04/20/2012 2:27PM

Ireland: Excelebration makes 2012 debut in Gladness Stakes at the Curragh


Excelebration, one of Europe’s best milers in 2011, makes his first start of 2012 and first for trainer Aidan O’Brien Sunday at the Curragh in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes.

Four-year-old Excelebration has won 5 of 9 career starts, but had the misfortune to be born the same year as Frankel, the undefeated two-time champion who has handed Excelebration three of his four losses. Excelebration was second to Frankel in his final start of 2011, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but managed to land his own Group 1 races last season, capturing the Prix Moulin de Longchamp in a modest edition of that race.

Excelebration is expected to have five rivals in the seven-furlong Gladness, which will be contested over good-to-yielding going. Among his opponents is another O’Brien trainee, Windsor Palace.

◗ Trainer Roger Charlton has taken Best Terms, the ante-post favorite, out of the Fred Darling Stakes, a Group 3 2000 Guineas prep on Saturday at Newbury. Charlton cited soft course conditions as the reason for Best Terms’s withdrawal, and said Juddmonte Farms’s once-started maiden winner will head straight to the 2000 Guineas if all goes well before that May 5 race at Newmarket.