My attention is mainly across the Irish Sea in the Emerald Isle this weekend for their big meeting at the Curragh but I will be having one bet at Haydock in one of their two Group Two’s.
The Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes over six furlongs at Haydock due off at 3.25 looks a pretty good race to my eyes. A number arrive with chances but I have plumped for Sands Of Mali. The colt won a Group Three at Chantilly last month which should have him cherry ripe for this and the yard of Richard Fahey has been banging in the winners of late. He was tried at a mile for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf but all his other runs have been over six furlongs and the trip looks his ideal. I am on at 4-1.
Battaash is due to run in the Group Two Temple Stakes over the six due off at 4.00 and he has been a shade odds-on in the build-up and remains so. The Charlie Hills trained Hamdan Al Maktoum owned four-year-old progressed impressively last season winning at Listed, Group 3 and Group 2 level, before finishing fourth in the G.1 Nunthorpe Stakes then finishing the campaign with a very good win in the G.1 Prix de l'Abbaye last October. He has to give a minimum of 5lb to the opposition here and though the obvious class act I can’t back him at odds-on. I wanted to back John Gosden trained Dreamfield each-way but he won’t line-up.
As touched upon above it’s a big weekend the other side of the Irish Sea at the Curragh with the Irish 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas amongst the big races they host.
Saturday is the day for the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas, they face the starter at 4.10, and no prizes for guessing Aidan O’Brien has a few chances but I am on an English raider. Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Elarqam crosses the Irish Sea with connections in bullish mood. Richard Hills, the owner's assistant racing manager, said earlier this week "I think he'll take all the beating. He has come out of the race really well and Mark is very pleased with him. Newmarket was only the third run of his life and he lost his way a bit into the Dip. The Curragh will suit him. I think he should win." There is a lot to like about the colt, not least his breeding Frankel – Attraction, and I have the 7-4 about him for this. He was a length-and-a-half ahead of Gustav Klimt in the Newmarket version and is open to far more improvement than the Ballydoyle colt. U S Navy Flag also goes for Team O’Brien but his fifth place in the French 2,000 doesn’t suggest he is out of the top-drawer either. If there is a potential dark horse in the line-up Zihba could be the one.
Hydrangea will be long odds-on for the Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes over a mile and is another sadly unbackable.
The fillies take centre stage at 4.10 for the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas on the Sunday with O’Brien well represented again chasing his eighth success in the race. Happily is will well fancied to make up for her Newmarket defeat, third, and is priced appropriately at 6-4. O’Brien also runs Clemmie, who was his best 2yo filly, but this is a big ask on debut against match-fit opposition. Soliloquy, my punt for the Newmarket race where she finished sixth, is making the trip across the Irish Sea and at 11-2 I am prepared to take on the might of Ballydoyle. I thought she went well for a long way in the Guineas at Newmarket and her win in the Nell Gwynn is still fresh in the memory.
Earlier on the Sunday card they go over the 1m2½f trip for the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup at 2.25. This is another race O’Brien has farmed down the years with the likes of Fame And Glory and So You Think. He looks to have another strong hand especially with Defoe only going to line-up if the ground at the Curragh is not deemed too fast, Varian said earlier this week “he's an intended runner but I don't want to risk him on fast ground”, and Cracksman staying at home. This year the master of Ballydoyle has Cliffs Of Moher lining-up, the colt having been second in last years Derby and winner of the Group Two Mooresbridge Stakes at Naas last time out as a warm-up for this. He certainly hasn’t reached the heights many expected of him but this could very well provide his first victory at the top-table. You can get 11-10 and I have it.