LAST SATURDAY’S first Classic of the new flat season, the 2000 Guineas, was billed as a one-horse race with the unbeaten Godolphin colt “Dubawi” at prohibitive odds of 5-4. Racing folk, however, will tell you that ignoring Ireland’s Ballydoyle operation, now in the capable hands of Aidan O’Brien, is always a risky business. After all, the empire built by the legendary Vincent O’Brien, has some of the most potent bloodstock lines in the world at its disposal. Names such as “Danehill”, “El Gran Senor” and “Giant’s Causeway” roll off the tongue and the last-named was represented by his offspring, “Foot steps in the sand” in this contest. In last week’s column, I pointed out that “Kieran Fallon …has a good chance of upsetting the favourite “Dubawi and fancied “Rob Roy” …on the Aidan O’Brien-trained “Foot steps in the sand” and so it proved. The champion jockey was clear of the field at the line on the 13-2 chance having taken up the running at the furlong marker. 100-1 shots “Rebel Rebel” and “Kandidate” confounded their long odds by occupying the places with “Dubawi” in fifth and second favourite “Rob Roy” last.
“Damson” was the strong favourite for Sunday’s fillies equivalent, the 1000 Guineas, but the intended mount of Kieran Fallon was found to have mucus in her lungs and took no part. She now heads for the Irish Guineas and Fallon switched to Aidan O’Brien’s “Virginia Waters” who won the Leopardstown Guineas Trial on her only start as a three-year-old. Before the off, John Gosden’s “Karen’s Caper”, David Elsworth’s “Cape Columbine” and the unbeaten Michael Stout-trained “Shanghai Lily” vied for favouritism while my money rode on another “Giant’s Causeway” offspring, the Barry Hills charge, “Maid’s Causeway” In this case, I should have stuck with Fallon. After all, the Irishman completed the Derby Oaks for me last season. His new working relationship with Aidan O’Brien was cemented in the best possible way by storming to victory aboard “Virginia Waters” to record a Guineas double. The filly, rated an incredible 12-1 chance, had three lengths to spare at the line as the champion jockey produced her from the back of the field for a scintillating finish. My bet, “Causeway Maid”, finished second.
Earlier in the week, the Punchestown Festival provided top-class action for the heroes of the National Hunt season with over ¤2 million on offer in prize money. The pride of Ireland, “Moscow Flyer”, unbeaten in all completed chases, finally came unstuck in the Kerrygold Champion Chase. “Rathgar Beau” beat the Cheltenham victor in a photo finish after a last fence blunder. Another Cheltenham star, “Kicking King”, winner of the Gold Cup, added to his growing reputation as the best staying chaser around by running away with the Guineas Gold Cup and A.P. McCoy rode “Brave Inca” to beat “Archibald” by a head in a brilliant finish to the Elmo Oil Champion Hurdle on the final day of what amounts to Ireland’s Cheltenham Festival.