Chief can take step up in class in his stride

ZULU Chief is expected to prove his star quality in the United Arab Emirates Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh tomorrow.

Hawk Wing’s brother, by Fusaichi Pegasus, bolted up in what was probably an ordinary maiden at Naas last month.

But he has always been highly-rated in Ballydoyle and gets an opportunity tomorrow to make the transition into stakes class.

Aidan O’Brien brought this colt to Newmarket to make his debut back in April and, although his inexperience was obvious, he finished in the style of a colt with plenty of ability.

Off the track until early July, he was sent off a red-hot favourite for an ordinary ten-furlong maiden at Naas and, given an inch of rein by Johnny Murtagh, he stretched clear impressively up the hill to slam Truxton King by an ever-increasing twenty lengths.

Any horse that wins a maiden by such a margin must be respected. It’s significant that, with stable-jockey Johnny Murtagh set to ride Mount Nelson and Plan at Arlington Park in Chicago tonight, his understudy Seamus Heffernan will be on board Zulu Chief rather than 111-rated stable-companion King Of Rome, winner of the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown last time.

The two older horses in the field Alarazi and Arch Rebel are hardly getting better. So the door is open for a progressive three-year-old to lift this Group 2 prize and Zulu Chief fits the bill.

The Ballygallon Stud Debutante Stakes is an even more intriguing ‘Group 2’ on tomorrow’s card, bringing together Jim Bolger’s proven filly Cuis Ghaire and some very promising, less exposed performers, like Rare Ransom, Oui Say Oui and Baliyana.

Cuis Ghaire is a dual Group 3-winner, but lost her unbeaten record when beaten by the potentially top-class Ballydoyle colt Rip Van Winkle in Leopardstown’s Tyros Stakes last time.

The Bolger filly was meeting her conqueror on unfavourable level terms that day and was not helped by the fast ground. But the proximity of Vilasol (third) is a worry, following his odds-on defeat at Naas this week.

I’ll oppose Cuis Ghaire with Rare Ransom, a Dermot Weld filly which stepped-up on her debut defeat by Chintz, to prove a hugely impressive maiden winner at Galway last week.

Open to further improvement, she might turn over the Bolger filly, with Oui Say Oui and Baliyana, first and third in a Curragh maiden last month, also likely to figure prominently.

In the other group action on the card, British raider Benbaun, trained by Mark Wallace must be strongly fancied to record his seventh course win in the Patrick O’Leary Memorial Phoenix Sprint.

Unplaced in the July Cup last time, Benbaun was earlier beaten by Tax Free over five furlongs at the Curragh, but looks likely to regain the winning habit here, despite a 7lb. penalty for his Prix de l’Abbaye victory at Longchamp.

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