Project Mars – 13:43 Stratford
Smart Stat: £28.79 - Fergal O'Brien's profit to a £1 level stake with hurdlers running after a break
Project Mars was more hit than miss for Nick Gifford’s yard, but after a 21-month absence, and a switch to the Fergal O’Brien team, he has returned a much more consistent performer, running three good races for this new stable this year. Runner-up on his stable debut at Fontwell in January, he went one better at Huntingdon the following month, and he continued in good heart when third at Kelso in March. The O’Brien yard are in red-hot form at present and certainly know how to ready one after a break, so fitness should not be an issue for Project Mars, who tops the shortlist on his return to action.
Benaud – 13:50 Leopardstown
Smart Stat: 3 - Joseph Patrick O'Brien's number of winners in past 7 runnings
Joseph O’Brien is bidding for a fourth successive victory in this race, and Benaud looks to hold a similar profile to at least two of his three previous winners. Baroness and Zoom Zoom Babe, who won this race in 2017 and 2019 respectively, had both shown relatively little in their three outings prior to making their handicap debut in this race, but both showed much improved form to get off the mark.
Benaud didn’t show an awful lot in his first three outings, but he did show improved form to finish a very good fourth in a Limerick maiden last time (a race that has already produced a winner) and he remains open to further progress. The step back up in trip, as well as the switch to handicap company, could prove the key to him, so he gets the vote to open his account.
Ontario – 15:00 Leopardstown
Smart Stat: 4 - Aidan O'Brien's number of winners in past 10 runnings
As is the case with the majority Irish Group 1 races, the roll of honour for the Killavullan Stakes has Aidan O’Brien’s fingerprints all over it, the master trainer winning the race nine times since 2000, including with the likes of Footstepsinthesand. He boasts another strong hand in this year’s renewal in the shape of Mexico City and, more interestingly, Ontario.
After breaking his maiden at the third attempt (though he did finish first past the post in his previous race), Ontario continued to progress with racing, finishing third in the Futurity and second the Royal Lodge. He failed to land the odds when quickly turned out at Tipperary last time, but excuses can be made for that run. He sets the form standard in this contest and should prove difficult to hold out.