05/23/2013 3:09PM

Europe: Four may not be enough for O'Brien in Irish 2000


Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won four of the last five editions of the Irish 2000 Guineas, and with four of the 10 horses among the final entries for the Group 1 race Saturday at The Curragh, one would think O’Brien stands a decent chance of adding to the streak. But O’Brien’s quartet of Magician, George Vancouver, Gale Force Ten, and Flying the Flag lacks anything approaching a standout performer, and Van Der Neer, raiding from England for trainer Richard Hannon, might stand a better chance than any of the O’Briens.

Van Der Neer’s stakes debut came last fall in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy Stakes, where he finished second to Kingsbarns, the colt who sat at the head of the O’Brien class before falling out of the classic picture this spring, his 3-year-old debut still uncertain. Van Der Neer started this season winning on Lingfield’s all-weather course, and followed that up with a good third to Dawn Approach in the English 2000 Guineas. The one-mile distance Saturday is right, and the good course conditions forecast for The Curragh should suit Van Der Neer, though a concern is the trend this spring of Hannon-trained 3-year-olds following a strong showing with a poor one. Hannon also entered Havana Gold, who was fifth last out in the French 2000 Guineas.

Magician, who won the Dee Stakes at Chester in England in his most recent race, is not a certain starter on Saturday, O’Brien said this week. Magician was only a decent 2-year-old, winning 1 of 4 last year, and though he won the Dee by four lengths, his quality remains uncertain. George Vancouver is the O’Brien runner with the highest level of accomplishment, and he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his final start at 2. George Vancouver’s 3-year-old debut produced a lackluster 10th-place finish in Dawn Approach’s English 2000 Guineas, but he is eligible for improvement in his second start of the season. Gale Force Ten was fourth in the French 2000 Guineas two Sundays ago, a race in which Flying the Flag set the pace and faded to ninth.

Trading Leather, a stablemate of leading 3-year-old Dawn Approach, finished second May 16 in the Group 2 Dante Stakes, which appeared to come up a soft race this year. First Cornerstone, owned by a Team Valor partnership, won at the Group 2 level as a 2-year-old, but might be in need of his first run at 3. Fort Knox won a Guineas Trial last month at The Curragh, and will be the first big-race starter for John Murtagh, the veteran jockey who has begun a training career this year.

Reckless Abandon tries older

Sole Power and Reckless Abandon head the Group 2 Temple Stakes on Saturday, a five-furlong dash at Haydock. Three-year-old Reckless Abandon, an undefeated multiple-Group 1-winning sprinter last year at 2, faces older horses for the first time while making his 2013 debut in the Temple. Sole Power had a productive two-start campaign in Dubai this winter, and finished second in the 2012 Temple after winning the race in 2011.