Making his Irish debut, Hannibal Barca should prove tough to beat in the Group 3 Helder Family Stables Gallinule Stakes at the opening session of the Guineas Festival at the Curragh.
This Zoffany colt campaigned for Brian Meehan in England last season, ending his juvenile campaign with a highly creditable fourth behind Luxembourg in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity at Doncaster.
Subsequently bought for 500,000 Guineas, Hannibal Barca boasts a rating of 111, which makes him a standout in today’s field, if he’s close to peak fitness for his first run for Joseph O’Brien.
Hannibal Barca raced three times last term, attracting support ahead of his debut at Ascot, where he filled third spot, before getting off the mark in a novice contest at Salisbury.
And he produced a rock-solid effort when tried at Group 1 level, in the Futurity, plugging on late to finish fourth, beaten less than two lengths, behind Luxembourg.
Assuming he has wintered well and is tuned for his three-year-old debut, Hannibal Barca should prove too strong for Ballydoyle hope and fellow seasonal debutant Anchorage and Jim Bolger’s Boundless Ocean, down the field in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
The evening’s biggest prize is on offer for the William Hill Emerald Mile Handicap where a field of 27 will give punters plenty to ponder. But likely favourite Haziya, a stable-companion of Hannibal Barca’s, deserves plenty of respect.
Bought out of Michael Halford’s, Haziya impressed when landing a gamble in a Leopardstown handicap early last month, off a mark of 73.
The Le Havre filly is now 13lb higher, which will make life difficult. But, well-regarded in Carriganog, Mikey Sheehy’s mount should figure prominently in a wide-open affair.
Dangers are plentiful, including stable-companion Visualisation, third to Layfayette in the Mooresbridge at this venue last time, and the Ger Lyons-trained Mutasarref, successful for Dermot Weld in Listowel last September and a convincing winner at Leopardstown on his debut for his new stable before being drawn on the wrong side and finishing fifth to Lord Dudley in a hot seven-furlong handicap in Cork last time out.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Admiralty Place finished ahead of Mutasarref when third in that Cork handicap and, reverting to maiden company, is difficult to oppose in the seven-furlong Cavalor Equine Nutrition Maiden.
Runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last time, Echoes In Rain is fascinating, off a mark of 83, with Rachael Blackmore on board, in the Curragh finale, the William Hill Scratch Of The Day Handicap.
And Willie Mullins might also strike with newcomer Get Me To The Park, a Walk In The Park mare, in the Downpatrick bumper.
Earlier on the northern card, 115-rated The Flier Begley, trained by Stuart Crawford and outpointed by Ottoman Style at this venue last time, sets a decent standard in the Winner Alright Maiden Hurdle.
4.25 Panic Alarm
5.25 Hannibal Barca (Nap)
6.35 Admiralty Place (NB)
7.45 My Eyes Adore You
8.15 Echoes In Rain
4.25 Apache Outlaw
7.10 Half Nutz
7.45 Chicago Lightening
8.15 Sionnach Eile
5.05 The Flier Begley
5.35 Glenabo Bridge
6.10 Lily Flight Foot
6.45 Henry Star
7.20 Follow The Crowd
7.55 Handy Headon
8.25 Get Me To The Park
5.05 Wee Willie Nail
6.10 Strong Roots
6.45 Winding River
7.55 Er Dancer
8.25 The Grey Dove