Sunday’s card at the Curragh is an impressive one, with no less than five pattern races due to take place, including four Group 1 contests.
The top level action kicks off with the newly promoted Flying Five Stakes, rather suitably run over five furlongs considering the name, which has been upgraded from a Group 2 race.
The Timeform Pace Map has forecasted a strong early pace, and the Timeform Top-Rated runner for the race, Hit The Bid, is one likely to be contesting the lead in the early stages. He was entitled to need the run when finishing second in a listed contest at Tipperary last month, his first start for 152 days. He will be much fitter for that run, and would have claims on his peak form, particularly if allowed to dominate up front.
This seems unlikely, however, and he is likely to face stiff competition for the lead, particularly from Take Cover, who made all in the Beverley Bullet a fortnight ago. He never looked like getting caught that day, but as an 11-year-old now, this level is perhaps beyond him – for all that he was a creditable sixth in the Nunthorpe last month. Another who will be contesting the pace is Havana Grey, who shaped well when fifth in the Nunthorpe last time. He raced away from the main pack that day, likely to have gone close had he done so, and would have leading claims if repeating the performance which saw him win a Group 2 contest over C&D in July.
However, with the potential for a burn-up pace wise up front, it may be worth siding with Sioux Nation, one of the hold-up performers in the field. You have to go back to July to find a piece of form which would be worthy of winning this, when fifth in the July Cup, but the Aidan O’Brien yard is returning to form now after a well-publicised bug in the stable, and it may be worth chancing that Sioux Nation can bounce back here.
The Moyglare Stud Stakes, run over seven furlongs for two-year-old fillies, has an impressive roll of honour, won most notably by Minding back in 2015.
Despite this consisting of a field of two-year-olds, there is a lot of over-lapping form in here already, and the one who sets the standard is the Scat Daddy filly, Skitter Scatter, who already has two pattern successes to her name, winning the Group 2 Debutante Stakes over C&D last month. She is thriving on her racing and has a most likeable attitude, responding really well to pressure last time. As such, she is likely to prove difficult to beat, and is taken to win a first Group 1.
Bandiuc Ellie, second in the Debutante, was unable to boost the form when quickly turned back out in the Group 3 Flame of Tara Stakes at this track two weeks ago, perhaps finding it coming too soon, and she has something to prove here. Just Wonderful came out on top in the Flame of Tara, justifying strong market support to gain her first pattern success. Things are clicking into place with her now, and she is likely to pose the biggest threat to Skitter Scatter, ahead of stable-mate Zagitova – who was third in the Debutante most recently and remains open to improvement. British raider Main Edition heads here after winning the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket last month, and she is another who can give the selection something to think about.
Group 3 winner last time out, likeable Scat Daddy filly Skitter Scatter shows her class in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes for Patrick Prendergast and @WhelanRonan at @curraghrace: pic.twitter.com/1YX0SXSqyp— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) August 26, 2018
The National Stakes sees the two-year-old colts take their turn over seven furlongs, and it is likely to develop into a match race between Anthony van Dyck and the Godolphin colt Quorto.
The former has course form under his belt, having won the Group 2 Futurity Stakes here last month. He didn’t enhance his form in doing so, however, and perhaps looks more of a Derby contender than a Guineas one at present, staying on to lead inside the final furlong. Further improvement is needed if he is to take this, though it isn’t out of the question.
As such, preference is for Quorto, who heads over here from the Charlie Appleby team, having maintained his unbeaten record when winning the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in July. That performance set him out as one of the leaders in the division, and whilst one or two have overtaken him since, he is worthy of the step up in grade and is fancied to remain unbeaten.
The Irish St Leger has proven to be a muddling affair on a couple of occasions in recent years, including when the now retired Order of St George was a beaten 1/7 favourite in a highly tactical affair two years ago.
This year’s renewal doesn't look the strongest contest, with Timeform ratings headed by Weekender, who was beaten in a handicap on his most recent run, when second in the Ebor at York last month. That was a career best effort, however, just finding the task of carrying top weight too much against a classy rival. He was brushed aside on his only start at Group level so far however, in the Group 3 Henry VII Stakes at Sandown in May, and is readily opposed here.
Flag of Honour is the current favourite for the race at the time of writing, and has proved to be a different proposition since stepping up in trip, defying a penalty to win the trial for this race here at the end of last month. He has proved a different proposition since making the step up to a mile and three quarters, making the running in both starts over this trip so far. The presence of stablemate Cypress Creek means a slightly different tactic could be deployed this time around, but it isn’t difficult to envisage a bold bid.
Rather surprisingly, recent Group 1-winning form is at a premium in this contest, something which the Irish Derby winner Latrobe brings to the table. He found the drop in trip unsuitable in the International Stakes last month, and this is likely to be much more to his preference, with the Melbourne Cup perhaps the main target – considering it was won by the same connections last year.
Therefore, it may be worth taking a chance on Idaho, whose participation in the race seems more like an after-thought rather than a long term plan. He had become disappointing over a mile and a half, and as such has been stepped up to two miles rather experimentally the last twice. He has run with credit on both occasions, however, hitting the frame in both the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup. This assignment looks easier, and a repeat of his best form this season – when winning the Ormonde Stakes at Chester in May – may be good enough for him to win a weak Group 1.