The last ten runnings of this race have seen ten different successful trainers, with winners from 10/11 to 12/1 and just the two winning favourites, plus one joint and one co-favourite. Top trainer Aidan O’Brien seems keen to take home this Listed prize with six of the thirteen entries, so read on for an in-depth race preview complete with our selection.
IN SUMMARY: There is only one horse who looks to have a rapidly improving profile and that is the Mick Halford trained REHANA who has room to continue improving and can do so with a win here. She can prove too smart for Only Mine at these weights in a fascinating renewal.
1 ONLY MINE – One of only three runners here to win last time out but in good form this season with three places prior to that victory in Listed class at The Curragh when seeing off Gordon Lord Byron by a neck after making all the running. After that win trainer Joe Murphy said “Only Mine did everything we could have asked. She’s very honest and genuine. We’ll probably up her in grade now. There’s a 6f Group 3 at Naas next month that we might go for and she’ll get an entry in the Haydock Sprint Cup”, but those plans have obviously changed and she is running here instead. The fact that they were talking Group class suggests she may be better than most of these, though she does have to give weight away all round which will hardly help her cause.
2 CAROLINAE – Sent over the sea by Newmarket trainer Charlie Fellowes and thus worth a lot more than a passing glance. Five wins from eighteen starts is a good return for the five-year-old daughter of 2000 Guineas winner Makfi, though four of those five have been on an all-weather surface. Last time out she finished second to Staitondale Lass at Newbury when she didn’t get the clearest of runs, but that was a Class Four handicap, with her only run in Listed class a last of fifteen at Ascot in October 2016. Her stable are ticking over nicely with 17% winners in the last fourteen days, but at these weights she will need a career best to even place this evening and needs to find a stone plus on official ratings.
3 GO KART – A consistent sort with seven places from nine starts in 2017, some on the all-weather at Dundalk and others at Cork and Navan on the grass. Her best effort recently was a three-quarter length second to Hit The Bid in Listed class at Cork in mid-June over five furlongs, though it is questionable whether she is quite as effective over this trip. Last time out she was beaten two and three-quarter lengths by Moviesta in a Dundalk handicap, weakening late on over the five and others appeal more in this class over this trip.
4 PETICOATGOVERNMENT – has a lot more going for her than it looks at first glance with a 100% win record here after the one visit over course and distance in April and three wins from eight starts at this six-furlong trip. Last time out she finished a length and three-quarters third to Only Mine and Gordon Lord Byron at The Curragh and she meets the winner on three pounds better terms this evening, and is entitled to finish a lot closer to that rival here at the very least.
5 REHANA – The highest weighted of the three-year-olds thanks to her Group Three penalty after winning here over seven furlongs in May in the Athasi Stakes. She stayed on well that day and followed that with a fifth (disqualified and placed sixth) in the Irish 100 Guineas behind Winter over the mile. She may find a few too quick for her dropped back to this trip unless the leaders go off too fast and she can then run on through beaten horses late on. Interestingly, she is a daughter of Dark Angel whose name is in the race title here.
6 ALPHABET – The first of the Aidan O’Brien “gang” here but not the best according to official ratings. Her one and only win so far was over course and distance in a maiden here on heavy going in March but she was over reaching last time out when last of six to Caspian Prince in the Group Two Sapphire Stakes at The Curragh, eight lengths adrift of the winner. She did finish a length and three quarters behind Go Kart at Cork the race before with no obvious excuses, and meets that rival on a pound worse terms here, leaving her with plenty to find.
7 ASKING – The highest rated of Aidan O’Brien’s numerous runners and the mount of Donnacha O’Brien today. Last time out the daughter of Zoffany finished seventh of twelve to Drumfad Bay in Listed class at Killarney over a mile when weakening inside the final furlong, but interestingly she has not tried this six furlong trip since her debut tenth at The Curragh back in October 2016. Her two wins have been in a Dundalk maiden over a mile and at The Curragh in a seven-furlong handicap and although she gets weight from her elders here, she has plenty to find dropped back to this trip.
8 MUR HIBA – One of the more interesting challengers after just the one run this season when second to Red Sabor at Navan over this trip earlier this month, beaten a short head at the line after being caught in the shadow of the post. Likely to strip fitter for her first run in eleven months she has only had the five career starts and one win over five furlongs at The Curragh as a two-year-old, and if the Callaghan yard were in better form (one win from eleven runners in the last two weeks), her chances would increase considerably.
9 MUSIC BOX – Although not the highest rated of the O’Brien horses, the daughter of Invincible Spirit arrives here in great form after a course and distance win in handicap class followed by a good second to Drumfad Bay at Killarney last time out. She has stablemate Asking behind her that day and ought to confirm that form here on the same terms, and if she handles the quicker going tonight she has to have a very solid chance for a stable hitting a 30% strike rate and over eleven points of profit, she looks difficult to keep out of the frame.
10 NUTCRACKER SUITE – Michael Hussey rides this filly for Aidan O’Brien after she scored last time out at Dundalk over an added furlong last time out when beating Melisandre by a length. That was her first ever win on her ninth start and she may just be a late improver, but the drop back in trip looks questionable for a daughter of Fastnet Rock. She has never raced at this short of trip with seven furlongs her minimum until tonight, and she may well find herself outpaced early on in this company as the lowest rated runner in the line-up.
11 OLD TIME WALTZ – One win from eight starts now for the daughter of War Front who scored over seven furlongs here at Naas in June and a pair of second places at Limerick and Bellewstown over a mile since. Last time out she finished a twelve and a half length tenth of twelve to Drumfad Bay with Music Box and Asking ahead of her and although she failed to get home over the trip that day, she still has a lot to find on the form book and is hard to make a case for.
12 PIOUS ALEXANDER – Ed Lynam has his horses in good form with two winners from just the five runners in the last fortnight for an impressive 40% success rate. The addition of a first-time hood today looks interesting considering she won over five furlongs last time out at Tipperary running on strongly after a tardy start, and if she gets way on level terms she ought to be a major player here. After that race her trainer reported “Pious Alexander was always going to win her maiden. She’s talented but she’s a worrier. We’ll be trying to get black type”, which must be why she is here, and although she will need to improve considerably, she is not without an each-way chance here this evening.
13 SMOULDER – The second lowest rated runner in this field and clearly up against it. After winning her maiden over seven furlongs at Dundalk in May she has failed to progress with a thirty length last of eighteen, a four and a half length last of six, and a twenty-five length last of twelve in her three races since. Admittedly the last of these was the Group Three Ballyogan Stakes where she failed to handle the softer ground, but all in all she has a lot to find here and appears to be one of Aidan O’Brien’s lesser lights.