sport

Weld pair target Guineas glory

Dermot Weld will be double-handed in the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Sunday.

Weld has been firing in the winners in Ireland so far this campaign and boasts a 40% strike-rate at present.

He runs the Khalid Abdullah-owned pair of Tested and Vote Often in the Classic, with stable jockey Pat Smullen on Tested and Abdullah's retained rider in England James Doyle on Vote Often.

"We might have had a strike-rate like this before some years ago, but the horses are healthy and well. We have a nice team of three-year-olds. I purposefully didn't run many of them last year as they were late-maturing and they are delivering the goods," Weld told At The Races.

"I've declared two. With the weather forecast as it is we haven't finally decided, but it looks like Vote Often with James Doyle and Tested with Pat Smullen.

"Tested is progressive but both of them are biggish prices, so they are outsiders. We must be realistic - they've got to step up to be in the first four.

"I think the step up in trip will suit Tested, a mile shouldn't be a problem. With her I don't want to see any more rain as she's a good-actioned filly. She's a lovely filly to train and I expect a very good run from her.

"They both have good form. Tested is unbeaten while Vote Often has run three times and won twice and won her Group race.

"It will depend on the ground, who knows how much rain we'll have had by Sunday late-afternoon? Vote Often loves soft ground. Tested has more pace on good or good to firm, but on soft Vote Often will come into her own."

Abdullah's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: "I think it will be interesting to see which one comes out on top.

"Tested is the least exposed, she's unbeaten and Pat Smullen has chose her as she has come on a good deal since her last run.

"Vote Often probably wants further but with all the rain forecast, it might turn into a bit of a test which will bring her into play.

"People always think you know which is the best one, but I promise you we don't. If we did we'd all be in different jobs!"

Narrow runner-up in the English Guineas was Lightning Thunder, who so very nearly gave fledgling trainer Olly Stevens by far the biggest day of his career.

Stevens had to decide whether to travel to Ireland or wait for Royal Ascot.

"She's going to fly out on the morning of the race and a final decision will be made on Sunday morning when we walk the course," said Stevens.

"There are 15 different versions of the weather forecast, it really just comes down to how much it rains between now and then. They are calling yielding now. She beat Justice Day at Doncaster on good to soft last year and we weren't really a two-year-old sprinter so she can cope with it.

"If it's yielding we'll go for it, but if it's an extreme we'll take care of her and go for the Coronation.

"What she has proven is that on good ground she's about as good a filly over a mile as there is, with the exception of Miss France, so this is a step into the unknown. It's very early days in our training career as well.

"I didn't think she'd have come on since the Guineas, but in her last piece of work, which was last week, she looked to have come on a little bit. We would hope she'd run either the same or better.

"She was never designed to be a two-year-old, she's pretty big."

Aidan O'Brien ran two fillies in the English Guineas, Bracelet and Tapestry, and both were well beaten.

This weekend he runs three with Joseph O'Brien on Palace, Ryan Moore on Marvellous and Seamie Heffernan on Wonderfully.

Paul Deegan expects Avenue Gabrial to be involved at the finish after she went close in a trial at Leopardstown.

"I'm very happy with her. We brought her back in late with the idea of getting her ready for the Salsabil Stakes and treating her like an Oaks filly," said Deegan.

"The owner was keen to see if she was up to running in a Guineas, though, so she ran in the Trial.

"She hadn't been in long but had done some nice bits of work and ran a very good race.

"Her last piece of work was excellent and on her run in the Trial and on all known form, she only has a length or so to find.

"I think she can do that and she's going there underrated."