With an eye on the resumption of the racing season in the near future (fingers crossed), Steven Dowler gives us his five Irish-trained horses to follow in the 2020 flat season.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Leading Aidan O’Brien’s charge for the 2020 season is JAPAN who quickly developed into a top-class middle distance performer having shown a lot of promise back in 2018.
Last year’s Epsom Derby saw him sent off at 20-1, looking an outsider on paper for connections. However, Japan went mightily close to landing the spoils, eventually losing out in a three-way finish to stablemate Anthony Van Dyck.
Japan might well have won if Wayne Lordan hadn’t dropped his whip in the final 100 yards when his charge was motoring in the dying strides. Since that highly promising effort over at Epsom, Japan hasn’t looked back, winning a group two then a group one in France, with both coming over 1m4f. He then returned to the UK to contest the 1m2f Juddmonte International and take the scalp of odds-on favourite Crystal Ocean.
All roads led to Japan contesting the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe where he was sent off 9-1 and had to overcome a difficult stall 10. Japan ran a brilliant race to finish fourth, beaten by only three lengths at the line having come from the rear of the field.
The 2020 flat season looks set to be another big season for the four-year-old Japan. We can assume he will be a major force in all the highest level middle distance races for his powerful connections, based on what he achieved last campaign and the progression he has shown to date.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
A host of promising three-year-olds will be unleashed from the Ballydoyle camp in the 2020 flat season, with Wichita leading the brigade. He was a brilliant two-year-old, winning two of his four starts which included a dominant success in a group three at Newmarket where he won by seven lengths. Wichita was then sent off at just 11/4 for the group one Dewhurst over the same C&D and put in an admirable performance to finish third behind potential superstar Pinatubo.
That was a very good performance considering he was entering unknown territory on soft ground against the highest rated two-year-old of the last 25 years. It also didn’t help matters that Wichita raced keenly throughout but kept on well all the way to the line in what was a very good race.
Wichita has the potential and ability to become a high-class horse for connections and I am very eager to see what he can do in the 2020 flat season when stepped up to one mile. Especially with his general 25-1 odds for the 2000 Guineas looking tasty at this present moment of time.
Trainer: Ger Lyons
The Khalid Abdullah-owned three year old is unbeaten in four starts to date and provided his trainer with a first group one success in Ireland on his last appearance in the Phoenix Stakes. He has only raced over six furlongs so far but showed a great attitude to see off all opponents over the distance and there is a great chance this high-class horse will improve in the 2020 flat season.
Siskin was due to put his unbeaten record on the line in the Juddmonte International at Newmarket against Pinatubo but there was drama at the start as Siskin reared up badly in stalls and went down, causing him to be withdrawn from the contest. It looked very nasty at the time but thankfully he was none the worse for the incident.
Ger Lyons has had some very good horses in the past but none as good as Siskin, who has the option of going up to one mile but I can see him sticking to six and being more of a Commonwealth Cup horse. As the saying goes ‘dont fix what isn’t broken’ and Siskin fits into that bracket, having done absolutely nothing wrong in his career to date. The sky is the limit for him in the 2020 flat season.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
I am keenly anticipating the return of Kew Gardens, who managed to end Stradivarius’ long reign at the top of the staying division last time out in what was a superb battle to the end. The three-time group one winner is as consistent as they come and, although not the flashiest, he goes about his business in the utmost professional manner and has the heart of a lion.
Kew Gardens is a very adaptable horse over various distances but he really appreciated the step up to two miles last time out. It was fantastic effort for him to get the better of a staying legend that is Stradivarius. To do what Kew Gardens did that day on his sole attempt at the trip was very special and he can only improve on that performance when attempting the marathon events during the 2020 flat season.
Trainer: Jessica Harrington
Jessica Harrington is better known for star performers over the jumps but when she has one on the flat they normally turn out to be an above-average sort. You only have to look at star filly Alpha Centauri to believe that having developed into an unbelievable miler for connections, winning four consecutive group one races in her short but tremendous career.
The Niachos Family owned Alpha Centauri and they have another high-class filly on their hands with Albigna, who has won three of her five starts. She won her first two starts at the Curragh over six furlongs which included a group two win.
Despite only managing sixth in the group one Moyglare Stud Stakes there were excuses and you could put a line through that performance because she was impeded in her tracks and could never recover.
Nevertheless, Albigna bounced right back to her brilliant best in the Prix Marcel Boussac group one, making her France debut and winning by an easy two lengths and earning herself a Timeform rating of 114. She was then sent to America where she contested the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf over one mile and was sent off 4-1 second favourite.
Unfortunately Albigna didn’t get the best of starts and Shane Foley was forced to drop her in behind the majority of the field. She also raced keenly in the early stages and was giving the leaders a good ten length start. Just off the home bend, Albigna was still at the back with Shane Foley sitting quietly.
She didn’t get a clear run turning into the straight but, once she found daylight, the turn of foot she produced was devastating to finish an unlucky but admirable fourth. Albigna has a long way to go to match Alpha Centauri’s achievements but she is a very talented filly in her own right with a big future ahead for her. The 2020 flat season could be her year.
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