Cayenne Pepper will be expected to confirm classic form with Passion in the Group 3 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes, a fascinating finale in Cork today.
The pair finished second and third respectively, separated by a halflength, behind Even So in the recent Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh and, although it can be argued that Passion didn’t enjoy the clearest of runs, I expect the Commonstown filly to prove her superiority here.
Jessica Harrington’s daughter of Australia reeled off a hat-trick as a juvenile last year, including victory in the Flame Of Tara (Group 3) at the Curragh, before running creditably in the Group 1 Fillies Mile at Newmarket, a race won by Quadrilateral, in which she finished little more than a length behind impressive Qipco 1,000 Guineas and Investec Oaks heroine Love.
And Cayenne Pepper has competed in Group 1 company in both starts this season, chasing home superstar mare and easy winner Magical in the Pretty Polly on her seasonal debut.
On the evidence of that run, she started 2/1 favourite for classic glory in the Oaks but having come through to lead and hold every chance, she had no answer to the late surge of Even So, who swept past to score by two lengths.
Passion, third to Frankly Darling in Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot and fifth behind Love in the Investec Oaks, stayed on to finish just a half-length off Cayenne Pepper in third position and has obvious claims today.
But I prefer Cayenne Pepper, officially rated 4lb superior to the Ballydoyle filly.
The Give Thanks field also includes last year’s winner Tarnawa, trained by Dermot Weld, whose three-year-old campaign netted a couple of Group 3 wins and victory in the Blandford (Group 2) at the Curragh before finding Group 1 company a bridge too far in the Fillies & Mares, won by Star Catcher at Ascot.
Reportedly in good fettle, she shouldn’t be ignored, a comment which also applies to Joseph O’Brien’s Bolleville, winner of a listed event at Leopardstown on her recent Irish debut.
In the chief supporting race, the Platinum Stakes, I like the chances of Southern Horse, having his first start since being transferred from Jim Bolger’s to Jessica Harrington’s yard.
Runner-up to the ill-fated Sceptical in the Woodlands on his penultimate start, the step-up to seven furlongs might prove the key for Shane Foley’s mount.
Meanwhile on this evening’s jumps card at Kilbeggan, the Willie Mullins trained Sayo sets the standard in the Joe Cooney Memorial Hurdle, the most intriguing event on .
The grey six-year-old has won just twice since arriving in Closutton from France, landing a maiden hurdle at Naas on his Irish debut at a beginners chase in Galway last October – when he bolted-up by 24 lengths.
He’s the highest-rated runner and was far from disgraced when filling eighth position in the valuable Guinness Handicap Hurdle, won by his stable-companion Great White Shark in Ballybrit little more than a week ago.
Prior to his Galway run under the steadier weight of 11-9, Sayo was beaten a half-length by Tonkinese in the Apprentice Derby at the Curragh, form franked by the winner at Leopardstown on Thursday.
On ratings, there’s little between the selection, his stable-companion Mister Blue Sky and Mengli Khan. But Sayo looks the most likely winner.
Turning out plenty of winners in recent weeks, Gordon Elliott has prospects throughout the card and might deliver a first and last race double with Curlew Hill and I A Connect.
Winner of a Downpatrick bumper last time, Curlew Hill might be capable of conceding weight to his rivals in the opening KilbegganRaces.com Maiden Hurdle – with 108-rated Ashqar his chief threat.
And I A Connect, in the familiar McNeill colours, looks best in the bumper, when he’ll bid to recoup losses sustained in January when he was sent off favourite for Fairyhouse bumper but could only finish third to Five Bar Brian.
Peter O’Hehir’s tips for Cork
2.30 Petite Amie
3.05 Strong Johnson
3.40 Southern Horse
4.50 Silk Cravat
5.55 Cayenne Pepper (Nap)
Peter O’Hehir’s tips for Kilbeggan
4.40 Curlew Hill
5.45 Coolbane Boy
6.15 In Your Shadow
6.45 Sweet Home Chicago
7.45 I A Connec