05/19/2010 11:00PM

O'Brien saddles six in Guineas


Aidan O'Brien will be a busy man Saturday afternoon at the Curragh, when he saddles six of the 13 runners in the $402,000 Irish 2000 Guineas. He will, of course, be aided by his team of capable assistants, but victory in the one-mile classic could be a more difficult prospect than getting his half-dozen into the gate.

Steinbeck, the choice of jockey Johnny Murtagh, is O'Brien's main hope, but the fragile son of Footstepsinthesand, winner of the 2000 Guineas in 2005, has not run since Oct. 17 when he was fourth in the Dewhurst Stakes. It was five months earlier, in his only other start, that Steinbeck won his maiden going six furlongs at Naas. Moreover, he suffered a setback that forced him to miss the English Guineas, so there must be some doubt about his well-being.

Fencing Master was second in the Dewhurst but was only four lengths seventh in the English 2000 Guineas on May 1. The other four O'Briens are all longshots. Viscount Nelson was a well-beaten 11th in the English 2000 Guineas, while Purple Heart and Encompassing are stepping up from the allowance ranks. Dynasty has hopes after his short head second in the seven-furlong, Group 3 Tetrarch Stakes.

Free Judgement, the Jim Bolger-trained winner of the Tetrarch, would have to improve to win this. But Noll Wallop, who beat Free Judgement into sixth in the one-mile, Group 3 Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial, looks like an improving type who will be making just his fourth career start for Tommy Stack.

The lukewarm favorite is likely to be Canford Cliffs. Highly impressive when winning Royal Ascot's Group 3 Coventry Stakes by six lengths, the Richard Hannon-trained son of Tagula was a sharp third behind Makfi and Dick Turpin in the Newmarket Guineas. That is better form than anything else in this race and with Richard Hughes aboard, his 11-4 price looks tempting.

Xtension's form is only slightly behind that of Canford Cliffs. Trained by Clive Cox, the Xaar colt was third in the Dewhurst and fourth in the Newmarket Guineas, just a length behind Canford Cliffs, so there is a lot of value in his 11-2 price.

Keredari, trained by John Oxx for the Aga Khan, is dangerous off his four-length score in the listed Loughbrown Stakes on heavy ground at the Curragh, while Oasis Dancer, who won the seven-furlong, $1.6 million Tattersalls Million in October and is coming off a one-mile handicap score at Newmarket, could make his presence felt.