05/23/2014 5:13PM

Olympic Glory challenges Cirrus des Aigles in Prix d’Ispahan


There is Group 1 racing in Ireland both Saturday and Sunday, but the big European race of the weekend is the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan on Sunday at Longchamp, in which Olympic Glory ships from England to face the ageless French gelding Cirrus des Aigles.

The 8-year-old Cirrus des Aigles is in his seventh season of racing but somehow has so far staved off decline. After finishing second of 15, beaten only by the excellent Japanese mare Gentildonna, in the Group 1 Sheema Classic on March 30 in Dubai, Cirrus des Aigles became the first horse to defeat the 2013 Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe winner Treve when handing the 4-year-old filly a narrow defeat in the Group 1 Prix Ganay on April 27 at Longchamp.

Cirrus des Aigles has won 19 of 51 career starts, but an Ispahan victory has eluded him: In 2011, he finished second behind Goldikova, and in 2012, he was upset by the good filly Golden Lilac. Cirrus des Aigles, getting a later start to the heart of his 2013 campaign, did not contest the race last year.

The soft going at Longchamp this weekend suits Cirrus des Aigles, as does the race’s distance of just more than nine furlongs. Olympic Glory also goes well on soft ground, but his ability to stay more than one mile is unknown.

Olympic Glory launched his 4-year-old season with a win just last weekend in the JT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, and he has run well in three previous trips to France, capturing the Group 1 Jean-Luc Lagardere over heavy going at Longchamp in the fall of 2012, and finishing second last year to Maxios in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp and to Moonlight Cloud in the Jacques les Marois at Deauville, a race Olympic Glory might have won with better luck. Olympic Glory has five wins and a second on courses rated soft or worse, but he has yet to race beyond one mile, and Cirrus des Aigles almost certainly is the best horse he has met.

Also on the Sunday card at Longchamp is the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, a 1 ¼-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.

Magician among cast in Tattersalls Gold Cup

At The Curragh in Ireland, Sunday’s Group 1 race for older horses, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, had far more bite before final declarations for the race were announced, and the eight-horse field lacks most of the better-known runners that had been kept eligible up until actual entries.

Among the field, though, is 2013 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician, who could only finish sixth of 15 in the Sheema Classic at Meydan, but rebounded with a narrow win over returning rival Parish Hall in the May 5 Mooresbridge at The Curragh. Magician will run on going called yielding as of Friday, and his signature win last fall at Santa Anita came over very firm and fast-playing course.

Co-featured on the Sunday card is the Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas, in which trainer Aidan O’Brien, of course, has a major presence. O’Brien has won the race five times and trains three of the 12 fillies – Marvellous, Palace, and Wonderfully -- entered in the one-mile race, though none of the trio is especially accomplished. Lightning Thunder, second last out in the English 1000 Guineas, and My Titania, a Group 3 winner with two victories last year for trainer John Oxx, could have a say.

Saturday’s card at The Curragh features the Irish 2000 Guineas, a race O’Brien has won three years in a row and five of the last six, but trainer John Gosden has the heavy favorite this year in Kingman. Kingman, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, has won 3 of 4 starts, his lone defeat a half-length loss earlier this month in the Group 1 English 2000 Guineas.

O’Brien’s best hope comes from War Command, who struggled home ninth of 14 in the English 2000 after winning 4 of 5 starts last year at age 2.