Great Britain & Ireland Preview: Westover seeks compensation in Ireland

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

June 24th, 2022

Racing in Britain and Ireland settles down a little bit this weekend after the bonanza provided by Royal Ascot last week. But there’s still no shortage of good racing, especially at The Curragh, where the Irish Derby holds center stage.

There is also some high-quality racing on the Tapeta at Newcastle. Here are some spot plays for major races over the weekend.

Saturday, June 25

10:05 a.m. ET: Railway Stakes (G2), 6 furlongs, The Curragh, 2-year-olds

Just six horses have paid up for this juvenile dash, including three backing up from Royal Ascot in #1 Age Of Kings, #3 Blackbeard, and #5 Crispy Cat. Blackbeard is likely to start favorite despite losing his unbeaten record at Ascot when fourth to Bradsell in the six-furlong Coventry (G2), and he should appreciate the return home. But it’s hard not to be taken by Crispy Cat, who might well have finished closer than third in the five-furlong Norfolk (G2) were it not for interference from subsequent winner The Ridler. If he can stay six furlongs, he’s worth a look. The Aga Khan’s #6 Shartash looks the best of the others.

  • $20 win: #5 Crispy Cat
  • $5 exacta box: 3 with 5

10:30 a.m. ET: Northumberland Plate (Heritage Handicap), 2 1/16 miles, Newcastle, 3-year-olds and up

This rich handicap has for the second year drawn the outstanding stayer #1 Trueshan, a Group 1 winner who missed the Ascot Gold Cup (G1) due to the fast ground. He will no doubt run well, but he has to carry 148 pounds here, conceding between 19 and 30 pounds to all his rivals, and will need a super-equine performance for him to be victorious.

The one to beat looks to be last year’s third-place finisher, #3 Rajinsky. He has continued to show strong form in staying handicaps and at his last start was a close third in the Chester Cup behind two outstanding performers at the subsequent Royal Ascot meet: Cleveland, second in the Copper Horse Handicap, and Coltrane, winner of the Ascot Stakes. A similar performance will make him hard to topple.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #3 Rajinsky
  • $1 exacta box: 3 with all

10:45 a.m. ET: Irish Derby (G1), 1 1/2 miles, The Curragh, 3-year-old colts and fillies

Derby winner Desert Crown and Prix du Jockey Club victor Vareni both bypass this race, but in a throwback to the days of Salsabil and Balanchine from the early 1990s, the Oaks winner is present. #8 Tuesday, who narrowly got the better of Emily Upjohn at Epsom, is the only starter for champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, who knows a fair bit about what’s needed to win the Irish Derby, having done so 14 times. She has to be well-respected but whether she’s up to beating the colts is another matter; certainly she hasn’t shown the same class as Salsabil and Balanchine did.

O’Brien’s sons Joseph and Donnacha also have runners. Joseph, fresh from his Royal Ascot success with State of Rest, lines up #4 Hannibal Barca, a brave winner of the Gallinule S (G3) at The Curragh May 20, while Donnacha starts #6 Piz Badile, who won the Ballysax Stakes (G3) prior to failing in the Derby.

However, the best chance appears to be #7 Westover. He ran a great race for third at 25-1 in the Derby and would probably have taken second but for encountering traffic problems in the stretch. In an eight-horse field, he should not have the same issues here.

#2 French Claim and #3 Glory Daze both filled minor placings in the Derby Trial (G3) at Leopardstown May 8, though that form didn’t work out at Epsom, with both Glory Daze and the winner that day, Stone Age, finishing unplaced. Both need to improve, as does #1 Boundless Ocean, who was comfortably beaten by Hannibal Barca two starts back.

The most interesting newcomer is #5 Lionel, who showed solid stamina to win the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes over 1 3/8 miles at Goodwood May 20. He may need to improve further yet, but he looks to have scope to do so.

I have to stick with Westover here based on his great Derby run, while looking at Lionel, Tuesday, and Hannibal Barca as exotics options.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #7 Westover
  • $1 trifecta: 7, 8 with 5, 7, 8 with all

Sunday, June 26

9:10 a.m. ET: Airlie Stud Stakes (G2), 6 furlongs, The Curragh, 2-year-old fillies

One of the first major races for juvenile fillies in Ireland, and a chance for Triple Crown winner Justify to record his first stakes winner as a sire. His daughter Statuette, who is out of the multiple Group 1 winner Immortal Verse, is set to be a short-priced favorite after winning her debut at Navan by three lengths. The runner-up that day had a week earlier pushed Zarinsk, currently second favorite for this race, to a neck at The Curragh.

The interesting form test here is how to line these up against Comhra, It’s Showtime Baby, and Matilda Picotte, who were second, third, and fourth behind subsequent Royal Ascot winner Meditate in the Fillies Sprint Stakes (G3) at Naas May 15.

I have a lot of time for Comhra, but she is likely to need a near-suicidal pace to beat Statuette. The bet for the race could well be a trifecta with all to run third.

  • $20 win: Statuette
  • $1 trifecta: Statuette with Comhra with all

10:45 a.m. ET: Pretty Polly Stakes (G1), 1 1/4 miles, The Curragh, 3-year-olds and up

An even group of fillies and mares line up here in a clash of generations. A number of leading three-year-old fillies are set to run, including Prix Saint-Alary (G1) winner Above The Curve, Prix de Sandringham (G2) winner Purplepay, Oaks (G1) fourth and sixth, Concert Hall and Tranquil Lady, Ribblesdale (G2) third History, Gallinule (G3) runner-up Lyrical Poetry, Munster Oaks (G3) third Lily Pond, and the consistent Agartha.

Representing the older mares are Dreamloper, who beat the males in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) May 29, the resuming La Petite Coco, winner of the Blandford (G2) in the second half of last season, and the exciting My Astra, a 12-length winner of the Rothesay S. at Ayr May 18.

I’m in the camp of Dreamloper. She had some good names behind her in the Prix d’Ispahan, and though there are some smart fillies and mares opposing her here, Dreamloper has every chance of going on with the form here.

Above The Curve may be the biggest danger, though it’s hard to assess just how good the field she beat in France was. Concert Hall may be well-suited by 1 1/4 miles, while La Petite Coco is a great chance if she is fit, and it was hard not to be impressed by My Astra at Ayr.

  • $10 win/$30 show: Dreamloper