Sir Dragonet out to start Irish Flat season with a bang in Listed Devoy Stakes
Devoy Stakes (Listed) | 1m2f | 4yo+ | RTV
The most high profile runner on the first day of the 2020 Irish Flat season is undoubtedly Sir Dragonet and the outcome of the Devoy Stakes surely boils down to just how sharp he is ahead of his comeback here.
A runaway winner of the Chester Vase before only beaten three quarters of a length in the Derby as 11-4 favourite, Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old clearly sets the standard on ratings.
The Camelot colt is 13lb clear of Joseph O'Brien's Numerian, who gets a 5lb pull at the weights, and three of the remaining five rivals are rated 97.
Sir Dragonet managed to win on his belated debut at Tipperary last April but having been given a 76-day break after his Epsom effort, he looked to really need his return when third in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh.
He is clearly more talented than these opponents but a 191-day absence since finishing fourth to Logician in the St Leger – on ground that was quicker than ideal – means he is not bombproof here.
On the opening day of the Flat season for the last five seasons, Aidan O'Brien has been represented in 16 races and won four of them, although it's worth remembering that three of those victories came in maidens.
The previously mentioned Numerian failed to record a win on turf last season but that certainly is not reflective of some of the fine efforts he produced during that period.
However, heavy ground is a worry for the four-year-old who has been gelded since his last start.
Perhaps the most interesting challenger to the 117-rated standard setter is Brogue, a Cork maiden winner last May who has yet to be sighted since.
That performance was packed with promise with the form franked nicely last season. Runner-up Up Helly Aa, now rated 103, won at Listed level while the fourth, Barbados, finished second in the Group 2 Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot.
Jim Bolger landed a treble on this card last year and his improver Halimi is an interesting contender on his first start in stakes company, albeit he needs to step up.
What the stats say
Since the opening day of the Flat season was switched to Naas in 2017, Ger Lyons, who saddles Nickajack Cave in this Listed event, has enjoyed very healthy returns. He landed the Irish Lincolnshire with Karawaan on this card 12 months ago and sent out doubles in the previous two season openers.
What the trainers say
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Sir Dragonet
He seems in good form and is just ready to start back. It looks like he's done well from three to four. He ran well in the Derby at Epsom last year and we're looking forward to season with him.
Joe Murphy, trainer of Insignia Of Rank
It looks a tough task for him with a mark of 97 but it's difficult to know where to go with him in the current circumstances going on around us at the moment. We're happy to let him take his chance.
Dermot Weld, trainer of Brogue
It looks a strong renewal of an interesting race and Sir Dragonet sets the standard as a high-class horse. Brogue has missed some time since winning on his first start at Cork and will need the run but I'm hoping he can run well.
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