The big race in Ireland this Sunday is the 1m Group 2 Beresford Stakes at The Curragh (16:00), and Innisfree is fancied to follow-up on his Galway Festival success.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, who has won this race a staggering 18 times, this Galileo colt out of a Fastnet Rock mare chased home stable companion Year Of The Tiger on debut at Naas.
It was a tender introduction to racing under Emmet McNamara for Innisfree, as he made late headway under a hands and heels ride to go from fourth to second inside the final furlong.
He duly showed the benefit of that experience last time out with a maiden victory. Innisfree went from the front at Galway but got headed by the re-opposing Shekhem, before rallying superbly and scoring by a neck.
As he kept on well near the finish after turning away that challenge, it suggests Innisfree is capable of confirming the form. He is less exposed than Shekhem after just those two career starts.
Innisfree has a similar profile to Japan, who won the Beresford Stakes for connections 12 months ago.
With Donnacha O’Brien once again taking the ride, he is 10/11 favourite with Betfred to follow in that one’s hoofprints and make the step into group company a winning one.
Shekhem still feared in Beresford Stakes
The aforementioned Shekhem still rates a danger for trainer Dermot Weld and owner the Aga Khan. This Zoffany colt has been brought along nicely in four starts to date.
Shekhem was a never nearer 3 1/4 lengths seventh to Iberia on debut over course and distance.
He was then held a neck after that tussle with Innisfree at Galway, before chasing home Mogul when stepped up to a mile back at this venue.
After chasing the leaders and going well in fourth approaching the two marker, Shekhem improved into second.
He just couldn’t land a blow on the three-length winner, though, who has since landed the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.
That gives the form a decent look. Shekhem broke his maiden tag at the Listowel Harvest Festival last time out when down in distance on soft ground and making all.
All regular jockey Chris Hayes needed to do was shake him up to extend their advantage a furlong from home and he stayed on well for a 2 3/4 lengths successes over Louisiana.
This obviously demands more, but Shekhem handles cut in the ground and the forecast going is yielding-to-soft.
Any further rain looks a plus and he commands the most respect of those from outside Ballydoyle in the Beresford Stakes this year at 7/2 with Boylesports.
Cormorant another interesting contender
With Royal County Down looking over-exposed, the third O’Brien inmate Cormorant is an intriguing contender.
This grey Kingman colt out of a Dansili mare has got the trip after winning a Leopardstown maiden on his second of three career starts at that venue. Prior to that, Cormorant was a fading fourth on debut when sent off favourite.
He battled all the way to the line next time up when touching off Agitare by a short-head. The runner-up has since finished a keeping on three-length third in a Group 2.
While Cormorant was only fifth in that same event last time out, this renewal of the Beresford Stakes is an easier race for the grade than the Champions Juvenile.
That makes Cormorant, who tops Racing Post Ratings in this, of interest. With Seamie Heffernan again aboard, he is 7/1 with Paddy Power to bounce back.
It’s hard to fancy anything else. What the form of Ger Lyons trained maiden winner Camorra’s victory at Killarney is worth is difficult to assess and the others have to improve markedly to be involved in the finish.