The Curragh: Maidens, handicaps kick off Irish Guineas Weekend May 24, 2024

May 23rd, 2024’s Rest of the World Money Back offer is available for all qualifying races over Irish Guineas Weekend at the Curragh. 

The meeting opens Friday with a card including intriguing maidens and a couple of premier handicaps. Saturday’s feature is the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), and Sunday’s highlights are the companion classic for fillies, the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), as well as the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1).

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 applies to the first straight Win wager per eligible race (with at least five runners). More details can be found on the offers page.

Here are my notes for Friday. The ground should still be good at that stage, but rain chances increase into Saturday and Sunday.

Race 1 (11:45 a.m. ET) – 2yo maiden 

A capacity field of 24 juveniles (plus two also-eligibles) is set for this six-furlong maiden, restricted to youngsters who sold for €60,000 or less at public auction. While #11 New Theory (4-1) is the projected favorite after two solid runs, chances are that she’s going to find someone else a bit better in this bulky field of inscrutable prospects. The Fozzy Stack filly does, however, pick up Seamie Heffernan. 

#1 No Such Thing (5-1) warrants respect as he debuts for the high-percentage yard of Ger Lyons. The caveat is that the €50,000 purchase must concede weight all around as the 133-pound highweight.

Among the 120-pound lightweights are a few fillies eligible to step up here, including Jessica Harrington’s #19 Gloriously Glam (6-1), but I’ll elaborate on two candidates at double-digit odds – once-raced #22 Orchidaceae (20-1) and debutante #11 Allenwood (15-1).

Allenwood is noteworthy with the booking of Ronan Whelan, who’s been aboard Jack Davison’s live runners. The daughter of Tamayuz hails from a good family with juvenile black-type.

Co-owned by Team Valor and trainer Andy Oliver, Orchidaceae was a €10,000 bargain buy with a respectable pedigree. The Churchill filly is out of a half-sister to Mountain Bear, the runner-up in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) who’s set to return in the Irish 2000 Guineas. 

Orchidaceae ran like a 50-1 shot first time out at Naas, taking up a forward early position before retreating by halfway and winding up ninth. But the top two from that maiden have since dominated the finish of the Naas Fillies’ Sprint (G3), where highly-regarded Fairy Godmother turned the tables on Sparkling Sea, and emerged as a leading Royal Ascot player. It’s food for thought that Orchidaceae comes back in this spot, rather than an easier venue, with Andy Slattery up. Oliver also has first-time starter #9 Immortal Jock (12-1) with Ben Coen, who rode Orchidaceae last time. 

#4 Barton Key (7-1) is trained by Joseph O’Brien, who won this race last year with a 20-1 shot. By the international sire Starspangledbanner, he’s a half to Apache Outlaw, runner-up in the 2022 edition who won next out and then placed in the Railway (G2). (Apache Outlaw runs in the seventh race on the card, the Habitat H., noted below.) Barton Key was a troubled eighth on debut in a potentially useful maiden at Cork, where favored New Theory was fifth. 

#6 Booklight (8-1) comes from a generally later-developing family, but the €35,000 yearling is by the brilliant Earthlight, himself a top juvenile for Godolphin and a promising freshman sire. Trainer Natalia Lupini developed a smart two-year-old filly, Kitty Rose, last season. #12 Vovatia (20-1), a €30,000 buy, is bred to be quick. By Dandy Man and out of a half-sister to Group 2-winning juvenile Toocoolforschool, she represents the in-form yard of Sheila Lavery. #3 Fairhaven (12-1), a well-bred New Bay filly who cost €45,000, may come on for this introduction for Willie McCreery. 

Race 2 (12:15 p.m. ET) – 3yo/up maiden for fillies/mares

All the market leaders are the very definition of “knocking on the door,” especially hot favorite #1 Apricot Ice (3-1) from the Lyons yard, but the eye-catching one at the price is Dermot Weld’s #3 Campari Soda (7-1). The Moyglare Stud homebred was third in her lone start over a mile at Gowran, and on pedigree, Campari Soda stands to benefit by cutting back to six furlongs. Not only is she by Showcasing, but she’s a half-sister to Japanese Grade 1-winning sprinter Mad Cool. Campari Soda’s dam, Group 3 scorer Mad About You, didn’t have the stamina of her own mother, Irresistible Jewel. Like many top performers from this storied Moyglare family, they too were trained by Weld.

Race 4 (1:20 p.m. ET) – 3yo/up maiden

#3 Galen (2-1), second to eventual two-year-old champion City of Troy in his only start last summer, makes his long-awaited reappearance. The Joseph O’Brien pupil should use this seven-furlong maiden as a springboard to bigger targets, and accordingly will go off at much shorter odds than his morning line.

If ring-rustiness comes into play at all, #10 Super Sox (3-1) could be his most dangerous race-fit opponent, as a twice-raced filly for high-percentage Paddy Twomey. Lavery’s #4 Kortez Bay (3-1) looks exposed after failing to break his maiden in seven attempts. 

Of the newcomers, #8 Duchess Wannabe (12-1) is a royally-bred daughter of Camelot and Group 3 victress Wannabe Better. That makes her a full sister to Group 3 winner Lady Wannabe and a half to Higher Truth, whose signature win came in the 2023 Sheepshead Bay (G2). If Duchess Wannabe is anything like them, she’ll need at least a mile. But their dam got a bit sharper with age. #2 Balyan (10-1), an Aga Khan homebred trained by Johnny Murtagh, is entitled to be effective at this trip as a son of Wootton Bassett and a winning Pivotal mare.

Race 6 (2:20 p.m. ET) – Emerald Mile (premier handicap)

These competitive handicaps are tricky to assess, between the grizzled veterans carrying the weight and under-the-radar types getting in light. In the latter category is Weld’s #12 Kayhana (8-1), third in a similar premier handicap on Irish Champions Weekend last September. The winner of that race, initially named Broadhurst, went on to capture this year’s Hong Kong Derby under his new moniker, Massive Sovereign. 

The runner-up in that same handicap was #1 Dunum (7-1), the 140-pound highweight here who spots Kayhana 18 pounds. Dunum just missed in this race last year to #7 Rahmi (7-1), but both are toting bigger imposts now. 

Others with course-and-distance form are #2 Chazzesmee (9-2) and #4 Blues Emperor (20-1), as well as recent maiden winner #13 State Actor (10-1), assigned a mere 122 pounds like Kayhana. Not to be forgotten is #8 Karsavina (15-1), a new recruit for Joseph O’Brien. 

Race 7 (2:50 p.m. ET) – Habitat (premier handicap)

The same provisos apply to this six-furlong dash, with the added variability of sprints, making this nearly anyone’s game. 

For a wild stab at a price, lightly-raced #5 Torivega (20-1) returns as a first-time gelding. The Lavery charge found Group 3s beyond him last season, but this could be more his level. As a son of Lope de Vega and the very classy sprinter Viztoria, Torivega has the pedigree to offer hope that he might yet pan out. #8 Lady Tilbury (10-1) would be easier to endorse at five furlongs, but note that she makes her debut for Twomey here.