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Been there, done that: Glen Shiel bids to defy testing conditions in big sprint

Glen Shiel: has won on heavy and has the best form on show
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2.45 Curragh
Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes (Group 2) | 6f | 4yo+ | RTV/RTE1

Snorkels at the ready? These sprinters are more accustomed to singeing the turf, not wading through water, but while the conditions will slow them down, there are some who can plough through the mud more quickly than others.

The sodden conditions may suit Make A Challenge most. Regarded as one of the best sprinters in Ireland at one point last season, Make A Challenge is on something of a retrieval mission after a number of high-profile defeats, including when running no race at Naas last weekend. 

The main positive is that Make A Challenge wouldn't mind if the mud was up to his ears, even if his recent form is a worry.

British raider Glen Shiel is another who relishes soft ground and he probably sets the standard. He improved with every run last season and his nose defeat of Brando in a soft-ground Group 1 sprint at Ascot is the best form on show.

Archie Watson's seven-year-old also has course experience, having beaten Sonaiyla a neck in a Group 3 over this distance last August.

He's by Pivotal, has won on heavy and has the best form on show – there is nothing not to like apart from his likely price. 

Sonaiyla can't be discounted on her return given she copes with heavy ground, while Speak In Colours, Indigo Balance and even Gustavus Weston are others who could come into the reckoning.

'This has been the plan for Sonaiyla'

Paddy Twomey is widely regarded as one of the shrewdest operators in the game and his handling of Sonaiyla goes some way to explaining why.

Picked up for €110,000 at the Goffs November Sales in 2019 when rated just 82, Sonaiyla has gone from strength to strength under Twomey, climbing to a career-high mark of 110.

Sonaiyla: sold for 900,000gns to Moyglare Stud

In doing so, Sonaiyla bagged a Listed contest at Cork, a premier handicap at the Curragh, finished a neck second to Glen Shiel in a course-and-distance Group 3 and picked up more valuable black type when third in the Group 1 Flying Five Stakes here on Irish Champions Weekend.

Twomey may have thought the final chapter of the Sonaiyla story had been written when she went to the sales but, after being knocked down to Moyglare for a whopping 900,000gns, the powerful owners rewarded the trainer by sending the mare back to his yard in Golden, County Tipperary. 

New dreams abound for Twomey with Sonaiyla, who will carry the iconic black, white and red silks of Moyglare Stud for the first time here. 

The trainer said: “She went to the sales last year and Moyglare decided to buy her. They kindly chose to send her back to us. She had a little break after the sales and has been here since the new year.

“We've been very happy with her since she came back to us and she has been training well. She has good form with the principals in this race and we're expecting a big run from her. 

“Sonaiyla's range is heavy to good to firm, so she won't mind what the ground is like. This has been the plan all season and it'll give us an indication about what direction to take afterwards.”

What they say

Simon Turner of Hambleton Racing, owners of Glen Shiel
Archie [Watson] is very happy with how he's trained and he should enjoy the ground.

Joe Murphy, trainer of Gustavus Weston
He has form on yielding to soft ground but we think he's better on nicer ground. It can be difficult for sprinters on this testing ground, so it's a worry.

Jessica Harrington, trainer of Indigo Balance
I don't know what was up with him the other day at Naas. He seemed to sulk. He's drawn two here, which will help him as he just likes to do his own thing. He likes testing ground. 

Ado McGuinness, trainer of Laugh A Minute
He handles a dig but he won’t want it this bad. He was good at Cork with a little bit of juice but this is extreme. 

Denis Hogan, trainer of Make A Challenge
He didn’t show up last Sunday at Naas but he came out of the race in great form and seems to be mad well in himself. With the conditions, we have to take our chance. It’s a good race but he loves this ground and we just hope it goes ahead. 

Johnny Murtagh, trainer of Urban Beat
We were happy with his last run and we feel the step up to six furlongs will suit. He'll handle the ground but he has to run the race of his life to get involved.

Read more on Saturday's racing:

2.10 Goodwood: Paul Kealy believes likely pacesetter shouldn't be underestimated on his return

2.45 Curragh: Glen Shiel bids to defy testing conditions in big sprint

3.00 Haydock: can eyecatching Thirsk winner Raadobarg land a hat-trick in Silver Bowl?

3.20 Curragh: get the thoughts of Aidan O'Brien before Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas

3.35 Haydock: Graeme Rodway believes Sandy Lane favourite could be something special

4.10 Haydock: trainer record gives Liberty Beach and Keep Busy strong claims in Temple

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With the conditions, we have to take our chance. It's a good race but he loves this ground
E.W. Terms