Kevin Ryan has the chance to notch the second Classic victory of his training career when Hi Royal goes for the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday.
The North Yorkshire-based handler saddled The Grey Gatsby to win the Prix du Jockey Club in 2014 and in Hi Royal he has one of the market principals for the colts’ mile Classic.
The son of Kodiac defied odds of 125-1 to pick up a silver medal in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and although the result caused some surprise among connections, hopes are high that he will prove his Rowley Mile performance was not a one-off.
“Of course we were surprised. We were hoping he’d run well, but we never expected him to go that close,” said Bruce Raymond, racing manager for Hi Royal’s owner, Jaber Abdullah.
“I don’t know if it was the soft ground, the fact he got his own way or what, but the form is pretty solid and he did it the hard way.
“Hopefully he should have a chance on Saturday, he should be one of the favourites I would imagine. We’re going there with a good shout, certainly a better shout than he had at Newmarket.
“He’s a strong, powerful colt and you would imagine that he should be all the better for that run.
“His pedigree suggests he’s a miler, but I think he’d stay 10 furlongs later in the year.
“It’s a stiff mile at the Curragh but a different test to Newmarket where you have to handle the undulations more than ever now, so much so that it’s now become a front-runners’ track. You don’t see many come from last now – a few years ago all you had to worry about was the dip, now you have to keep them balanced and keep up at the same time.
“We’re hopeful, but if it rains I’d be happier. It never gets too fast over there, though.”
A place behind Hi Royal at Newmarket was Paul and Oliver Cole’s Royal Scotsman, a high-class two-year-old last season who proved he would be a force once again this term on his return in top-table company.
Keenness dented his chances of truly lasting home over a mile at Newmarket, but he is given another crack at Classic honours having been supplemented into this race earlier in the week.
“He’s in great form, he left for Ireland on Thursday night and arrived Friday morning and has eaten up, so we couldn’t be happier with him,” said Oliver Cole.
“To do what he did at Newmarket, to be keen and pull for four furlongs and then finish shows he’s pretty good.
“He broke the track record in the Richmond at Goodwood and he was in the second fastest ever Dewhurst – his sectionals were amazing after the first furlong in the Dewhurst. He is a very, very good horse, everything just needs to go right for him. We like to think we have a live contender.”
Further UK representation is provided by Roger Varian’s Charyn and the Charlie Hills-trained Galeron, who outran odds of 150-1 to finish fourth at Newmarket and has a Curragh victory already on his CV.
“It was a really good effort at Newmarket, he just got a little bit far back,” said Hills, who won the race with Phoenix Of Spain in 2019.
“He was awkward away and it was a bit rough coming out of the gates, so he wasn’t really in the position we wanted to be but he still ran great. We were delighted with him.
“He has come out of Newmarket really well. Kieran (Shoemark) came and sat on him last week and was happy with him. Unfortunately he can’t ride him, but we’re really happy to have Colin (Keane) aboard him – he knows the Curragh pretty well.
“It’s great that Galeron has been to the Curragh before and won there. Having a bit of course experience and liking the track is going to suit him well.”
Aidan O’Brien is the race’s leading trainer having won it 11 times and is well represented as he seeks a first triumph in six years.
Stable jockey Ryan Moore has elected to ride Tetrarch Stakes scorer Paddington, while Cairo and Age Of Kings will also go to post for the Ballydoyle operation.
O’Brien said: “We’re very happy with Paddington, he won the Tetrarch nicely. We’re looking forward to him, it’s his first step up to Group One company.
“We’re very happy with Cairo as well.”
The home challenge is strengthened by Donnacha O’Brien’s Proud And Regal, who drops back in trip to a mile having finished third on his return in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
Although it may have been assumed the Galileo colt would be heading up in trip in search of Classic success following his reappearance, he is a Group One winner at this distance and his handler has no worries about the return to a mile.
“He’s in good form and everything has gone smooth since his run at Leopardstown,” said O’Brien.
“He’s going back in trip but he has good form at this distance – he has won a Group One at this trip – so we’re hopeful he will run a good race.”
Jessica Harrington saddles two in the race with Quar Shamar seeing the form of his Dundalk win boosted recently by the runner-up, while stablemate Bold Discovery has twice placed at Group Three level.
Luke Comer’s Alexander John completes the field of 11.