One day after the Royal Lodge (G2) opens the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, the second scoring race comes in quick succession in Sunday’s Beresford (G2) at the Curragh. Aidan O’Brien has owned this mile affair, winning a total of 18 times including the last eight straight, and the master of Ballydoyle launches a three-pronged attack for another.
Innisfree makes his stakes debut following a determined Galway maiden win over the Aga Khan’s Shekhem, who poses the greatest threat to the O’Brien trend here. The two turned that event into a virtual match race, with the odds-on Innisfree having to dig deep to repel Shekhem by a neck as they pulled well clear of the rest. Innisfree was moving forward from his unveiling at Naas, where he finished second to more experienced stablemate Year of the Tiger, a contender in Saturday’s Royal Lodge. The Galileo colt is entitled to progress again with Donnacha O’Brien back aboard.
Another O’Brien runner capable of better is Cormorant, a son of Kingman who commanded 1,050,000 guineas (approximately $1,437,660) as a Tattersalls October yearling. After a fourth in his Leopardstown premiere, the gray broke his maiden over the same track and mile trip by edging Agitare. Cormorant couldn’t confirm the form when they squared off again in the KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” during Irish Champions Weekend. Neither was a match for O’Brien’s highly regarded Mogul, but Agitare was a creditable third while front-running Cormorant tired to fifth.
Stablemate Royal County Down, from the first crop of past O’Brien celebrity Gleneagles, was sixth as the longest shot on the board in the KPMG Champions Juvenile. Runner-up to future Group 3 winner Cayenne Pepper second time out, he captured a maiden at Down Royal in his third try. Royal County Down took the handicap route rather than facing higher-caliber stakes foes, toting the top weight of 133 pounds to victory at Galway but regressing to fifth at Cork. Thus his attempt at the KPMG Champions Juvenile represented a considerable class hike, and he didn’t help himself with an awkward start. On paper Royal County Down looks up against it, but if O’Brien irons out his quirks, he might do better.
Shekhem has done well since just missing to Innisfree. The Dermot Weld pupil was a clear second to the aforementioned Mogul in a maiden over this course and distance, then gained a deserved first win at Listowel last out. A half-brother to current stakes winner Shelir, Shekhem comes from the same female line as Beresford rival Cormorant.
Debut winner Camorra is by the same sire as Shekhem, Zoffany. North American fans may remember Camorra’s dam, millionaire Mauralakana, who scored her signature win in the 2008 Beverly D. (G1) on Arlington Million Day. Trained by Ger Lyons, Camorra was a market mover – attracting enough support in the betting for his odds to shorten noticeably – ahead of his appearance at Killarney, and he justified that status by surging in the nick of time. This is a stiffer test for a colt Lyons envisions as one for next year, but he’s a smart prospect.
While Gold Maze was fifth in his lone start, that was the productive course-and-distance maiden won by Sinawann, who came back to finish second to Mogul in the KPMG Champions Juvenile. In light of his trainer Jessica Harrington, and pedigree as a son of European champion Golden Horn, Gold Maze’s presence here as a maiden could be significant. Silvertown was a debut ninth in the same key maiden, but considering he was 33-1 that day compared to Gold Maze’s 6-1, he rates a bigger question mark.
The Beresford offers 10 points to the winner, 4 to second, 2 to third, and 1 to fourth, applicable to the separate European Road leaderboard. Post time for the Beresford is 11 a.m. (EDT), and you can watch and wager on TwinSpires.com.