Joseph O’Brien is not expecting any fireworks from Starspangledbanner as he makes his first start since coming out of retirement in tomorrow’s P. O’´Leary Memorial Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh.
Already a dual Group One winner in Australia before joining Aidan O’Brien at the start of 2010, the six-year-old enjoyed a fantastic first year in Europe by landing the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket.
He signed off for the year with a fifth-placed finish in the Sprint Cup at Haydock, after which his retirement to stud was announced.
However, having suffered fertility problems, he returned to Ballydoyle earlier this year and now makes his competitive comeback, with O’Brien junior getting the leg up on the entire for the time in public.
“He seems OK at home, but we haven’t done a whole lot with him yet,” said the jockey.
“He’s coming back from a long time off and he’s obviously going to be a bit rung-rusty on Sunday.
“It would be good if he can run a nice race and I’m sure he’ll come on a lot for it.
“After being off for so long, you don’t really know what they can do until you get them back on the track again, so we’ll see.”
Next highest-rated horse in the field after Starspangledbanner is Mick Halford’s star mare Invincible Ash.
The seven-year-old was a winner at the Dubai Carnival back in March and this weekend’s race is her first start since running in Singapore in late May.
Halford said: “We’re looking forward to getting a run into her. We haven’t been able to get her out until now because of the ground.
“It’s a decent race but she’s in super form and hopefully she’ll give a good account of herself.
“She will possibly improve a little for the run as the weather hasn’t been easy on these fillies.”
Ger Lyons is desperate for a dry 48 hours as he hopes to saddle his proven fast-ground performer The Reaper, who was a close third in the Greenlands Stakes over course and distance in May.
Lyons said: “It’s been a frustrating year with him as everyone knows The Reaper is a fast ground horse and we just haven’t had it because of the weather.
“He’s not going to get fast ground on Sunday. I walked the track this morning and it is quite dead ground at the moment.
“We’re hoping it’s going to dry up a bit with a couple of drying days, but if it doesn’t, there’s a chance he won’t run.
“He’s been jumping through hoops for ages and is in really great form, but he does need fast ground and there haven’t been any races for him.
“He was just touched off in a Group Three last time so we know he can run well at this level, obviously we’ll have to see how Starspangledbanner runs.”
Roger Charlton’s British raider Definightly also features in a nine-strong field.
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