O'Brien working towards Newmarket with Intricately
Ballylinch Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes |Group 3 (fillies) | 7f, 3yo | ATR
The Classic countdown starts at Leopardstown, where contenders for this year's fillies' crown take to the turf after their winter break.
This €60,000 contest features Qipco 1,000 Guineas hope Intricately for Joseph O’Brien, four for his father Aidan - Hydrangea, Promise To Be True, Rain Goddess and Winter - while the Michael Halford-trained Rehana also has a Guineas entry.
Adrian Keatley landed this race 12 months ago with subsequent Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Jet Setting and he will be hoping that lightning can strike twice with Connacht Girl.
Yet to win a race to date, she is joined by fellow maiden Bean Feasa for Jim Bolger, a trainer who last tasted success in this in 2009 with Maoineach.
Super stepping stone
Since 2000 Aidan O'Brien has won eight renewals of this race, and both Virginia Waters, in 2005, and Homecoming Queen, in 2012, went on to win the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
What they say
Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Intricately
I'm very happy with how she's wintered and she's ready to start back. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a fruitful season with her. We'll get Leopardstown out of the way first, but Newmarket has been a plan for her throughout the winter. She could run there after this or maybe in the Irish Guineas, or maybe even both.
Michael O’Callaghan, trainer of Holy Cat
She has wintered very well and is ready to start back. I think it's a pretty competitive renewal of the race. We'll know where we stand after this.
Aidan O’Brien, trainer of Hydrangea, Promise To Be True, Rain Goddess and Winter
"Promise To Be True showed plenty last season. She did well over the winter and is ready to start. We're happy with her.
"Hydrangea, too, showed good form at a high level last year and is ready to start. We'll see how things go before making plans.
"Rain Goddess and Winter won maidens for David Wachman last year. Rain Goddess won over the course and distance and we'll see how the pair of them get on up in grade."
Michael Halford, trainer of Rehana
She's done well over the winter. She has a bit to find on ratings but is pleasing me in her work and this is a nice place to start her back. She has an entry for Newmarket but we will get this out of the way first.