THE PUNTER'S EYE: Three horses worth a bet this weekend
It's Irish Guineas weekend and although Aidan O'Brien has the potential to dominate again, it may be worth siding with a couple of British raiders as the sun shines and the ground hardens at the Curragh.
First up on Saturday at 16:10 is the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Aidan O'Brien will be hoping English Guineas flop Gustav Klimt can return to form on home soil. The Ballydoyle handler has been open with his disappointment, suggesting in interviews that the horse simply didn't perform as well as he had anticipated. There were no excuses for his 6th place finish at Newmarket and in truth, his Irish wins prior to that had all been workmanlike. The exciting prospect in the race is ELARQAM (7/4) for the red hot Mark Johnston yard. This horse was initially high-profile because his sire is the unbeaten superstar Frankel, but I think this one could actually back up the hype. He was very good in two wins in 2017, including a three-length success at York on debut, and those performances saw him wrapped up in cotton wool for a tilt at the English 2,000 Guineas earlier this month. He probably hit the front too early that day, two furlongs from home, but even when he was passed by a few rivals, he stayed on well to grab fourth. He had previously beaten the runner-up that day, Tip Two Win, at the same track and can be expected to be better now, considering the Guineas was his first run of the season. The good ground at the Curragh on Saturday will suit his pedigree and he could be that bit special. I expect him to confirm his Guineas form with Gustav Klimt to win here.
Also on Saturday's card at the Curragh is the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes for fillies at 16:45. Once again O'Brien has a strong hand with the highly-rated Hydrangea possibly lining up, but Mick Channon hasn't made the trip over the Irish Sea for the good of his health and I'd give his runner, OPAL TIARA, a big chance. She's been plying her trade to a reasonable level in Dubai since the turn of the year, but the key piece of form in her book is her run to be second in this very race last year. She ran into one of the best backed horses of last year's meeting in the shape of Creggs Pipes that day and had to settle for minor money. However, that was on yielding to soft, and her history suggests that the better the ground gets, the better her chances get. With sunshine forecast right through the weekend, she's going to get good or good to yielding ground and that shift is enough for her to go one better than last year.
On Sunday at 16:10, the Irish 1,000 Guineas pits a couple of beaten rivals from the English equivalent against one another once more. Aidan O'Brien's Happily is the 6/4 favourite having come home third that day, but LAURENS (8/1) was ahead of the Ballydoyle hotpot in the same race, but for some reason is being overlooked in the betting. It's probably because the English 1,000 Guineas was won by a 66/1 outsider and people are putting somewhat of a line through it, but Laurens ran a fantastic race. She led most of the way and even though Billesdon Brook came from off the pace to win, Laurens plugged away well and held off the rest of the field for the final furlong or so. That required a big performance but with a more careful ride, she can win here, and failing that, 8/1 is a great each-way price.
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