The Curragh: All Eyes on City Of Troy in the National

City Of Troy |


While the G1 Irish St Leger is officially the feature race on The Curragh's second part of the Irish Champions Festival, Sunday's fixture is really first and foremost about Ballydoyle's TDN Rising Star City Of Troy (Justify) who graces the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. Of all the stable's 2-year-old stars over the past 25 years, he already looks at home accompanying the same metaphoric space as the likes of Johannesburg, Fasliyev, Air Force Blue, Hawk Wing, Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire) and Little Big Bear (Ire) which is an astonishing statement based on just two runs.

The second of City Of Troy's outings in a renewal of the G2 Superlative S. which contained some smart types including the subsequent G2 Vintage S. winner Haatem (Ire) (Phoenix Of Spain {Ire}) marked him out in terms of stride pattern and sectionals as a rare jewel. Extremely rare. It will be a shock if he is overturned so early with conditions likely to suit and there is every chance we will witness another Hawk Wing or Pinatubo moment in this esteemed race despite the trainer's reservations as to his condition.

“He's a good bit heavier than he was at Newmarket, as he's done very well so that's a little bit of a worry but he's ready for his start-back run of the autumn and everyone is very happy with him,” Aidan O'Brien said. “I'd imagine he'll come forward for the run.”

Whatever happens here, we will find out just how good City Of Troy is with Bucanero Fuerte (GB) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in attendance. While he could not match Ballydoyle's River Tiber (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in Royal Ascot's G2 Coventry S., Amo Racing and Giselle De Aguiar's kingpin has gone from strength-to-strength in the meantime and improved off a narrow G2 Railway S. win to inflict a four-length defeat on the G3 Albany S. scorer Porta Fortuna (Ire) (Caravaggio) in the G1 Phoenix S. last month. Whether seven furlongs is his bag remains to be seen and the long-striding favourite will be testing that premise for sure.

Bucanero Fuerte's trainer Adrian Murray is living the dream. “He seems to be getting better and better–it's hard to believe,” he said. “He looks like a horse that's going to train on, he's a big, long scopey horse and has a beautiful mind. He's thriving with racing and hopefully he keeps it going.”

Aidan O'Brien is suggesting at present that he is also going to run fellow TDN Rising Star Henry Longfellow (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), with the son of Minding (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) there also as ample back-up should the rains come. Reportedly underwhelming compared to his homework when taking the course-and-distance G2 Futurity S. last month, this experience will do him no harm based on the workrate of his dam, who first showed her raw material when winning this card's G1 Moyglare Stud S. back in 2015.

Kyprios | Scoop Dyga

Welcome Back Kyprios…

The Irish St Leger is short on numbers and depth in terms of group 1 talent, but it does at least see the near-miraculous comeback of the badly-stricken Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). While he has a 344-day absence to overcome, such was his dominion in 2022 that it is possible he could pick up the thread where he left off with that remarkable performance in the G1 Prix du Cadran. It is hard to say whether that errant 20-length romp rates higher than his defeat of Hamish (GB) (Motivator {GB}) in this or his thrilling denial of Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) in the G1 Goodwood Cup, but all three victories along with his first G1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot place him alongside Ballydoyle's great stayers. Only stablemate Emily Dickinson (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and the G1 St Leger hero Eldar Eldarov (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) can get anywhere in the same vicinity in terms of class, so a 90% Kyprios might still be good enough.

Aidan O'Brien spoke earnestly on Saturday of the ordeal of getting Kyprios back to the track. “I can't believe he's here,” he said. “It's not that long ago that I didn't think he was going to make it, so all credit to the team–he had to be taught to walk, trot and canter again his injury was that bad. The intensity of his training has got stronger and stronger and it is testament to his constitution that he is going to run. You'd be afraid of your life watching him and I don't know if it is possible to win a race like this from where he is. Emily Dickinson needs rain, even though we have run her on faster ground and there are showers around. It's just whether they come or not.”

Moyglare Stud's Fiona Craig added of Kyprios, “He's just a bigger horse than he was before and I think they've gone steadily with him because of the injury, but I don't think Aidan would be running him if he didn't think he was going to run well. It will just be great to see him back at the races because he's a very popular horse, there's more people ask me about Kyprios than anything else we own! He's the horse that wherever you are in the world, people ask you about the big chestnut horse.”

Ylang Ylang Poised For Moyglare Test…

Saturday's action confirmed that Ballydoyle's juvenile team seem even more formidable than usual in 2023 and it is up to the unbeaten TDN Rising Star Ylang Ylang (GB) (Frankel {GB}) to uphold the fillies' end in the G1 Moyglare Stud S., a qualifier for the GI Breeders' Cup Juveniel Fillies. The 1.5 million Tatts Book 1 sensation could do no more than beat Al Shira'aa Farms' subsequent G2 Debutante S. winner Vespertilio (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) in the G3 Silver Flash S. at Leopardstown in July, but she might need to raise her level again here judged on the runner-up's rate of progression in the interim.

Vespertilio's trainer Willie McCreery is happy to re-engage. “The going is down as good for Sunday and it may well quicken up a bit before her race, but it was similar ground last month,” he said. “Ylang Ylang is the obvious one we've got to beat, but if you're not in it, you can't win it. We'll just let Billy see how the race pans out before he decides how to take things, but we're looking forward to it, that's for sure.”

There is also the aforementioned G3 Albany S. winner and G1 Phoenix S. runner-up Porta Fortuna and Clipper Logistics' impressive G3 Sweet Solera S. scorer Fallen Angel (GB) (Too Darn Hot {GB}) to contend with, along with the sponsors' dark horse Red Viburnum (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) to consider. She showed up well when third on debut in a decent course-and-distance conditions race last month and it is significant that Dermot Weld is pitching her in at this level so soon in the race he would so love to win for the owner-breeders.

“She's come on for her first run, when she ran very well,” Moyglare's Fiona Craig commented. “To give Chris Hayes his due, he dropped her in behind and taught her and I've seen her work since and she worked much sharper. I think it was more greenness than anything and it took a few strides for the penny to drop, but she galloped out way beyond the others at the end. She'll have moved on a bit since then, whether she's moved on enough to win this race is another matter, but all you can do is compete and see.”

Highfield Princess | Scoop Dyga

Highfield Princess Flying…

Despite the obvious kudos that Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) carries around with her, The Curragh's G1 Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Flying Five S. is no penalty kick for last year's winner with her G1 King's Stand S. conqueror Bradsell (GB) (Tasleet {GB}) in action along with another compatriot in Art Power (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). This ground is quick enough for John Quinn's star mare and Art Power's quirky yet formidable 100% record in Ireland really is something to behold. Just witness his emphatic latest win in the course-and-distance G2 Sapphire S. for the evidence of what he can do when in the zone.

Quinn is aware of the challenge in this “Win and You're In” for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. “It's a tough race and Bradsell is in it and Tim Easterby's horse who is absolutely dynamite at the Curragh and then there are a few others as well, but we're happy with our filly,” he said. “The Curragh suited her last year, so I hope it suits her again on Sunday. Everything has been fine since York and it's great to have an animal like her. She wears it on her sleeve and we're looking forward to Sunday.”

Alastair Donald, racing manager for Art Power's owners King Power Racing, said, “He seems to have a bit of a love affair with Ireland and seems to find a key couple of lengths over there. He has often been a length short in group ones over here and we're looking forward to seeing him. The ground should be fine and he has a good draw, but obviously Bradsell and Highfield Princess make it a very strong renewal. Without being rude to the others, it looks to be between the three of them and if he can show his previous Irish form, he has to be a live contender.”

Blue Rose Cen Back In The Vermeille…

Away from the Irish Champions Festival, ParisLongchamp's Arc Trials card sees the return of Blue Rose Cen (Ire) (Churchill {Ire}) in the G1 Qatar Prix Vermeille as she moves up to a mile and a half for the first time. Looking as if it would suit when a close-up fourth in a tactically-compromising running of the G1 Nassau S. at Goodwood last time, Yeguada Centurion's G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and G1 Prix de Diane heroine has the pedigree to last and the heart for it also. Whether she can cope with the G1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is another matter given that Ballydoyle raider's effectiveness on a fast surface and their clash is eagerly-anticipated.

Christopher Head said of Blue Rose Cen, “We are trying her over a distance that is very different from the beginning just to see what we will do in the future. We need to see what she can do over 2400 metres to be sure about what we do over the next year. There is still the possibility she will get supplemented for the Arc. That will all depend on the result of the Vermeille and her aptitude over that kind of distance.”

Aidan O'Brien said of Warm Heart, “She's in good form and her last run at York was very good. She likes nice, fast ground and she's very comfortable at a mile and a half so we're looking forward to seeing her run again. She probably won't run get to run in this part of the world after Sunday, as the ground might get soft so she might head for the Breeders' Cup, if everything went well.”

Arc Picture To Become Clearer…

It is hard to imagine at present with the sun so intense and the temperatures so high, but ParisLongchamp's autumn showcase is just around the corner and Sunday's card will start to set the tone. The G2 Qatar Prix Foy, which has produced just the one Arc winner this century, sees a fascinating clash between two lively outsiders for the main event in Iresine (Fr) (Manduro {Ger})–successful in this 12 months ago before adding an eclectic mix of the G1 Prix Royal-Oak and G1 Prix Ganay to his tally–and last year's G1 Prix de l'Opera heroine Place Du Carrousel (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}). The G2 Qatar Prix Niel looks hotter, with Jean-Louis Bouchard's G1 Grand Prix de Paris hero Feed The Flame (GB) (Kingman {GB}) at the moment a genuine frontline contender for the big one. He will be compromised if this gets as tactical as it often does, with the G1 Deutsches Derby winner Fantastic Moon (Ger) (Sea The Moon {Ger}) and the G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner Marhaba Ya Sanafi (Ire) (Muhaarar {GB}) adding intrigue.

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