DARK HORSES (Irish Flat season 2018)

 Irish 1,000 Guineas – Curragh 27 May 2018

 I have selected a number of unraced three-year-olds from Irish and UK stables that still hold an entry for Ireland’s 1,000 Guineas due to be run at the Curragh on Sunday, 27 May 2018. Whilst I am not predicting that they have this latent Classic ability, it generally can be relied upon as an indication of the regard in which these unraced fillies are held at home either presently or when in their paces as two-year-olds last season. From a personal punting perspective, the lower the profile of the trainer of these unraced colts and fillies, the better!

Ballydoyle always have sublimely-bred fillies and have five entries in the fillies’ first Classic that have yet to see racecourse action.

A Long Time Ago – 2015 f by Galileo ex Wave (Dansili)

A sister to last year’s Derby “talking horse” Cliffs Of Moher; the second dam is a sister (by Kingmambo) to Henrythenavigator (won all the proper one-mile championship races but has been something of a disappointment at stud). Interesting to see that A Long Time Ago’s dam is by Dansili and the peace that broke out in 2017 between Coolmore and Godolphin will see more Coolmore marquee mares visiting the Dalham Hall superstar once again in 2018.

 Curly – 2015 f by Galileo ex Glass Slipper (Danehill)

 Curly’s dam, Glass Slipper is a half-sister to the former Coolmore stallion, Danehill Dancer, that announced Michael Tabor’s arrival on the racing scene in the mid-nineties  – Thunder Gulch did something similar in the US – but it’s fair to say that, so far, subsequent generations of the Mira Adonde line (third dam) have yet to really sparkle. A number of Curly’s siblings by Galileo have failed to achieve ratings in excess of 90. It’s curious but when one reads the name “Curly” it doesn’t strike me as being a future champion in the Ballydoyle pecking order. If I am making a catastrophic prediction I can only blame the trainer who is responsible for early indications of star quality and the trainer’s recommendations get the star treatment from Susan Magnier.

 Fire Opal – 2015 f by War Front ex Good Vibes (Unbridled’s Song)

This direct family represents the Coolmore mega-efforts to turn War Front into an American super-star sire somewhat similar to the Storm Cat phenomenon a number of years earlier. Those Storm Cat results were patchy I think it’s fair to say. There are certainly siblings in this family (Fire Opal is an 11th foal) who achieved a high standard e.g. Intelligence Cross, a full brother , won the 2016 Group 3 Round Tower Stakes at two in 2016, and Fire Opal looks to have good rather than excellent pretensions to greatness at this point based on pedigree.

 Flutter – 2015 f by Galileo ex Rumplestiltskin (Danehill)

The dam, Rumplestiltskin, represented the return to Irish racing (and Ballydoyle and Coolmore) of the Niarchos family early in the last decade and she was a brilliant two-year-old (won the Moyglare and French fillies championship) who saw little action thereafter. Since her retirement to stud for the 2007 season it’s almost certain that she has visited Galileo every year and her two best representatives to date have been John F Kennedy (winner of a Group 3 as a juvenile who failed to progress) and Tapestry (filly who won 2014 12f Yorkshire Oaks). When I record that Flutter’s grandmother is Stavros Niarchos’s peerless Miesque you can see that anything is possible with this family. In fact she should probably be in Debrett’s rather than the General Stud Book.

 Most Gifted – 2015 f by War Front ex Gagnoa (Sadler’s Wells)

 It’s always fascinating to see the Coolmore home-breds that are dispersed to trainers other than Aidan O’Brien and Most Gifted’s siblings have been handled by Andre Fabre, Royer-Dupre and John Oxx in the past. David Wachman had a lot of this pressure to handle over the years and found that not many of Aidan’s discards were up to scratch. All four siblings out of Gagnoa to race to date have been by Dansili so this War Front cover is a change of tactics. Aidan did train Etched (2013 filly by Dansili) to win over 6f in 2016 so he will be familiar with the family. This is a stout pedigree that will probably require trips in excess of one mile.

 It would take a novice pedigree researcher all of ten minutes to study the above pedigrees and come to the impression “Not ‘alf bad sir!” so I will watch for any hints from the trainer during the ubiquitous Ballydoyle stable visits.However, based on past experience you discount a Ballydoyle filly at your peril and starting price is not often the most reliable guide.

 Alanannda – 2015 f Invincible Spirit ex Alanda (2008) by Dubai Destination (D K Weld)

Whereas Dermot Weld has a quartet of unraced colts retaining entries for the Irish 2,000 Guineas he has just a single unraced representative in the first fillies classic.

A home-bred Aga Khan filly whose dam won 5 times for John Oxx and signed off her career with a 6th place in the 2012 Matron Stakes (G1).  She was a dual listed winner and was also victorious twice in Group 3 events over 7f at Doncaster and Leopardstown. (Best RPR 112). The second dam, Alasha (by Barathea), ran third in the 2002 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Alanannda is the dam’s second foal and it is possible that her year older half-brother – also trained by Weld – was simply poorly mated to the Aussie sire, Redoute’s Choice, who is nothing anything like the quality of runners in Europe that is evident from his southern hemisphere coverings.

The pedigree offers potential but to win a Guineas Alanannda would have to achieve better things than four generations of the family. Nonetheless, her sire and grand dam offer possibilities.

In contrast to Weld who has a surfeit of unraced colts over fillies with classic pretensions Jim Bolger has no less than seven unraced fillies still entered compared to just one colt, Amhran Na Gealai, the vast majority of them being home-breds by stallions in which he has ownership interests. It’s little or no surprise that, given the large numbers of horses in training he handles, that a champion is required to balance the books on a regular basis.

 Arrive At Dawn – 2015 f Dawn Approach ex Furasta (2011) by Leroidesanimaux (J S Bolger)

No question but Dawn Approach was disappointment as a first-season-sire in 2017 so Bolger’s 2013 Guineas winner has a lot of ground to make up with his second crop and first three-year-olds of 2018.

Bred by Bolger, the dam is an unraced half-sister to a Johannesburg filly who was also trained by Bolger to win over 5f and was Group 3-placed over 6f at the Curragh (at two) out of a mare that was bought relatively cheaply by Bolger in 2007 (aged 18) who was a Grade 1 winner in the US way back in 1992. The US pedigree is very strong and features a Belmont Stakes winner some thirty years ago. A 2014 filly representing Furasta’s first foal by Intense Focus was unraced and failed to sell as a three-year-old.

Based on relatively little evidence so far it still requires a leap of faith to foretell great things for Arrive At Dawn but any black type would certainly enhance the historical US ancestry.

 Claiomh Geal -2015 f Leroidesanimaux ex Claiomh Solas (2008) by Galileo

Smaoineamh (by Tap On Wood) is a readily recognisable Coolcullen foundation mare – she was a dual listed winner over 10f and 14f back in 1989 – and her daughter Scribonia (2001 by Danehill) has bred many winners for Bolger and five winning foals – all by Galileo – achieved RPR’s of at least 110 over trips from 8f-12f. Claiomh Geal’s dam is among this band and she won a Naas maiden but her best runs were placings in Group 3 contests over 7f and 9f. Another sibling, Cuis Ghaire, was second in the English 1,000 Guineas in 2009 but earned a relatively low rating of just 112 for this performance.

Claiomh Solas had two previous foals including a three-time winner by Acclamation also over 7f and 9f. He was shipped to Hong Kong and performed respectably at his level.

Recent history would mean this filly could be good if not great!

Come At Dawn – 2015 f  Dawn Approach ex Luminaria (2002) by Danehill

Luminaria is also a daughter of Smaoineamh although she was unraced and seven previous foals yielded two winners – both by Teofilo – one of whom was a dual 10f Listed winner and the other a handicap winner over 10f (stayed 1m4f) off 82.

Come At Dawn was bought-in for €50,000 as a foal and has yet to appear in public. The Guineas entry looks a little fanciful at this stage.

Dawn Express – 2015 f Dawn Approach ex Estiqbaal (2009) by Oasis Dream

This entry also looks very optimistic at this stage.

The dam was a Shadwell cull in 2012 when picked up by Bolger for just £3,000. Her appeal was based on the fact that she traces back three generations to Park Express, the dam of Bolger’s Champion New Approach, winner of the Derby, Irish and UK Champion Stakes in 2008. An attempt to sell on Estiqbaal foundered in 2014 when she failed to sell carrying Dawn Express. Dawn Express herself went through the Goffs ring in 2015 as a foal for a reported €48,000 but she obviously returned home to her breeder, Bolger.

She is the first foal out of the dam but failed efforts to sell on the entire family are not likely to be a harbinger of glad tidings.

Luceita – 2015 f Dawn Approach ex Lura (2005) by Street Cry

Bolger is in the happy position of not relying on outside owners to justify his training existence but will clearly make an exception for Sheikh Mohammed.

The dam Lura was a $725,000 Keeneland purchase by Godolphin in 2005 and she is a half-sister to 2007 Breeders Cup Turf hero English Channel who is now a successful stallion at Calumet. Lura was expensive ever before the exploits of English Channel as her unraced dam was a full sister (by Theatrical) to top-class US miler Hap (won 4 Grade 2’s over 8f & 9f) out of Dermot Weld’s brilliant sprinter from the early eighties, Committed. Lura raced just once (unsuccessfully) for Bin Suroor in 2008.

Luceita was her third surviving foal in 2015 and is a half-sister to two Shamardal winners namely,  a 6f dirt winner (RPR 75) in the Gulf and Lucida who was also trained by Bolger and she won the 7f G2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket in 2014 as a two-year-old and was placed in the 2015 Newmarket Guineas and Coronation Stakes.

There is much to love and admire in this pedigree and the distaff side should give the sire every chance.

Park Bloom -2015 f Galileo ex Alluring Park (1999) by Green Desert

The grand dam of Park Bloom is none other than Park Express, a pedigree extremely familiar to Jim Bolger. She was foaled in 1983 and showed promise as a two-year-old in 1985, before developing into a top-class middle-distance performer in the following season. Racing against horses of her own age and sex she won the Lancashire Oaks and Nassau Stakes before recording her biggest success against colts and older horses in the Phoenix Champion Stakes. She retired from racing in 1986 with a record of five wins and five places from fourteen races. She later became an extremely successful broodmare, producing several good winners. Most importantly, she was the dam of The Derby winner New Approach, a colt foaled at a time when Park Express was completely blind. She died in 2006 at the age of twenty-three. The Burns family have always been associated with the Park Express line and what a pot of gold she has been for them over the years.

Park Bloom is a full-sister to three winners including Aidan O’Briens Was (the 2012 Epsom Oaks winner!) and Douglas McArthur (won the 2017 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial) and two other winners. The dam, Alluring Park, never scaled the heights but she was a 6f maiden winner for Jim Bolger and was placed in two 6f stakes contests.

Another pedigree of such quality to make your eyes water and to fervently hope she gets to the track in good shape. She has been retained by the Burns family to perpetuate the line.

Scriobh Nua – 2015 f New Approach ex Scribonia (2001) by Danehill

Scribonia was mentioned above in introducing the unraced Bolger filly, Claiomh Geal, and Scriobh Nua is yet another Bolger wager on New Approach.

She is a half-sister to five quality Galileo siblings and will not lack for quality in her pedigree. It really is fascinating to see the quality of unraced fillies that are lurking in many top Irish stables and watching the progress of those that appear in public should be fascinating. Needless to say, winning brackets will be keenly pursued for all!

Bea Ryan – 2015 f by Dream Ahead ex Kimola (1999) by King’s Theatre (Declan Carroll)

Bred by Ballylinch manager, John “Jock” O’Connor, Bea Ryan was a £75,000 purchase for her Yorkshire trainer Declan Carroll, a trainer who is relatively un-used to training horses at the higher echelons of the game. He lost probably his best-ever horse last year, Santry, to a broken leg and it must have been a huge blow for all as the horse ran second in the 2017 Norfolk Stakes after winning the Brocklesby.

Bea Ryan is a sister to the dam’s best previous offspring in Mark Johnston’s Love Dreams who won a July 2017 Newmarket handicap off 91 and earned an RPR of 106. She is a three-time winner. She is also a half-sister to three other winners including two trained by Jim Bolger to win over 6f (OR97) and over 8f and 12f (OR88). The dam was the Champion 3yo filly in Scandinavia at one point which may not count for much but, overall, the pedigree offers promise at a certain level and Declan Carroll seems to be a very proficient training at getting the most from his stock.

Cileopatra – 2015 f Kodiac ex Beatrix Potter (2005) by Cadeaux Genereux (S Bin Suroor)

Another purchase by John Ferguson, this time for £160,000 at Newmarket in October 2016. Her dam – who looked a very expensive yearling purchase at £120,000 – was placed twice for Frank Ennis off a mark of just 64 over 6/7f in 2009 and is a half-sister to a dual Group 1 winner in Hong Kong. This pedigree improvement did not occur until well after Beatrix Potter’s race career.

Similarly, another very significant pedigree update has boosted Cileopatra’s pedigree in that she is now a half-sister to 2017 Champion sprinter Harry Angel (by Dark Angel) who cost Clive Cox just £44,000 in 2015 before he was sold on to Godolphin for, one suspects, a little more than that!

This pedigree clearly suggests trips of less than one-mile and a Guineas entry looks pretty optimistic.

Two unraced entries for Rathbride trainer, Willie McCreery, and these fillies will command less obvious attention when, perhaps “if”, the make it to the track.

Excelling Spirit – 2015 f Invincible Spirit by Love Excelling (1999) by Polish Precedent

A £100,000 buy-in for breeder, John Connaughton, Excelling Spirit is a half-sister to three nice winners the best of whom was a triple G1 winner of 8f and 10f in the Far East. The other winners scored over 7f and 10f and achieved highest OR’s of 95 and 102. Excelling Spirit’s dam was of no account on the track but she is a half-sister to the 2000 Epsom Oaks winner Love Divine who subsequently bred the 2006 St Leger winner Sixties Icon (by Galileo). Connaughton acquired the dam for £220,000 in 2004. She has repaid that investment many times over.

McCreery handled the Matron Stakes winning filly, Fiesolana, with great aplomb in 2013 and 2014 so can handle the material successfully when it canters into his yard.

Tauriel – 2015 Sea The Stars ex Luce (2001) by Sadler’s Wells

Bred (and owned) by Roy and Belinda Strudwick’s Ballygallon Stud in Co. Kilkenny, Tauriel represents a family that produced the greatest-ever result for the stud when Aragorn (2002 c by Giant’s Causeway) won the 9f G1 Eddie Reed Handicap at Del Mar in 2006 in the breeders’ colours.

Tauriel’s dam, Luce, never managed to break her duck under Rules but she is a half-sister to Aragorn. Her breeding career has been more successful than her racing life and she has bred 4 winners to date including a 12f/14f Listed winner in France who was rated 112 at best. The other three winners (including a Listed/G3-placed filly) performed well over trips from one-mile to 11 furlongs.

This may be the first horse McCreery has handled for the Strudwicks so he will be keen to do well with her.

Gentility – 2015 f Sea The Stars ex Silk Cocoon (2010) by Pivotal (John J Murphy)

For a filly by Sea The Stars its unusual to report that she couldn’t be sold on two occasions for just €25,000 or €30,000. She has been handed by breeder, Corrin Stud, to John Murphy to save the day.

Murphy occasionally tilts at windmills with some optimistic entries so it is difficult to make a recommendation for Gentility until we see her run. Her pedigree is good to middling being a second foal who is a half-sister to Swedish 5f 2yo winner River Dream out of an unraced dam who is a half-sister to useful 6f-7f winner Golden Steps (won off 99 for Marco Botti) out of 5f winning half-sister to 5f Gr 2 in 2007 winner Beauty Is Truth (Robert Collet).

There is not an awful lot to get excited about here but I would still watch to see if the entry displays a certain regard from the trainer.

Predawn – 2015 f Fastnet Rock ex Perihelion (2005) by Galileo (Joseph O’Brien)

Owned and bred by Joseph’s parents Perihelion’s two best foals so far were also by Fastnet Rock and were Qualify (2012 f) and Shogun (2013 c), both trained by Aidan O’Brien. Qualify was the surprise winner of the 2015 Epsom Oaks at 50/1 and was subsequently bought by Godolphin for £1.6m. Shogun only managed a single maiden win (over 7f) but was placed four times in Group events from 7f to 12f.

Ann Marie O’Brien bought the second dam, aged 17, for just €16,000 in 2003 and access to Coolmore’s stallion roster has returned dividends to make your eyes water. A covering by Galileo to produce Predawn’s dam looked extremely like over-breeding but there are no rules in this game that cannot be broken.

With a recent family history such as this, nothing this filly could achieve would surprise me.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss any aspects of the bloodstock and racing industry please contact me at: dskelly@davidskelly.ie

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'The Accountant who knows his Assert from his Elbio'