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Thursday 8 December 2016

Flat season finally gets its proper start with big weekend

Yes, you are right, the Flat season was supposed to have 'kicked off' back in March but it didn't really... nor did it in April, not in Ireland at least, and now here we are still waiting for it in the middle of May.

It was great to see Forgotten Rules last weekend and Success Days has been a highlight so far but the Irish Flat season has been missing that bit of sparkle so far. However, that looks like changing this weekend with a cracking two days at the Curragh in prospect.

This is often a weekend with an inevitable predictability to it, but that is far from the case this time and each and every Group race this weekend offers something special.

The headline act is undoubtedly Gleneagles who, weather permitting (and the forecast is good), will bid to do the English/Irish 2,000 Guineas double for Aidan O'Brien. In a season that so far must be frustrating the genius that heads the Ballydoyle operation, Gleneagles looks like he could be a real shining light for the coming year.

Richard Hannon Jnr seems to be a chip off the old block and he doesn't appear one to shirk out of a challenge and he has even suggested Ivawood could improve for finishing third behind Gleneagles at Newmarket. That will definitely be worth keeping an eye on.

Richard Hughes will also be at his local track to ride Ivawood.

And with a favourable weather forecast, there's a strong possibility that Sole Power could race on home turf, for the first time since August 2011, in the the Group 2 Weatherbys Greenlands Stakes. That would be a real treat for racegoers.

The supporting card of the weekend is top notch and Sunday's standard is straight out of the top drawer. A couple of notable absentees from the 1,000 Guineas were only a small blow to the race as the powers of Ballydoyle, Rosewell and Coolcullen are set to clash with the likes of Jessica Harrington, Mick Halford and Michael O'Callaghan who will go to bed every night this week dreaming of a potential first Classic victory as they each have real live chances.

The Epsom Derby has dominated column inches for its wide openness this season and Giovanni Canaletto, even without running this year, has got plenty of publicity. We'll all be much the wiser if he takes his chance in Sunday's Gallinule.

As well as the typically informative maidens and the tricky to unravel handicaps, Sunday's Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup looks a real cracker with Free Eagle, The Grey Gatsby, Al Kazeem and Fascinating Rock all among the entries. While it may have picked up a Group One yellow card over the winter, you can be damn sure Sunday will see that rescinded.

There'll be intrigue bursting around the Curragh plains this weekend and the world of racing can look forward to Ireland's Flat season finally kicking off properly.

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