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Magician in Guineas Gamble

Aidan O’Brien has settled on a team of four to represent Ballydoyle in the Irish 2000 Guineas on Saturday as he bids for a ninth success in the race. Leading his challenge is Chester Dee Stakes winner Magician, the subject of an ante-post plunge from 14-1 down to 5-2 favourite.

The colt had been expected to line up at Epsom but he has evidently been showing so much speed at home that he has been diverted to the Curragh. He is joined by George Vancouver, Gale Force Ten and Flying The Flag.

George Vancouver won at the Breeders’ Cup last year but could never get competitive in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Gale Force Ten and Flying The Flag finished 4th and 9th respectively in the French Guineas but it is quite possible that the placings could be reversed on Saturday.

Flying The Flag was last turning into the straight at Longchamp but flew home to be beaten a little over three lengths at the finish. Richard Hannon’s Havana Gold looked as if he might win a furlong out but had to settle for 5th place in a bunch finish. He is joined by Van Der Neer, third behind Dawn Approach at Newmarket.

Jim Bolger has elected to rely on Dante Stakes runner-up Trading Leather whilst Johnny Murtagh starts his training career with the well-fancied Fort Knox and big outsider Ask Dad. The field is completed by First Cornerstone who beat Flying The Flag in a Group 2 at Leopardstown last year and is making his seasonal debut.

O’Brien looks set to swerve Sunday’s 1000 Guineas with Oaks second favourite Moth and instead rely on Snow Queen who stayed on into fifth at Newmarket. Richard Hannon will be represented by Maureen who finished sixth at Newmarket whilst Viztoria and Big Break arrive here with big reputations.

The form horse is undoubtedly Just The Judge who has been confirmed a definite starter by Charlie Hills after a pleasing workout this week. She looked set to win under Jamie Spencer but was denied by a superbly timed challenge from Richard Hughes on Sky Lantern. If she can repeat that form she will be very hard to beat.