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Paddy Power Column: The Curragh set for top class action

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I hope you will forgive me for highlighting a rare winner last Sunday in Leading Light.

He oozed class when Joseph O’Brien gave him the office inside the final furlong and the Montjeu colt wasn’t troubled in beating Royal Diamond by three lengths.

I can’t brag that much as his starting price of evens wasn’t enormous, but our odds compilers were very impressed with the manner of the performance as they slashed him from 4-1 favourite into 2-1 for the Ascot Gold Cup.

You never really know whether an animal will get the two and a half miles at the Royal extravaganza, but as winning trainer Aidan O’Brien pointed out ‘he didn’t seem to be stopping at the end of two miles at Ascot last year’.

Well probably see him next in the Saval Beg Stakes when I firmly expect him to cement his status as Ireland’s leading staying flat horse and then we can look forward to a successful overseas raid at The Queen’s meeting.

It’s Irish Guineas weekend at The Curragh with the 2,000 Guineas taking centrestage on Saturday and I’m going to stick with a winning formula in going for an O’Brien-trained contestant in the form of War Command.

The champion trainer has won this event for the last three years and two of those winners, Roderic O’Connor and Power, had a similar profile to my fancy in that they were both beaten in the English Guineas before landing our equivalent.

As I write the ground is yielding to soft in Kildare which is the main reason I didn’t side with English Guineas runner-up Kingman as he’s never won on going officially rated softer than good.

In contrast, War Command won last year’s top two-year-old race, the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, on good to soft ground and I really like the way that he tenaciously stayed on that day.

Any horse that wins the Dewhurst and earlier the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot by six lengths probably should be winning a Classic the following term and I’m sure he’ll go very close.

Turning to the fillies in the following day’s 1,000 Guineas, John Oxx isn’t enjoying the best of luck with My Titania, who was forced to miss the English equivalent due to an unsatisfactory scope and now the ground at The Curragh looks far from ideal for this good ground performer.

So I’m opting for Dermot Weld’s Afternoon Sunlight, who seems to have really come to herself this year with two successes, including a head defeat of Palace, who is likely to reoppose on Sunday, in the Group 3 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown earlier this month.

Looking at her form last year, you’d have been hard-pressed to say that she’d make into a genuine Guineas contender, but, in actual fact, it’s not amazing as she’s bred in the purple being by Sea The Stars out of a Kris mare.

She’ll go on the ground and must have every chance.

Turning to the footy, this Saturday Wembley hosts one of the most important games in the season as Derby take on QPR in the Championship play-off final for the glittering prize of a place in the money-saturated Premier League.

I certainly liked the look of Derby in their semi-final games against Brighton and really enjoyed the way that they counterattacked. That style of football would grace the top level, but I just think Harry Redknapp’s QPR might have a bit too much guile for them and are value at a current 2-1. They’ve got the money and a look at the line-up they fielded in the second leg against Wigan includes the likes of Rob Green, Richard Dunne, and Joey Barton, all with extensive Premier League experience.

Selections

Saturday, Wembley Stadium, 3pm - QPR to beat Derby; Saturday, The Curragh, 3.20pm - War Command; Sunday, The Curragh, 3.55pm - Afternoon Sunlight

 

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