Time to get a feel for Flat
THE Irish Flat season kicked off at a sun-kissed Curragh racecourse yesterday with some likeable performances from horses we will undoubtedly be hearing more about over the coming months, as well as seeing a string of Aidan O'Brien's horses go through their paces after racing.
Today, we look forward to six of the slightly less than obvious elements of this Flat season that may make plenty of headlines between now and next November.
Born To Sea
John Oxx began the campaign in style by landing the Irish Lincolnshire yesterday with Sharestan and, while he may be going onto bigger and better things this season, his stable companion, Born To Sea (pictured left), remains one of the horses to really look forward to this season.
Famously, Born To Sea attracted many headlines last season as he is a half brother to the legend Sea The Stars and, although he did blot his copybook slightly when second in the Killavullen Stakes at Leopardstown on just his second start, it later transpired that the colt had pulled a muscle during that race and, thus, the run looked a very promising one.
Born To Sea is likely to kick off his Classic season in Leopardstown's 2,000 Guineas Trial in the middle of next month, so we haven't long to wait to see a possible future star.
New Approach offspring
We saw the first of New Approach's offspring in action yesterday as Jim Bolger unleashed Dawn Approach to win the opening race of this season and the confidence behind the juvenile, which saw him well backed in the morning, was justified as he ran out an impressive victor.
Bolger later admitted to having some nice two-year-olds to go to war with this season and it is very likely that his 2008 Epsom Derby winner will be the sire of many of them.
Dawn Approach's impressive win moved the bookmakers pricing up the 'First Season Leading Sire' to cut New Approach a couple of points, so it'll be interesting to see how far the horse goes up the ladder as a sire and it would be no surprise if he even managed a Group One winner in his first season.
Obviously better known for her exploits with National Hunt horses, Jessica Harrington has made a very notable impression on the Flat code of the sport since getting sent a better calibre of horse to compete with against the heavyweights of the game.
Harrington had 67 runners in two-year-old races last year with nine winners -- but a total of 13 second places -- and she had a higher strike rate with her juveniles than Jim Bolger, Dermot Weld and Kevin Prendergast.
Expect an even better quality of horse to be running out of Commonstown this campaign, and it would be no surprise to see her come upon a nice two-year-old to fly the flag for 2012.
On Friday night, Lordan claimed the leading jockey accolade for Dundalk's winter series, and he stole the riding honours yesterday on the first day of the Flat season with a treble.
Retained to both Tommy Stack and David Wachman, Lordan has two top trainers to supply him with winners -- and every season since 2007 he has ended with a tally in the 50s for the season.
Light enough to do bottom weight, Lordan is one of the best jockeys in the weighroom and, while he may not have the ammunition behind him to ride Group One winners week in week out, when given the opportunity, he'll certainly grasp it with both hands.
The Nunthorpe Stakes of 2010, when 50/1 shot Sole Power caused a major shock, was Lordan's only Group One to date, but it would be a big surprise if he doesn't add to that this season.
This could be a big season for Ger Lyons as he looks forward to the progression of Lightening Pearl.
The daughter of Marju provided Lyons with his first Group One winner when she won the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket, and she is now around a 20/1 shot for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May.
Somewhat similar to Harrington, Lyons may well be one to keep an eye on this year on the back of that big win last year, which will have hopefully have attracted some nice new juvenile recruits over the winter months from some of his leading owners such as Sheikh Fahad, Anamoine Limited and Sheikh Mohammed.
An inclusion on this list that isn't necessarily as Irish related as the others, but worldwide horse racing followers are eagerly anticipating the year of Frankel.
Henry Cecil's son of the great Galileo goes into his four-year-old season still unbeaten in his nine-race career, and you can't but admire the decision of Prince Khalid Abdullah to keep him in training.
After being confirmed as the champion miler from last season with wins in the 2,000 Guineas, St James' Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes and the QEII, Frankel is set to step up to 10 furlongs this season and he will undoubtedly be something to savour.