First of all before we talk about this weekend's action a word about Frankel... wow! What more is there to say?
We don't have a Frankel in action this weekend, but then again he's a once in a lifetime horse. Incidentally, wouldn't it be interesting if he were to meet a fellow unbeaten colt, the three-year-old Camelot at some stage this season?
We do have some classic action at the Curragh to look forward to with the Irish 1000 and 2000 Guineas. It sees the return of Parish Hall who has been described by his trainer Jim Bolger as one of the best he has trained and he will face 10 rivals on Saturday.
The last time we saw him on a racecourse was when he won the Dewhurst back in October where he beat Power, which at the time was a bit of a surprise result. Power re-opposes after finishing almost last at Newmarket earlier this month.
Sky Bet have Parish Hall as their 7/2 favourite (Power is 11/2) ahead of 9/2 shot Hermival, who ran a cracking race to finish several places in front of Power in third in the 2000 Guineas. I'm not sure the better ground will be in Hermival's favour, but his form is rock solid.
Aidan O'Brien has four runners with Power the pick of son Joseph. Of his other runners you would do worse than back Daddy Long Legs each way. I've made no secret that I love this horse and I'm not worried he pulled up in the Kentucky Derby last time out because he didn't seem to handle the surface.
At 14/1 he appeals to finish in the top three. Takar is 6/1 and the mount of Johnny Murtagh, who is retained by owner the Aga Khan. He won a Listed contest comfortably last time out. Richard Hannon sends Craven winner and Guineas fourth Trumpet Major (6/1) from his Wiltshire base. It's possible he could improve on the better ground this weekend which puts him in the mix, too. I know he is fancied each way and I wouldn't put you off him.
As Murtagh is claimed to ride Takar, Pat Smullen has come on for the spare ride on Born To Sea (10/1). John Oxx has worked this half-brother to Sea the Stars in a hood to try and help him settle as he blew his chance in the Guineas in the early stage of the race by pulling too hard. It has apparently helped, but race-day is a different proposition. If the headgear helps though we should see a very different horse and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pop up at double-figure odds.
It's an open race but I'm going with Parish Hall, despite this being his reappearance. He is expected to improve when stepped up to middle distances, so you may be interested to know he is currently 12/1 with Sky Bet for the Derby next weekend.
The Temple Stakes at Haydock is the domestic feature this weekend and is part of the British Champions Series. It's a Group Two over five furlongs and the market leader is Bated Breath, a 3/1 shot with Sky Bet who will love the fast ground at Haydock.
His trainer, Roger Charlton, thinks he has the speed for five furlongs, although he has only run over it once before when well beaten in the Nunthorpe behind Margot Did. If all goes well, he will go to Royal Ascot for the King's Stand, rather than take on Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee over what seems to be his preferred trip of six furlongs.
Last year's winner Sole Power is 7/2 second favourite for Irish trainer Eddie Lynam, who has booked champion jockey Paul Hanagan as regular rider Johnny Murtagh is in Ireland for their Guineas. Sole Power has had the benefit of a winter in Dubai where he more than paid his way by finishing second on both his starts including the Group One Al Quoz Sprint.
Last year's Prix de l'Abbaye winner, Tangerine Trees, is a 7/1 chance for Bryan Smart. He has a Group One penalty to carry here though for that Longchamp win. Kevin Ryan has a couple of interesting runners including Masamah, who has been backed and is now 9/1 for Jamie Spencer who rides for owner Dr Marwan Koukash.
I followed this horse over a cliff last season in some of the top sprints in Europe, but he didn't win after his Group Two victory at Goodwood in July. However, I'm hoping five furlongs on fast ground will see an improvement and I will peer over the cliff edge once more!
Kevin Ryan also saddles last year's Norfolk Stakes winner Bapak Chinta (11/1) who hasn't run yet this season as a three-year-old. His last run came in the Middle Park in October where he ran disappointingly and finished last. He was a very speedy juvenile and was at one point being considered for the Nunthorpe where he would have received a significant weight allowance.
A fellow three-year-old in the line-up is Richard Hannon's Lowther winner, Best Terms, who drops back to the minimum trip after two moderate efforts over seven furlongs. She was one of the top juvenile fillies of last season and when I spoke to Richard Hannon Junior at Windsor about this filly he couldn't say whether she had trained on from two to three.
She looks like she will be better suited to a drop back to sprinting but I'm happy waiting until she had proven that she has trained on before backing her. There are some real favourites in this but none more so than Borderlescott, who is a 20/1 outsider for this race which he has been placed in for the last four years.
Moving onto Sunday's action and it's the turn of the fillies in the Irish 1000 Guineas. Homecoming Queen is Sky Bet's 11/10 favourite for Aidan O'Brien who has seven of the 14 entries. However, it is Dermot Weld's Yellow Rosebud who is her closest market rival (7/2) and I'm inclined to think that is a price that attracts me more than the favourite who may not be the same filly on better ground.
When I say 'the same filly' I refer to her runaway success in Newmarket's 1000 Guineas which was visually incredibly impressive as she pulled nine lengths clear of the rest. There's no doubting it WAS impressive, but I'd be concerned as all her winning form has come with some cut in the ground. There's no saying she won't act on better ground, but at the price I'll be opposing her.
Yellow Rosebud won the Irish Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and her trainer said she would come on for that and she hadn't come in her coat. Her juvenile form looks strong and I fancy her chances. La Colina (7s) was fifth in the Guineas for Kevin Prendergast and although she has plenty of speed we may yet see the best of her over further than this mile. After is 9/1 and also hails from the Aidan O'Brien stable, but I feel she has a bit to find.
O'Brien dominates the entries and at the time of writing the declarations hadn't been made but, despite that, I'm going with the Weld-trained filly, Yellow Rosebud. Maybe is also entered for Ballydoyle, but she seems likely to go for next weekend's Oaks instead for which she is 5/2 favourite with Sky Bet.
Also on Sunday, there is a high-class renewal of the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but once again Aidan O'Brien dominates proceedings with six of the nine entries. So You Think heads those entries and you would imagine he will be back off to the Southern Hemisphere if all goes well to stand at stud in Australia.
He began his racing career in Oz where he is revered by racing fans and although he has won four Group races in Europe since joining O'Brien, he has always seemed to fall short of what was expected of him. He did win this race last year though and has every chance of repeating the performance.
O'Brien has also left in possible Coronation Cup runner St Nicholas Abbey and last year's Hardwicke Stakes winner Await The Dawn as well as Treasure Beach, Robin Hood and Windsor Palace. Of his other notable rivals from other yards, Dermot Weld has Famous Name entered who is still to win a Group One and Jessica Harrington has smart mare Bible Belt entered.
You get the impression this could be the last we see of So You Think running in Europe and he is hard to oppose in this mile-and-a-quarter contest. The reason I'm thinking that could be the case is that despite entries in Europe through until the Autumn, the breeding season starts in Australia in August and he would have to head back in time for that if they wanted him to cover mares this season.
Parish Hall in the Irish 2000 Guineas @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
Masamah in the Temple Stakes @ 9/1 with Sky Bet
Yellow Rosebud in the Irish 1000 Guineas @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
So You Think in the Tattersalls Gold Cup