Jessica Harrington has stressed it is a “very big weekend” for her Commonstown team as Lucky Vega tackles the Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (G1) at the Curragh May 23, a race she is trying to win for the first time.
The dual-purpose trainer, who celebrated her first classic success when Alpha Centauri landed the Tattersalls Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) in 2018, will be doubly represented in the 2021 edition on Sunday with No Speak Alexander and Zaffy’s Pride , while Cayenne Pepper will take on Love on the same day.
Lucky Vega went down fighting in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, finishing half a length behind Poetic Flare in third, and he has been made 15-8 favorite with Paddy Power to win the Irish equivalent after 14 horses stood their ground at Tuesday’s five-day forfeit stage.
The biggest threat could come from the yard of Aidan O’Brien, who is chasing his 12th win in the race and a first since Churchill in 2017. He is responsible for four of the remaining entries and Battleground , Van Gogh , and Wembley could all bid to put their disappointing displays in the Two Thousand Guineas behind them.
Poetic Flare was only sixth in the French equivalent at Longchamp on Sunday but was left in at the Curragh by Jim Bolger at the five-day forfeit stage.
Harrington said: “It’s a very big weekend for us, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s all systems go for Lucky Vega, although you’d have to be worried about the ground and the forecast for the rest of the week.
“But there is nothing we can do about it. It was pretty soft when Lucky Vega won the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (G1) and we were probably more worried about the quick ground for him at Newmarket than we are about Saturday.”
Jessica Harrington celebrates Lucky Vega’s Phoenix Stakes win
No Speak Alexander and Zaffy’s Pride both seemed to enjoy soft ground when finishing first and second in the Coolmore Stud Circus Maximus Irish E.B.F. Athasi Stakes (G3) at the track this month.
Harrington said: “No Speak Alexander was very good the other day and she’ll be fine on the ground. She will stay too—that’s going to be important. Zaffy’s Pride is tough and the ground won’t bother her.”
Cayenne Pepper has been given the green light to take on Love and the rest of the Ballydoyle battalion in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), and Harrington has issued an upbeat bulletin on the 4-year-old.
She said: “Cayenne Pepper is great, really good. She’s wintered very well and got a lot stronger. I’ve been delighted with her.”
Dermot Weld’s two-time Comer Group International Irish St. Leger (G1) winner Search For A Song has also got the go-ahead for the 1 3/4-mile race.
O’Brien said: “Thunder Moon got quite upset before the race at Newmarket and wasted a lot of energy. It was just one of those things. We’ve regrouped and trained him for the Curragh. Ideally he wouldn’t want it soft, but he’s come out of Newmarket in good shape.”
O’Brien’s Pretty Gorgeous , ruled out of Newmarket after an unsatisfactory scope, is set to make her belated reappearance in the Irish One Thousand Guineas.
“I’m happy with Pretty Gorgeous and she seems pretty versatile with regard to the ground—it’s obviously going to be on the slow side,” O’Brien said.
One filly who will not be lining up on Sunday is the Kevin Prendergast-trained Mehnah .
Prendergast said: “Unfortunately, Mehnah pulled a muscle in her last piece of work. It’s nothing serious, she just tweaked one, but it’s enough to keep her out of Sunday. We’ll see how she is, but hopefully, we might aim her at the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Ascot now.”
The ground at the Curragh is yielding to soft, soft in places on the straight track, and yielding to soft on the round course. Persistent rain is forecast for later in the week.