2024 Irish 1000 Guineas Day: Who can step up if Opera Singer hits wrong note?

May 25th, 2024

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Just opt in before the qualifying races, place a single horse Win wager, and receive up to $10 if your horse finishes second. The offer apples to the first straight Win wager per eligible race (with at least five runners). More details can be found on the offers page.

Aidan O’Brien will send out short-priced favorites in both of the day’s Group 1s, the feast-or-famine Auguste Rodin in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) and the returning Opera Singer in the Guineas. But as their descriptors suggest, neither has a straightforward task on Sunday. 

The weather adds a further complication. After fine conditions on the first two days of the Guineas Festival, the rain is forecast to move in over the course of the evening and stick around through Sunday. The ground will be a factor, the only question being how soft it will get. 

Race 1 (8:25 a.m. ET) – 2yo fillies’ maiden

Jessica Harrington, who has won this six-furlong maiden three times in the last 10 years, sends out a pair led by #3 Cold Hearted (6-1). By last season’s champion freshman sire, Blue Point, she is out of a full sister to multiple Group/Grade 1 star Warm Heart. More significantly, Cold Hearted exits a third in the key maiden that produced the top two finishers in the Naas Fillies’ Sprint (G3), as well as Orchidaceae, who upset a maiden here Friday. Note that the same angle applies to the Michael O’Callaghan-trained #11 Red Veil (15-1). The Mehmas filly was only sixth in that maiden, but she now picks up Colin Keane.

Aidan O’Brien has fielded three winners over the past decade. Interestingly, none of those went off favored, which could be a hint for the debuting #8 January (6-1), the ostensible second-stringer with Wayne Lordan. By Kingman and out of Group 2 winner I Can Fly, who came within a neck of shocking the 2018 Queen Elizabeth II (G1), January ought to cope with soft going – if she’s forward enough first time out. Ryan Moore is on the Ballydoyle favorite #6 Heavens Gate (7-5), a close runner-up in her unveiling over yielding at Navan. Her price is skimpy in the circumstances, however, especially after the filly who beat her, Unexpected Issues, flopped in Saturday’s Marble Hill (G3) (admittedly in much quicker conditions). 

#10 Queens Fury (12-1), a €152,000 Arqana August yearling, wheels back from her debut third for the Amo Racing team in a salty race at Naas. Another daughter of Blue Point, she’s eligible to move forward over an extra furlong here. Joseph O’Brien debuts the Kodiac filly #2 And So to Bed (8-1), who brought almost $109,000 as a Tattersalls October yearling, and Fozzy Stack has #5 Grande Marques (15-1) by Starspangledbanner, a full sister to Aqueduct stakes scorer Bubbles on Ice. 

Race 3 (9:35 a.m. ET) – Lanwades Stud (G2)

#2 Goldana (12-1) might be the one to back of the Joseph O’Brien trio. While new recruit #7 Rogue Millennium (3-2) has top form in the book, the nearly $2.2 million Tattersalls December purchase is reportedly expected to come on for the run, with her major targets ahead of her. Rogue Millennium is also better suited to quicker ground, and her chances are downgraded the more it rains.

In contrast, Goldana has been set for this spot. A mile on rain-softened ground is in her wheelhouse, as she reiterated when defeating males two starts back in the Heritage S. Indeed, Goldana has been in fine form throughout the new season, placing a gallant third giving away loads of weight to sophomores in the Park Express (G3) in her comeback, and just missing going longer last out in the Victor McCalmont Memorial.

Stack’s #9 You Send Me (10-1) was just nailed by Joseph’s other runner, #3 Gregarina (15-1), in the May 6 Athasi (G3). Although Gregarina was making her first start for the yard that day, and eligible to improve, You Send Me could also have more to offer, judging by her truncated three-year-old campaign. An excellent second versus older males in last year’s Amethyst (G3), You Send Me was shelved after finishing sixth to Tahiyra in the Irish 1000 Guineas. She was making only her second start back in the Athasi, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Starspangledbanner filly has raced herself nearer to peak form.

Race 4 (10:10 a.m. ET) – Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1)

If we let pattern recognition be our guide, #1 Auguste Rodin (3-5) ought to be right back in winning form after his spectacular no-show in Dubai. After all, he put forth similar non-efforts in last year’s 2000 Guineas (G1) and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), only to bounce back with a vengeance to win his next starts on each occasion – the Derby (G1) and Irish Champion (G1), respectively. 

But is the parallel as simplistic as that? Aidan O’Brien has blamed soft going as a factor in the Guineas and King George (although he coped with it as a juvenile). The ground is liable to be at least as concerning here.

Another question mark is whether the Curragh is his favorite track. Overturned on debut here, with a troubled trip, Auguste Rodin was also more workmanlike than usual to churn out his Irish Derby (G1) victory last summer. 

The best horse on form, and pure ability, nevertheless leaves me looking for back-ups in case this is one of his bad days at the office. 

Of the alternatives, #7 White Birch (5-1) is the most proven as a course-and-distance aficionado in sparkling form at present. If the John Joseph Murphy trainee is ever going to exact revenge on Auguste Rodin for his Epsom and Irish Derby losses, it would be now. Joseph O’Brien’s filly #8 Lumiere Rock (8-1) scored her signature win here in the Blandford (G2) over Irish Champions Weekend, en route to a respectable third in the Prix de l’Opera (G1) and a sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Yet this smacks more of a nice starting point to her season. 

The wild card is all-weather celebrity #3 Elegant Man (5-1), a lightly-raced son of Arrogate who tries to transfer his game to turf. The Amo Racing colorbearer has lost only once in four starts, but that came at the hands of Godolphin globetrotter Rebel’s Romance in the 1 1/2-mile Wild Flower S. at Kempton. Elegant Man reverted to 1 1/4 miles in the Easter Classic at Newcastle, where he made light of his 138-pound impost. While Arrogate can get turf performers – e.g., Linda’s Gift in Southern California – I’d be more positive if the ground is on the easy side than extremely soft. 

Race 5 (10:45 a.m. ET) – Irish 1000 Guineas (G1)

Aidan O’Brien has been out of luck in this season’s mile classics – the English, French, and Saturday’s Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) – with his “prep-less” runners. River Tiber, nominated as the most forward of his trio in that Curragh classic, apparently needed the run when finishing third. 

That’s just one caution for #9 Opera Singer (9-5), who hasn’t raced since pulverizing last fall’s Prix Marcel Boussac (G1). Aside from the general trend, she has had an interrupted preparation. Opera Singer missed her initial target, Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1), due to a hiccup, and the Irish equivalent has become her new comeback spot. The master of Ballydoyle reiterated the point that Opera Singer will move forward from this race, sounding as though it will serve as a tightener for Royal Ascot.

Another noteworthy filly making a belated reappearance, #13 Skellet (15-1), invades for Ralph Beckett at a more enticing price. Very well regarded as a private purchase by Juddmonte, the Kingman half-sister to Group 1 heroine Skitter Scatter showed plenty of potential at two with the promise of further development. (The replay below is of her better-than-appears near-miss in the Oh So Sharp [G3]) The risk is that Skellet might need this as a tune-up for Royal Ascot herself, but arguably one worth taking at these odds for a crafty, in-form trainer. 

Perhaps the value among the race-fit brigade is #11 Purple Lily (8-1). Trained by the high-percentage Paddy Twomey, she won on debut at Galway last August and didn’t resurface until March 24, when dusting Ballydoyle colt Portland over heavy going at Naas. Purple Lily then ventured beyond her stamina limits in the 1 1/4-mile Salsabil S. at Navan, but still went down by only a half-length to Dermot Weld’s Oaks (G1) contender Ezeliya. Back down to a mile, the Calyx filly has a proper chance to upset. 

The most logical play would be to look to the fillies with classic experience. #7 Fallen Angel (5-1) should be forgiven her eighth at Newmarket, where a demanding pace set it up for closers. The Karl Burke pupil successfully plundered the Curragh last year in the Moyglare Stud (G1), on good-to-yielding ground. But with Opera Singer likely a market drifter, Fallen Angel could end up shortening quite a bit in price. Moyglare runner-up #14 Vespertilio (5-1) came back to place a close third in the French 1000 Guineas (G1), although that Longchamp form isn’t unimpeachable.

Race 6 (11:15 a.m. ET) – Gallinule (G3)

Weld’s #6 Spoken Truth (5-1) looked like a serious prospect in his recent maiden win in similar conditions (1 1/4 miles on soft going) at Cork. The Frankel colt is a full brother to 2022 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Homeless Songs, but he clearly stays further. 

Ballydoyle tries to surround him with a trio of Galileos – #1 Chief Little Rock (9-5), Lordan’s mount but the one with the Group placings; Dundalk maiden winner #6 Mundi (6-1), the full brother to Churchill who gets Moore; and #8 The Equator (6-1), who dominated a Leopardstown maiden at this trip. Joseph has a soft-ground specialist in #7 Stromberg (10-1).

The most intriguing longshot is #3 Formal Display (12-1), who reappears for the Juddmonte/Ger Lyons tandem. As a son of Too Darn Hot and Group 1 star Passage of Time, he is a three-quarter brother to multiple Group 2 hero Time Test. That suggests he’ll improve for the step up in trip.