Dubai: Armed with some explosive firepower, English trainer Mark Johnston is primed to take the fight to the Irish where he bids to seize the €300,000 Irish 2,000 Guineas right from champion trainer Aidan O’Brien’s doorstep at The Curragh on Saturday.
O’Brien, who bids to win the contest for a 12th time at a venue that he calls home, is set to saddle a posse of challengers led by Gustav Klimt ad US Navy Flag. But in Johnston’s Elarqam he faces a serious threat to his ambitions.
A regally-bred son of the great Frankel, Elarqam brings to The Curragh serious form having run a blinder to finish a competitive fourth in the English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse on what was only his third career start.
On that occasion, the progressive colt had Gustav Klimt a well-beaten sixth and is seen as a horse who is open to significant improvement.
Former top jockey Richard Hills, who is an integral part of owner, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance’s racing team, was bullish about Elarqam’s prospect and said earlier this week “I think he’ll take all the beating. He has come out of the race [Newmarket] really well and Mark is very pleased with him.
“The Curragh will suit him. I think he should win.”
I think he’ll take all the beating. He has come out of the race [Newmarket] really well and Mark is very pleased with him. The Curragh will suit him. I think he should win.”
- Richard Hills | Jockey
Leading British bookmakers seem to concur and have Elarqam as a 15/8 favourite to give Shaikh Hamdan a second Irish 2,000 Guineas after Awtaad triumphed two years ago.
Dubai-owned stable Godolphin have also won the race twice in the past, with Bachir in 2000 and Dubawi in 2005, and can add to that success should Symbolization run up to the expectations of his in-form handler, Charlie Appleby.
Appleby told Curragh.ie that he is looking forward to being represented across both days of Tattersalls Irish Guineas weekend.
Appleby, who has thus far saddled 42 winners since the season began in the UK and boasts an outstanding strike rate of 34.43 per cent, was confident of a big run from the son of Cape Cross.
“He’s a progressive colt. Two starts ago, he was beaten by a nice colt of John Gosden’s [Purser], who then went on to frank the form by winning the Listed Charles II Stakes at Newmarket,” he told the Godolphin website.
“Symbolization has also won since, and he came out of the race well, and I feel he has progressed again. The quick ground over one mile is going to suit him.
“He’s been getting stronger every week, and he deserves a crack at a prize like this. He is well up to it,” he pointed out.
runners are expected to line up for the Classic at the Curragh.
A total of 11 runners are expected to line up for the Classic at the Curragh, which takes place at 7.10 UAE time.
Other notable runners include the Dermot Weld-trained Imaging and Fozzy Stack’s unbeaten colt Zihba.
Meanwhile, Haydock Park, one of the premier racecourse’s in the north-west of England, stages its annual Community Day meeting where the showpiece race is the Group 2 Temple Stakes.
Battaash, a high-class sprinter who won four out of five races last season, is the star attraction as he takes on nine rivals while bidding to lay down a marker for the rest of the season.
Trained by Charlie Hills for Shaikh Hamdan, Battaash, capped his golden year with a compelling victory over another top sprinter, Marsha, in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc day at Chantilly Racecourse in France.