Irish 2000 Guineas preview: Magna Grecia the pick of O’Brien quintet for Curragh ClassicPublished on: May 23, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
The first Classic of the Flat season in the Emerald Isle is the Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh on Saturday (15:35), and Magna Grecia looks to hold leading claims of completing the double after scoring in the English equivalent at Newmarket.
He is one of five aimed at this race by all-conquering trainer Aidan O’Brien and the clear pick of that quintet, having won three of his four career starts.
Magna Grecia is by Invincible Spirit out of a Galileo mare and comfortably landed a Naas maiden over 7f on debut last September.
Connections then stepped this colt into group company where he found only Persian King a neck too good in the Autumn Stakes.
The form of that Group 3 juvenile contest on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket looks very strong indeed, as the first four home have all come out and won this season.
Persian King landed the French 2000 Guineas by a cosy length after bolting up on his reappearance.
Circus Maximus, who was three lengths behind Magna Grecia in third, won the 1m 2f Dee Stakes at the Chester May Festival earlier this month.
The fourth horse Western Australia, meanwhile, relished the step up to 1m 5f to score in a Listed contest at Navan last weekend.
Dual Group 1 winner over trip
Magna Grecia confirmed the Autumn Stakes form when back up to 1m in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on his final start as a juvenile when toughing it out and winning by a head.
He had Western Australia and Circus Maximus a length behind. Victory on Town Moor marked him down as a leading Classic contender, and Magna Grecia had the run of the race in the 2000 Guineas on reappearance.
He was drawn high on the stands’ side and the ground was clearly quickest there as he won by 2 1/2 lengths, while the main body of the field ran in the centre of the Rowley Mile.
While that bit of luck was welcome, there was no fluke about the way in which Magna Grecia was ridden to lead at the furlong marker and then run on very nicely under Donnacha O’Brien.
Only two English 2000 Guineas horses re-oppose here and, British raider Too Darn Hot apart, he is 6lb and upwards clear of the rest of the field on official ratings.
Magna Grecia is thus well-fancied at 6/4 with Bethard to complete the 2000 Guineas double recently achieved by two other O’Brien inmates – Churchill (2017) and Gleneagles (2015).
Reasons to take quickly turned out Too Darn Hot on
Too Darn Hot has been hastily rerouted to The Curragh on the comeback trail after losing his unbeaten record when going down by a length to Telecaster in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York.
That first career defeat for the John Gosden trained, Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber owned Dubawi colt came just nine days ago, however, and it doesn’t leave much recovery time.
Too Darn Hot had the world at his feet after a flawless juvenile campaign which saw him score in a Sandown maiden over a mile, before returning to the Esher venue and following-up in the Group 3 Solario over 7f.
He was on the upgrade again at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival when beating Phoenix Of Spain by 1 3/4 lengths in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes.
Too Darn Hot rounded off last season with a four-timer and Group 1 glory in the Dewhurst at Newmarket. Precious little has gone right since, however.
He missed his intended reappearance in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, then also skipped the 2000 Guineas. Frankie Dettori did ease Too Darn Hot close home in the Dante when it was clear he couldn’t win.
It was still a hard race on his belated return to action, however, and despite an 8lb superior rating to Magna Grecia, Too Darn Hot is certainly opposable.
While it would be no surprise to see him take a step back in the right direction, even standout odds of 13/8 with Unibet are plenty short enough.
Skardu and Phoenix Of Spain have shouts of making the frame
Craven Stakes winner Skardu was third in the English 2000 Guineas and led home the main body of the field.
Trained by William Haggas, the son of Shamardal also landed his sole start as a juvenile over 7f on the Rowley Mile.
This is a first career start away from Newmarket for Skardu, who held on in really game fashion to score by a neck in the Craven on reappearance in April.
He was obviously unlucky in the English 2000 Guineas, but even with that draw bias has over four lengths to find on Magna Grecia.
Official assessment rates Skardu 7lb inferior to the favourite here, but a mark of 111 puts him bang in contention to make the frame.
With the prospect of plenty more to come from him on Irish debut, Skardu is a solid each-way option to consider at 8/1 with 888Sport.
The same can be said of Phoenix Of Spain, however, who placed behind both Too Darn Hot and Magna Grecia as a juvenile.
Trained by Charlie Hills, this Lope De Vega colt won the Group 3 Acomb Stakes before chasing home the big two in consecutive runs at Doncaster.
The sixth horse home in that York Ebor Festival race was Broome, who chased home Madhmoon and Royal Marine at Leopardstown and Longchamp over this trip before winning two key Derby trials in Ireland this season.
It’s interesting that connections have kept their powder dry with Phoenix Of Spain since.
While he has less to find with Magna Grecia than Too Darn Hot on back form, there’s no denying he is another well worth considering each-way at 14/1 with betway on reappearance.
Mohawk may be overpriced
Others who will fancy their chances of nicking a place include in-form Dermot Weld runner Shelir and impressive Cork winner Decrypt.
Of the other four engaged for O’Brien, meanwhile, Mohawk won over the trip as a juvenile and ran a huge race under a penalty when chasing home Circus Maximus last time out.
Now dropping back in trip, he looks overpriced at 33/1 with Boylesports to make the frame again.
Mohawk won a Cork maiden on his second start before finishing a fine 2 3/4 lengths third to stable companion Anthony Van Dyck in a Group 2 here.
He was then far from disgraced when a 7 1/2 lengths fourth to Quorto in the Group 1 Vincent O’Brien Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend over 7f.
Mohawk came out and won the Royal Lodge at Newmarket when upped in distance and eased in grade.
After being pushed along to chase the leaders over two out, he was ridden to challenge and took it up at the furlong pole before staying on lead home a 1-2-3 for the O’Brien yard.
Something was clearly amiss with Mohawk when he trailed in last of seven to Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst after going down in trip, but he ran much more to form in the Dee Stakes on reappearance.
As he was giving the winner 5lb and only went down by 1 1/4 lengths, it’s an effort at Chester which can be upgraded.
It’s also interesting connections drop Mohawk back down in trip rather than go up and he can’t be ruled out of having a hand in the finish.