the soft side. All the same, this was a high class race and Roderic O’Connor led from the start at a good gallop and was just done for toe in the closing stages by Frankel who won by just over 2 lengths. In late Autumn he took his chance in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint Cloud and went off a warm 5/2 favourite in a hot looking race. He took the race comfortably to establish himself as a serious prospect for Classic honours this season. He is 3rd favourite for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and having been tipped up by Pricewise in the Racing Post, must go there with a big chance of fighting out the finish. Is entitled to improve no end this season and could be even better again next season. Is a well balanced colt who will act on most types of ground and has plenty of options open to him whatever happens at headquarters on April 30th.
LAUGHING LASHES – Jessica Harrington – 3yo Filly
Another horse I must mention from the yard of the first lady of Irish Flat Racing Jessica Harrington, who has some potent looking ammunition to go to war with this season. Laughing Lashes is a very attractive daughter of Mr Greeley who was very consistent last season, coming 2nd in very good company three times and winning the Group 2 Keenland Debutante stakes at the Curragh in between. That day, with a bit of ease in ground, she beat her arch rival Misty For Me comfortably, with the 6/4 favourite Together a well beaten 3rd. Misty For Me just edged her in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud on her next start on ground that was probably a little too firm. Word from the yard is that they believe this filly is at least as good as Misty For Me when she has her conditions and is strongly fancied to run huge races in Classic company this season. I backed this filly at 25/1 each way for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last year after Id spoke to my pal at the stable and she is now as low as 12/1, with Misty For Me a 7/1 chance. There is no reason she cant run a huge race on good ground, but with any ease in the ground she’ll be strongly fancied to win the race and at 14/1, she rates good each way bet regardless. She’ll undoubtedly make her presence felt at top level this season, has plenty of options until late in the year and for that reason, she is my 3yo filly to follow.
INVINCIBLE ASH – Michael Halford – 6yo Mare
Invincible Spirit is fast becoming one of my favourite sires as his offspring are very fast, very versatile and extremely tough racehorses. Invincible Ash has been a model of consistency winning two Listed events last season and taking home plenty of prize money for her owners in defeat. She is just back from Dubai, where Michael Halford placed her well to run in 5 races without victory and not once did she look out of place or run a poor race. On World Cup night at Meydan, she finished a close 4th behind arguably the best sprinter on the planet JJ The Jet Plane in the Al Quoz Sprint, only beaten half a length. This mare thrives on racing and has slowly but surely risen up the ratings. Now rated 111, she’ll be running in all the top sprint races this summer and I won’t hear of her not getting her head in front in a good race at decent odds. Is having a little break at the moment but will be back in full work very soon and I look forward to following her this season.
FAME AND GLORY – A P O’Brien – 5yo Colt
An outstanding middle distance performer and its difficult to envision the horse having anything but another exciting season. He has won three Group 1s and four other Group races and is just the type to excel and perhaps improve again as a 5 year old. Is likely to start off in one or two small races in Ireland and start at prohibitive odds, but it is when he begins his travels to England and France that we need to pay him particular attention. Has all sorts of races open to him in including the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom, where last year he made top class filly and multiple Group 1 winner Sariska look completely out of place in the closing stages. Fame And Glory went on to win a small Group 2 at the Curragh after that, beating his regular work partner Dixie Music in the style that poor horse has become accustomed to at home on the gallops. Next was the Qatar Prix De L’ Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp where he went off a well fancied 9/2 shot but never had a clear run and was badly hampered over 2 furlong out. It was a muddling race and he would certainly have finished closer to Workforce and may have won with a clearer run. There has been talk of Fame And Glory being trained for the Royal Ascot Gold Cup and that might not be a bad idea at all as he has both stamina and class in abundance, all the attributes required to win such a race. Whatever path he takes, he is a horse to follow at home and abroad and to my mind, is a major player for the Arc again in October.
ZERASHAN – Michael Halford – 4yo Colt
Another potential dark horse to follow here from the ever expanding Irish Flat Racing stable of Michael Halford based in county Kildare. This horse has just been bought by Gigginstown House Stud from the Aga Khan for a sizeable sum of money to go jumping later in the year. I find it interesting that Micheal Halford pressed his new owners to let him partake in another flat campaign before he starts over hurdles. He is a good looking son of Azamour who will certainly improve with age as did his sire. Barring his final run last season where he was clearly over the top, he enjoyed a respectable first season, his best run when chasing home the top class prospect Await The Dawn at Cork. Zerashan is likely to stay 1m4f and will have plenty of opportunities to take a Group race along the way and could pop up at a decent price.
Irish Flat Racing 7 To Follow
So, there we have 7 horses I think will be worth following for Group race honours this Irish Flat Racing season. A good mix of talent I think you’ll agree, with some well known names as well as a couple of dark horses. There are any number of talented horses who I may not have mentioned, but make no mistake about it, I fancy these 6 to be profitable to follow and I plan on giving regular updates of their progress as the season goes on.
Next Article – Irish Flat Racing Handicappers To Follow In 2011
In my second instalment, I will be focusing on Irish Flat Racing Handicappers, with varying levels of class, who I feel should win races this season and be profitable to follow. The last instalment of this completely free Irish Flat Racing article, exclusive to Racing Profits.net, will focus on a batch of unraced Irish trained 2 year old horses who will be making an impact on the Irish Flat Racing scene this Summer and Autumn.