Irish flat racing season begins at The Curragh

March 28, 2022

The turf flat racing season begins in Ireland on Saturday, with The Curragh, the home of the Classics, hosting the 2022 opener. 

The Paddy Power Irish Lincolnshire (Premier Handicap) over one mile is the highlight of the eight-race card. Trainer Ado McGuinness is well represented in the race with seven of the 30-runner field coming from his barn. Saltonstall, Bowerman and Star of Cashel represent his best chances of claiming the €60,000 first prize. 

Former top class international rider Johnny Murtagh, now a successful trainer, saddles Raadobarg, who won three times last season when trained in England by Roger Varian. Former Belmont Stakes-winning handler Dermot Weld is represented by Tazaral, who is also likely to be among the chosen horses in a competitive betting market.

The sole black type race on today’s card is the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes (Group 3). The race for fillies and mares sees the return to action of last season’s impressive English 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth. 

The Ryan Moore-ridden daughter of Zoffany, defeated Saffron Beach and Fev Rover by one length and a neck respectively in the opening Classic of the 2021 British flat racing season at Newmarket, England, last May. Aidan O’Brien’s four-year-old will carry 10 stone this afternoon and is expected to start the race as an odds-on favourite. 

Last season’s Group 3 and Group 2 winner Insinuendo from the Willie McCreery barn will also be burdened with 10 stone in this contest, and the five-year-old mare is the main challenger to the Coolmore partners-owned Mother Earth. The remaining runners in the field are Listed-rated horses and are unlikely to pose a major concern to the two main contenders. 

The Alkumait Standing At Castlefield Stud With A 100,000 Euro Bonus Irish EBF Maiden over five furlongs will feature the regally-bred Finscéal Go Deo, a daughter of Juddmonte stallion Kingman and dual Irish and English 1000 Guineas winner Finscéal Beo. 

The Jim Bolger-conditioned filly is nominated for the Goffs Million, a race in which her dam, Finscéal Beo, also trained by Bolger, was sixth, before winning the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac in France. The unraced two-year-old filly will lead the betting market based on her breeding alone, and the fact that Bolger horses are often primed early in the season will add to her chances.

Midnight Toker, a 330,000 euros yearling colt will likely prove a worthy challenger. The speedily-bred son of Acclaimation comes from the Ger Lyons yard and runs in the colour of Peter M Brant. Forceful Speed, another costly purchase at 260,000 guineas is also a runner to note. The New Bay colt, handled by Adrian Murray, comes from the family of Barathea.

The Cavalor Equine Nutrition Fillies and Mares Maiden over 7 furlongs should present the Joseph O’Brien-prepared three-year-old Perfect Thunder, a daughter of Night of Thunder, with an opportunity to break her maiden. 

Her principal danger may be the Jessica Harrington-conditioned Ha Ha Ha, a 400,000 pound sterling yearling and a half sister to 111-rated Jack Naylor. The Dark Angel filly is unraced and will have the assistance of Shane Foley in the saddle. 

An interesting contender in the race is Toy, a sister to seven winners, among them the dual 2000 Guineas winner and Coolmore Stud stallion Gleneagles, Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Marvellous and French Oaks winner Joan Of Arc. The three-year-old filly, a daughter of Giants Causeway’s sister You’resothrilling, was a runner-up on her only start least season over course and distance.

Photo: Curragh (Curragh Photo)

Contributing Authors

Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Breandán Ó hUallacháin writes about Irish, British, French and Australian horseracing, both National Hunt and Flat. He has an interest in the history of racing...

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