Irish Guineas festival

2023 Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh: assessing the top five contenders for Saturday's big race

Classic season continues at pace with Irish Guineas weekend at the Curragh almost upon us. The feature race on Saturday is the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (3.40), which was won last year by the Godolphin-owned Native Trail. Here we assess five of the leading contenders for the Group 1 and provide a big-race verdict . . .


Royal Scotsman

Form: 3152-3

Strengths: Has been supplemented at a cost of €50,000 so there is clearly strong belief from connections that Royal Scotsman can make the journey worthwhile in what looks a wide-open running. Still managed to finish third in the 2,000 Guineas despite pulling hard and enduring a rough passage which demonstrates his ability.

Paul and Oliver Cole's son of Gleneagles had rock-solid form at two, having been beaten a head by Chaldean in the Dewhurst and taken the Group 2 Richmond Stakes.

Weaknesses: Needs to settle better if he is to reverse the form with Hi Royal on his second attempt at a mile. Jim Crowley, who has ridden Royal Scotsman on all six starts since his debut, is unavailable to ride.

Royal Scotsman: has big-race entries
Royal Scotsman: supplemented on TuesdayCredit: Edward Whitaker

Odds: 5-2f

What they say

Oliver Cole, joint-trainer: "He loves his racing and he's so consistent. The only time he didn't really run his race was at York when he got no cover and couldn't show his true colours. That has been the only time he's flopped. Take absolutely nothing away from the winner but I did think we were unlucky at Newmarket. We clipped heels, we were intimidated and he pulled to halfway so it was a pretty remarkable run. We'd love him to win a Guineas and the Irish one looks a nice fit for him. He looks great and we're really excited about coming over."

Royal Scotsman15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: Paul & Oliver Cole

Hi Royal

Form: 31-42

Strengths: Ran a huge race to defy odds of 125-1 to finish second in the 2,000 Guineas on his first start at Group level. His sole success came over a mile on good ground at Ayr in September so conditions at the Curragh should suit the son of Kodiac.

Oisin Murphy retains the partnership with Hi Royal, who has to be a serious player if replicating his recent run. The Kevin Ryan-trained colt had two of the rivals he faces here – Royal Scotsman and Galeron – behind him at Newmarket and there's no Chaldean to beat this time. Native Trail last year showed how Guineas runner-ups can go one better in the Irish equivalent.

Weaknesses: Hung badly to his left in the Guineas which cost him at the finish, and you can't afford to do that when attempting to win a Classic. Needs to prove that the Newmarket run wasn't a one-off and has less experience than all of those (with the exception of Paddington) at the head of the betting.

Odds: 7-2

What they say

Kevin Ryan, trainer: "He seems to have come out of Newmarket great and Oisin will ride him again. He ran a great race in the Guineas but I said beforehand that he could run way above his odds and he did. He just got a bit lonely out in the middle and I think he just caught sight of another horse who was racing away from him on the stands' side in the corner of his eye."

Hi Royal15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: Kevin Ryan


Form: 51-11

Strengths: Represents the winningmost trainer of the Classic in Aidan O'Brien and is the only horse left entered who brings winning last-time-out form into the race with the exception of Quar Shamar. Paddington is 2-2 at the Curragh, including over a mile last time, so he clearly relishes the track and stays the trip.

Unexposed compared to most of his rivals who were highly tried at two or ran in the 2,000 Guineas and looks to have bundles of potential.

Paddington: steps into Group 1 company for the first time
Paddington: steps into Group 1 company for the first timeCredit: Patrick McCann

Weaknesses: All three of his wins have come on soft or heavy ground with his only defeat coming when fifth on good ground on his debut at Ascot. Quick ground would therefore have to be a slight concern as he steps into Group company for the first time.

While O'Brien has won this 11 times, his last success came in 2017 with Churchill and 18 of the Ballydoyle trainer's runners have been beaten in the five runnings since.

Odds: 7-2

What they say

Aidan O'Brien, trainer (in his stable tour): "He came forward nicely from his run at Naas and he had been doing everything right at home. This was his first step up to a mile and we thought he would get it and that he might get further. He has the option of the French or Irish Guineas, and after that he might be a French Derby horse. He handled the ground well."

Paddington15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: A P O'Brien

Proud And Regal

Form: 1321-3

Strengths: The only Group 1 winner of the 12 remaining entries having landed the Criterium at Saint-Cloud on his final start as a juvenile. Would have been a dual Group 1 winner had he not bumped into Al Riffa in the National Stakes at this track in September.

Al Riffa was the long-term ante-post favourite for this race before being ruled out with a slight setback, suggesting Proud And Regal has an excellent chance of gaining his second top-level success without that rival to contend with.

His Criterium victory came on heavy ground but he has won a Group 3 at Leopardstown on good ground so is versatile regarding conditions. He made a winning debut at this track so has course form.

Weaknesses: Only third when sent of the 6-4 favourite in the Leopardstown Derby Trial on his reappearance and needs to put that below-par comeback behind him. The strength of the Saint-Cloud form is questionable and it is debatable if it stacks up to some of the British-trained contingent who he will clash with for the first time.

Odds: 7-2

Proud And Regal and Gavin Ryan wins the Japan Racing Association Tyros Stakes (Group 3).Leopardstown Racecourse.Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post21.07.2022
Proud And Regal: the sole Group 1 winner of those left enteredCredit: Patrick McCann

What they say

Donnacha O'Brien, trainer (after Criterium win): "He's by Galileo and they improve at three. He stays well and I think he'll even get a mile and a half next year."

Proud And Regal15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: Donnacha Aidan O'Brien


Form: 641-34

Strengths: Beat 18 rivals to land the lucrative Goffs Million at this venue in September so the travel and track is clearly not an issue. His Listed third on his comeback in the Burradon Stakes was nothing special but his staying-on fourth at 150-1 in the 2,000 Guineas demonstrated he is not to be underestimated.

Trainer Charlie Hills knows what it takes to win this Classic having been successful with Phoenix Of Spain in 2019.

Weaknesses: Has been beaten by Royal Scotsman on all three occasions they have clashed and it is hard to see why there should be a different result this time. Galeron has more than three lengths to find with Hi Royal on the Guineas form.

Odds: 9-1

What they say

Charlie Hills, trainer (in stable tour): "We took positives from his third at Newcastle. We were conscious he had a bad draw, so Kieran [Shoemark] dropped him in and I loved the way he came through horses. He takes his racing well and has a good constitution. He can only improve through the season."

Galeron15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: Charles Hills


It is easy to see why the consistent Royal Scotsman is popular in the betting but I am going to stick with Group 1 winner Proud And Regal at the prices.

His third on reappearance came on his first attempt at 1m2f on soft to heavy ground and he should be back to his best now dropped back to a mile. The form of that Derby Trial wasn't bad with the second Up And Under beaten half a length by Dante runner-up White Birch on his previous start.

Proud And Regal15:40 Curragh
View Racecard
Jky: Tnr: Donnacha Aidan O'Brien

Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (3.40 Curragh, Saturday)

Coral: 5-2 Royal Scotsman, 7-2 Hi Royal, Paddington, Proud And Regal, 9 Galeron, 14 Age Of Kings, Cairo, Charyn, Knight, Quar Shamar, 25 bar

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Charlie HugginsReporter
Published on 24 May 2023Last updated 09:29, 24 May 2023