05/21/2016 2:33PM

Awtaad relishes soft ground in Irish 2000 Guineas


Awtaad rolled down the outside of a soggy Curragh course and won the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas by 2 1/2 lengths on Saturday.

English 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold finished second after being trapped inside for part of the final quarter-mile, but Awtaad always seemed to be traveling better after the tempo quickened and was a worthy winner for jockey Chris Hayes, trainer Kevin Prendergast, and owner Hamdan al Maktoum. Blue de Vega was third, well clear of fourth-place Bravery, the first home but easily the longest price among four Aidan O’Brien-trained entrants.

Air Force Blue, the winter-book favorite for the English 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby, turned in another clunker, coming home seventh after finishing 12th last month in the English Guineas. Air Force Blue might have disliked the rain-soaked course rated yielding-to-soft; it took the winner 1:45.26 to run one mile around a mild right-handed bend.

Awtaad, by Cape Cross, won his fourth race in a row while winning his group stakes debut over ground he clearly relishes. It remains to be seen if Awtaad, who never has raced outside Ireland, can carry his form to a high-class race over better ground. Awtaad could make his next start in the Epsom Derby or the Irish Derby, Prendergast said. The 83-year-old Prendergast won his second Irish 2000 Guineas, his first triumph having come in 1976 with Northern Treasure.