Despite the heatwave that has already tanned and / or burned the skin of racegoers across the UK and Ireland, we’re actually only just entering the meat of the summer.
And looking at the forthcoming racecards for meetings at Curragh, there is still plenty of outstanding action to come at the famous track.
There are three Group 1 renewals alone, with the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes as eagerly anticipated as ever.
The curtain finally comes down on the summer of racing in September, but boy what a way to end proceedings. The Longines Irish Champions Weekend features a pair of stellar Group 1 outings, the Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Irish St Leger, that will identify the finest thoroughbreds in the business today.
Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (August 13, 3:30pm)
The 2016 edition of the Phoenix Stakes was a rollicking old affair, with two colts from the O’Brien yard at rather contrasting odds – the 1/8 favourite Caravaggio and the 33/1 jolly Courage Under Fire – locking horns.
In the end, it was the favourite who just forged ahead in the final furlong to put a rather hefty dent in the bookmakers’ profits.
The race forms the title of the festival weekend on August 13-14, with some of the finest two-year-olds from the continent doing battle in the Group 1 headliner.
O’Brien has trained the winner of this race eleven times in the past fifteen years, so punters will naturally gravitate towards his litany of steeds as he will no doubt field several bookies favourites.
The most obvious is Clemmie, an outstanding young prospect and half-sister to Churchill, no less. She landed the Grangecon Stud Stakes earlier in July over 6f at Curragh, and so ticks numerous boxes for the betting floor.
Moyglare Stud Stakes (September 10, 3:40pm)
The flat season at Curragh concludes with the Longines Irish Champions Weekend, with a pair of Group 1 renewals nestled in amongst Sunday’s card.
The first is the Moyglare Stud Stakes, a 7f jaunt open to thoroughbred fillies. On the list of former champions is the outstanding Minding, Aidan O’Brien’s sole winner in this race for the past five years.
He may target this race for Clemmie, of whom he has high hopes for, although there is a late season challenge from the likes of Heartache, a Group 2 winner this term, Alpha Centauri and the French fancy, Different League.
Irish St Leger (September 10, 4:50pm)
The curtain comes down on another epic flat campaign at Curragh with a big one: the Irish St Leger.
It is the equivalent of the St Leger Stakes of course, run over the same 1m 6f stretch, and will feature some of the finest thoroughbreds aged three or over from across Europe. Some of the former winners of this renewal – Yeats, Order of St George, Wicklow Brave – are testament to the high esteem this race is held in.
Five of the last seven winners have been aged five or over at the time of their triumph, with three of four from an Irish yard (O’Brien, Willie Mullins, Dermot Weld). This should provide punters with some ammunition.
As mentioned, the cream usually rises to the top in this renewal, so backing the finest performers in the field is the smart way to go. Whether the likes of Cracksman, Capri or Rekindling make the trip or wait for the ‘British’ St Leger which takes place a week later.