WELCOME to a new weekly column reviewing recent events in Irish racing, where the aim will be to look at angles that might have gone unnoticed generally.
I have managed to pick a relatively low-key week to begin so let’s start with something broader rather than a single big race: the Irish flat turf season so far.
As of Killarney and Sligo Tuesday last, we are 25 meetings deep in the season and its defining feature has been not just slow but testing ground.
Of those 25 meetings, 18 of them were run on going given as ‘soft’ or worse with just four of them getting ‘good’ in the description.
A cut in the ground is to be expected early on but we are now hitting late May and the ground is only starting to dry up so the question is: how will that form from the first two months carry through?
There have been some obvious beneficiaries from the prolonged wet spell, notably the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair Visualisation and Honey Girl at stakes level. The former didn’t make it past Derby weekend last year but has already had three runs during 2023, during which time he has improved his form figures on yielding-soft or worse to:12121121.
The only horse to beat him this year? Point Lonsdale in the Alleged, who has since won the Huxley Stakes, though the third in that Chester race, Layfayette, got a lot closer than he did at the Curragh and has himself returned in good order. He has not been seen to best effect coming from rear in steadily run races the last twice.
Honey Girl took nine goes to break her maiden, albeit often competing well above that level last season when with Henry de Bromhead but progressed again to win the Athasi Stakes on her second start for O’Brien, well-backed to do so.
Her trainer commented afterwards that she will likely be at her best on a slow surface yet Royal Ascot is the aim as her Australian owners are attending; she would need some unseasonable weather for conditions to suit.
Can Tahiyra tough it out in Guineas?
THE early part of the turf season builds to Guineas Weekend at the Curragh but the big question ahead of next week’s classic is what the hell is running?
With respect to the three-year-old colts, Tahiyra is the one with real star power that could pitch up at the meeting, but Dermot Weld is not a man to be rushed, as anyone listening to him on the Nick Luck Daily Podcast in the run-up to Newmarket will know.
The trainer said before the 1000 Guineas that he would ideally have had another fortnight with his Moyglare winner, and she has now had three weeks of a break but the significant complicating factor is that she almost certainly had a hard race last time.
Per Timeform, the fillies were 3.72 seconds faster than the colts at Newmarket and, while part of that was the ground drying out from Saturday to Sunday, Tahiyra got into a prolonged battle with Mawj as the pair pulled a long way clear.
Weld typically does not run horses back quickly in Group 1s. According to the database HorseRaceBase, he has run a horse that had its previous start in an English or Irish Group 1 back in another such race within 28 days just 12 times since 2003, only one of those since 2016, albeit successfully with Harzand following up in the Irish Derby after winning at Epsom.
Unfortunately, the database does not capture runners outside Britain and Ireland, and the trainer did win three Group 1s within 91 days with Tarnawa in 2020 but that was in autumn with an older filly who only returned to the track in August.
He might be inclined to give Tahiyra a break and if she doesn’t turn up then what are we left with? Meditate, well-backed at Newmarket before finishing sixth, is an obvious one and there are plenty from the local trials that will take their chances but a supplementary entry or two would not surprise, with Matilda Picotte perhaps most obvious for that role.