Awtaad primed for battle of the Guineas winners


Awtaad streaked clear of Galileo Gold in the Irish 2,000 Guineas

  PICTURE: Alain Barr (  

 By Lee Mottershead 7:49AM 7 JUN 2016 

CHRIS HAYES is approaching the most important mission of his riding career buoyed by the belief Awtaad has improved again since winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas and can defeat The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in next week’s hotly anticipated St James’s Palace Stakes.

Awtaad proved two and a half lengths superior to Galileo Gold at the Curragh and is set for a rematch with the Newmarket Guineas winner and runaway Poule d’Essai des Poulains victor The Gurkha in Royal Ascot’s opening-day highlight next Tuesday.

Bookmakers favour Ballydoyle’s The Gurkha in the showdown between Europe’s three principal 2,000 Guineas winners, quoting him generally at 6-4, with the Kevin Prendergast-trained Awtaad 7-2 and Galileo Gold 9-2.

Octogenarian trainer Prendergast will be chasing his first royal meeting success in 20 years, but Hayes has never come home in front at international Flat racing’s most famous fixture. He believes that could change in seven days’ time.

“It will be fascinating to see which horse is best,” said Hayes yesterday.

“I just hope we get genuine good ground so no one can have any excuses. I personally think my horse is best but I’m obviously going to think that. If he’s beaten on the day by a better horse then so be it, but I think if everything falls right for us we’ll take a lot of beating. As soon as he crossed the line in the Guineas I assumed he would be going to Ascot. Thankfully, that’s what’s happening.

“I’ve sat on him a good bit since the Guineas and he seems to have improved. That’s shocked me. I didn’t think he would be able to improve that much but I’ve spoken to Johnny Murtagh, who said that’s what the good horses do.”

Hopeful of confirming Galileo Gold form

Assessing the opposition, Hayes said: “We were quietly confident going into the Irish Guineas and he did what we thought he would do.

“Everyone said Galileo Gold had a troubled passage, but although he didn’t have the smoothest of runs he was never stopped. I’d be pretty hopeful of confirming the form with him.

“Of the two, I would be more afraid of The Gurkha. I rode in a Navan maiden against him and was very impressed. He showed an unbelievable turn of foot in France, albeit the form might not have been that strong.”

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