Key questions on the leading contenders for the Curragh Cup
Comer Group International Curragh Cup (Group 2) | 1m6f, 3yo+ | RTE2/RTV
Can Latrobe deliver again for the brothers O'Brien?
A year on from giving Joseph and Donnacha O'Brien a memorable victory in the Irish Derby, Latrobe is again a leading player for a Group race at a Curragh Classic meeting, as he bids to stake his claim for some of the big staying races later in the season.
Latrobe, who will be tackling 1m6f for the first time since finishing second in the Irish St Leger last September, finished fourth in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot last week, and his trainer, who landed this event with subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling two years ago, said: "Latrobe has come out of Royal Ascot very well, but it's obviously a very quick turnaround and that won't be easy as it looks a very hot race. He's in good shape, though, and we're hoping for a good run.
"We also run Cimeara who has won at Group 3 level. After winning a Listed race on debut for us she disappointed at Navan last time. We gave her a little break after that and she seems to be very well so we're hopeful of a good performance from her."
Will Southern France benefit from return to longer trip?
Dropping Southern France to 1m4f failed to have the desired effect when last year's St Leger third struggled to make an impact in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot six days ago, and Aidan O’Brien, who is also represented by Western Australia and recent Limerick maiden winner Heaven On Earth, believes this trip will play more to Southern France's strengths.
Aidan O'Brien's Curragh Cup winners
2018 Flag Of Honour
2016 Sword Fighter
2015 Bondi Beach
2014 Ernest Hemingway
2013 Ernest Hemingway
O'Brien, successful with subsequent Irish St Leger winner Flag Of Honour 12 months ago, said: "Southern France came out of Ascot well and going back up in distance should suit him well. It's less than a week since his Ascot race, but he seems in good form and we think he should run a big race.
"Western Australia was a bit disappointing in the Queen's Vase, but he seems fine and will like the trip and the ground. It will be a big step up in class and trip for Heaven On Earth and we're just hoping she runs well."
Can sponsor get a share of the money?
Bought for 30,000gns at the Newmarket Horses-In-Training Sale in October, Raa Atoll has already more than repaid his owner-trainer Luke Comer, whose company sponsors this event, by landing a 2m Group 2 in Germany last month.
Twice successful for John Gosden last year, the four-year-old was in action at Belmont Park three weeks ago when he finished sixth in a Grade 2 event, and Comer’s assistant Jim Gorman said of his chances: "He's seemed in good form since coming back from New York and we've got the right man [Frankie Dettori] on him. Frankie rode him a couple of times when he was trained by John Gosden."
Can Masaff overcome lack of experience?
Dermot Weld has been successful in the event on four occasions and twice won the race with his history maker Vintage Crop in the 1990s.
He is represented by Masaff, who will be having his second start of the year having won a maiden and been placed at Group 2 and Group 3 level last season.
"He's been consistent so far and is a progressive staying type. I expect him to give a good account in what looks a hot renewal of the race," Weld said of the Aga Khan-owned colt.
Will trip prove a problem for some contenders?
Twilight Payment, winner of the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown on his most recent start, represents Jim Bolger, while the Jessica Harrington-trained The King will be attempting this 1m6f trip for only the second time. Mustajeer, whose wins have been achieved over shorter distances, finished fourth in the Ebor last year and was runner-up in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on his only other attempt at the trip.
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