Stack eyeing maiden Classic success in Irish 2,000 Guineas with unbeaten Zihba
Fozzy Stack has enjoyed plenty of success since being passed the baton at Thomastown Castle, but a first Classic for the stable under his own name with Zihba – no bigger than 10-1 for Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas – would be a whole new level of achievement for the young trainer.
Stack took over the licence from his father Tommy in 2017 and has been an important cog in the family operation that sent out 1998 Irish 1,000 Guineas hero Tarascon and other big-named stars over the past 20 years.
On Saturday, Stack could complete his own bit of history with Zihba, unbeaten in three starts and a most impressive winner of the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown last time.
Stack said: “Hopefully it will stay dry for us. Whether he’s good enough or not, we’ll see, but he’s entitled to take his chance.
“I think he’s got seven or eight pounds to find with Mark Johnston’s horse [Elarqam] and if he can do that then he must have a great chance. It’s a tidy race. These things don’t happen too often so you try to enjoy them as best you can.”
Zihba’s rider Chris Hayes, who won the race in 2016 for Kevin Prendergast aboard Awtaad, also identified the Johnston-trained Elarqam as his main danger.
He said: “I was very impressed with Zihba when he beat the older horses last time. Obviously, Sheikh Hamdan’s horse looks the one we all have to beat but I’m very happy with Zihba and think he’ll give a good account.”
Aidan O’Brien has won seven of the past ten runnings of the Classic and 14 in total. The master of Ballydoyle has left in champion two-year-old US Navy Flag and Gustav Klimt, both of whom are bidding to bounce back from their respective defeats in the French and Newmarket versions.
O'Brien's entries are completed by Themoonandfourpence, Conclusion and Spanish Point, while Dermot Weld, whose sole success in the race came in 1986 with Flash Of Steel, could be represented by recent Tetrarch Stakes winner Imaging.
Happily, a dual Group 1 winner as a two-year-old who finished third when 11-4 favourite in the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas, will be bidding to go two better for O'Brien in the Irish equivalent on Sunday and is likely to be joined by stablemate Clemmie, having her first start of the season.
Meanwhile, Ger Lyons' Who's Steph, a back-to-back Classic Trial winner at Leopardstown, has been supplemented for the race.
With Cracksman heading to the Coronation Cup at Epsom, last season's Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher, who scored at Naas last time and heads the field of entries for O'Brien in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, could have a good opportunity to get his head in front at Group 1 level for the first time.
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