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First Irish 2yo race of the season, Naas Mar 26

For something different, I thought I'd try to keep up with this season's 2yo crop with reviews of each race. So let's kick it off with the opening juvenile race in Ireland...

Naas (IRE) 26 Mar 2017
Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Maiden
5f, 1m3.7s
(slow by 5.9s on RP standards)
Soft to Heavy (Soft in places)


The first juvenile race on the Irish calendar and as an unheralded maiden at Naas, you wouldn't expect much out of it. But roll back just five years (when it was run at The Curragh) and it was the debut of four-time Group 1 winner Dawn Approach.

Last year's impressive winner at 25/1 Mister Trader went on to run second to Caravaggio at his next start before failing as favourite in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot. We await his reappearance as a 3yo.

The 2015 winner State of Emergency ran three times as a juvenile and hasn't been seen since. Jim Bolger's winner in 2013, Saburo, never started again, at least in this part of the world (can't tell from the ATR and RP databases if they were sold abroad). The only one since Dawn Apporach to have any sort of career was Beach Belle for Kevin Prendergast. She won in 2014 and is still going around in top company, rated 100. Most winners have been pretty smart, at least as juveniles.

Trainers with the best recent record in this race were Kevin Prendergast and Jim Bolger, with two winners each in the past decade. Which in a brilliant piece of after-timing, suggests they were the most likely trainers to be successful here.

The Kevin Prendergast-trained winner, Moonlight Bay (4/1), jumped OK in a fairly messy start (as you'd expect in a field of debutant 2yos), and eased in behind for some cover as the less-relaxed juveniles took over. Chris Hayes eased her out to make her move at the 2f pole, and then took a while to warm up, but when the whip was pulled, she lengthened stride impressively to clear away for a nice 2.5L win. Crucially, she was the earliest foal in the field, born on Valentine's Day 2014. She settled and accelerated when called upon - look for her in better races. By Pivotal, you'd expect her to become a sprinter/miler. A Topspeed rating of 78 and RPR of 81 compares well with 76/89 for Mister Trader, 73/86 for State of Emergency, 74/84 for Beach Belle and 72/85 for Dawn Approach.

The runner-up and favourite, Royal Diplomat, drew the rail, jumped right, forcing the winner onto a few others which may have affected them a little. He led in a solid tempo, stretching out at the 1 1/2f when asked, but was no match for the winner and the tank was empty near the line. As a Zebedee, you'd think his best work might come early. With Pat Smullen aboard and backed from 5/2 into 6/4, you'd imagine the word was out that this one can run. Foaling date March 20

The only runner at a decent price to finish in the first five was Verhoyen (12/1) for Michael Grassick. A little slow off the mark, he settled into stride and ended up behind the leader Royal Diplomat, wanting to edge through on the inside about 3f out but unable to find room. Was on level terms with the winner was easing out into space at the 2f pole. Didn't see a great deal of room when the leader shot away, but showed little acceleration when it came time to go for it. Took third as My Silver Nails wilted and probably would have taken second in a few more strides. Foaling date March 29 - not quite two on his debut. In case you were wondering, this Piccolo colt is named after renowned Belgian flautist and piccolo player Peter Verhoyen. With maturity, he should make a decent colt.

My Silver Nails is the first progeny of Tough As Nails, who lost this race on protest in 2011, to grace a racecourse. Tough As Nails then won his second start, the only official victory of his ten start career, achieving a top rating of 112 at the end of his debut season. This filly raced a little greenly, sitting on the pace and then was unable to quicken when the whips were cracking. Backed from 7s into 5s so they must think a bit of her. The natural speed is there, experience will do her well. Foaling date April 1.

Verbitude never looked comfortable, perhaps it was the stress of his competitive outing. When the winner pulled out and looked to be cruising, he was already under pressure but didn't shirk the task and stayed on nicely without being pushed out. Foaling date Apr 22 - nine weeks younger than the winner.

These five were always at the front (and only Verbitude wasn't drawn in the inside five gates - often crucial to juveniles), the others simply didn't run on.

Way Back Home - missed start, needed to be stirred up a little by Declan McDonogh to keep in touch. Got left behind at the 2f but kept on going without making any ground.

Pak Army - erratic at the start, best forgiven.

Silvana Maria - the only Feb foal apart from the winner. Just not much good by the look of it.

Footstepsintime - back, wide, never in contention.

Spirit of Dreams - erratic at the start, best forgiven. Youngest in the field, a May foal.

Legatum - went hard early, ran out of puff and weakened quickly.


Key Points

Foaling date is vital at this time of year, the oldest ones have such a big advantage.

The winner looks pretty smart and I'd be disappointed the first five didn't win at least once this season, whatever the company they face.

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